I’m visiting Jupiter while sitting on the toilet.
Images of its banded clouds are visible on three walls of this restroom, only I’m not technically using this toilet. As a highly capable publicist for Japanese loo manufacturer TOTO demonstrates its features without even an iota of self-consciousness in his demeanor, I marvel at the video that displays a reasonably high-quality fly-by of the largest planet in the solar system. I think of the International Space Station and the astronauts who get to stare at entire hurricanes and illuminated megalopolises as they poop in zero-gravity.
Granted, this is a little more pedestrian, but it’s still a very high-concept toilet, and it’s found on King Street in South Beach at TOTO’s new Concept 190 showroom.
What I’m sitting on is a WASHLET, which has automatic seat covers that use sensors to know when you’ve arrived and when you stand up again (at which point it stops projecting images of outer space on the walls and turns the light back on). It uses a “pre-mist” to wet the porcelain and flushes automatically about 20 seconds after you get up. (No lever or flush button here.) It cleans itself via front and rear jets whose oscillation you can control. Naturally, WASHLET’s seats are heated — but it also deploys a whoosh of warm, dry air to keep you smiley and free of any grown-up diaper rash. The whole thing is Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor Mancave-y, sure, but a little too sleek and polite to elicit much grunting. Apparently, it’s found in something like 80 percent of homes in Japan and continues to gain traction.
I’m no germaphobe, but I think of all the times I’ve exited a toilet with a feeling of horror and disgust: Porta-Potties at Bonnaroo, no-name gas stations on rural highways, the many times I’ve been convinced I have stage IV colon cancer only to remember I ate a beet salad. The WASHLET is the kind of thing a person could get used to.
Just as you should never push or strain to hurry things along, you also shouldn’t read magazines or play Words With Friends while on the toilet. (Get in and get out!) But the next toilet, the NEOREST 750H — which looks like a small sensory-deprivation tank — plays an even more captivating video that just might keep your tuchas on the throne in spite of any medical prohibition against sitting for too long.
NEOREST has images of San Francisco that would make even a body-shaming puritan want to linger. It starts out going over the Golden Gate Bridge at high-speed before becoming something similar to those mesmerizing Apple TV drone shots of Central London at sunset. We go over the Ferry Building and up Market Street, then down Market from Twin Peaks, swinging by the Transamerica Pyramid before passing near AT&T Park, right across the street from where I’m faux-pooping.
This toilet also sanitizes itself with UV light and electrolyzed water.
“Everything is hydrophilic,” the publicist says, pointing out “a certain glaze on the bowl that allows you to not clean for a couple months.” And the machine breaks down “all organic material” so that nothing sticks to the porcelain.
Concept 190 has four toilets altogether, but isn’t all about johns. The space hosts events such as the escape game “Spellbound Supper,” which involves outwitting a witch at a magical dinner party — although there is no food — and something called “Escape from the Mysterious Bathroom.” (It only lasts for 15 minutes; no need to panic.)
In other words, they’re working hard to make the venue accessible to the public, although I would be wary of scheduling anything right after Giants home games.
Elsewhere, TOTO is quite thorough about letting you know where you can experience WASHLETS in the six U.S. states in which they’re available. I doubt many people select dinner options on the basis of toilet tech, but here in S.F., they’re found at places like Onsen, Izakaya Roku, Kusakabe — and KitTea. Rest easy if you go to the Hayes Valley cat cafe during Happy Meowr and overindulge on bottomless cups of green tea.
by Peter Lawrence Kane