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In the United States, Canada, and many other countries, people do personal hygiene with dry paper. That doesn't always work very well, and the bidet offers a more satisfactory experience.

It had been a 29-hour journey.

I had flown from Austin to Memphis to Seattle and then to Osaka. Bad weather delayed our flights at every airpot. By the time I had gotten through customs and immigration, taken a hour-long cab ride into the city, and checked into my room, I was very ready to get some rest. First, however, I needed to make a visit to the bathroom.

Sitting down on the toilet was ordinary enough, but there was no toilet paper and no handle to turn to flush. Instead, there was a remote control, with a thick instruction manual in Japanese.

I can read some Japanese. I had no inkling, however, of the meanings of the characters used in the electronic bidet instructions. Not wanting to go bed with the toilet let unflushed or my bottom left unattended, I hit on the idea of just sitting back down, pushing buttons, and seeing what happened. First I felt something like sitting down on a vibrator. Then I felt a nice warm blow dryer. Then I felt a swoosh of warm water cleansing my nether regions, so I pressed the blow dryer key again. Eventually, I figured out how to flush. 

Of course, I could have called down to the front desk and I am sure they would have arranged for me to receive instructions, but the last thing I wanted to do was to receive step by step instructions through the bathroom door for bidet use in Japanese when I hadn't been in bed in a day and a half.

Electronic Bidets Aren't Just Japanese (or Korean) Any More

Toto toilets, like the one I encountered in my hotel room in Osaka, are found in 76 percent of Japanese homes. They are so popular in Japan that the Japanese government even defines lower incomes in terms of living in an apartment or house that does not have one.

Toto bathroom fixtures are available in the USA, but most American retailers sell Kohler. Electronic bidets used to be a rarity in American homes (the only one I had ever seen before 2010 was, oddly, in a farmhouse near Granger, Texas in the 1980's), but they are beginning to become a standard fixture in high-end housing all over North America. The reason electronic bidets have become so popular is that they are quite simply cleaner than using toilet paper.

If were to get covered mud, you would not want to blot it off with paper towels. You would want to shower. If you have lingering droplets of urine nor particles of feces, it is better to remove them with warm water followed by warm air to dry your nether regions. 

In the United States, electronic bidets cost $250 to $1750, and come with a variety of features.

What Does An Electronic Bidet Do?

Every electronic bidet has at least two functions, wash and dry. Luxury features are reminescent of going to a day spa.

Some models of electronic bidets generate a strong current of warm air that gives you a sound and feel more than a little like driving your car through the dryer at the car wash. Some models remove fecal odor with catalytic converters, sucking them out of the toilet bowl. There are even models with motion sensors that activate the toilet as you come into the bathroom, so the surface of the bidet is moist and "ready to go."

Installation of an electronic toilet is very simple. If the toilet is near an electrical outlet, the only tool that is needed is an adjustable wrench. No special plumbing skills are required.

  • Cohen-Mansfield J, Biddison JR. The potential of wash-and-dry toilets to improve the toileting experience for nursing home residents. Gerontologist. 2005 Oct. 45(5):694-9.
  • Uchikawa K, Takahashi H, Deguchi G, Liu M. A washing toilet seat with a CCD camera monitor to stimulate bowel movement in patients with spinal cord injury. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2007 Mar. 86(3):200-4. PMID: 17314704.
  • Mind map by SteadyHealth.com
  • Mind map by SteadyHealth.com
  • Photo courtesy of Cognoscenti* via Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/trishamanasan/18229741960

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