Comments

  1. I had no idea what the Washlet was or the fact that it was so popular with Chinese tourists, so it was cool to connect it to some cultural inside jokes that I completely missed in Asian dramas I watch. I’d be interested to know more about the logic behind this Chinese craze phenomenon, and whether there are other examples in Japanese products that can support your argument.

    Regarding Nagamachi’s theory on consumer-oriented engineering, I absolutely think that it is culturally odorless. The idea, as described in your post, is that businesses find out what consumers want as a product and creates it using those elements. Catering to the consumer is a rule of thumb for business success, so I think that it applies in any country around the world. A question I would ask though, is the Japanese toilet seat (or can it become) culturally odorless and gain the same amount of popularity in a western country, say the US, as it has with the Chinese population?

  2. Anastasia Rivera says:

    Wow, this was so interesting! I didn’t realize there was a movement you can trace in the popularity of Japanese toilet innovation and I’d like to see what other products might have grown in that way. You mention that it isn’t necessarily how Japan has reinterpreted Western invention, but its own originality and refinement. Are there examples of other products, not as popular in the West, that has as much popularity?

    Since this is also closely tied with the boom in tourism, have you noticed any Japanese advertisements focusing on the innovation and inventiveness of Japanese products? The marketing of a “Cool Japan” and practice of national branding likely capitalized on this image, so have there been partnerships with private companies and the government to emphasize this aspect?

    Finally, with the toilet seats, are they as pervasive among Japanese people as well? Have even rural homes taken to buying up these products? Are there examples of Chinese products that draw Japanese consumers?

  3. Andrew Kim says:

    I have heard before about Chinese consumers vacationing to Japan expressly to buy merchandise, but I never would’ve guessed it would expand to toilets. That’s fascinating!

    Siqiao, to address the question about whether something like the Japanese toilet could succeed in the US market, I have to wonder about that. Certainly, as a US citizen, I’d totally love to have a Japanese toilet with seat heating functions or a bidet. However, I have this hunch that there may be a resistance towards such a product at least here in the US. One of the great buzzphrases in commercial marketing today is “Manufactured in America” which appeals to a nationalistic pride in our country and products from our country. I certainly don’t think this has stopped people from buying products they know were manufactured elsewhere, such as Apple or Samsung phones produced in foreign factories, but there are some things such as cars where “American cars” are a symbol of pride and quality. I suppose this depends on whether Americans care enough about a toilet to ascribe nationalist values to one, right?

    One question I became curious about was the manufacturing process of these Japanese products. Certainly, by the time these products are packaged and shipped to retailers, they are seen as Japanese. However, to my knowledge, many Japanese companies outsource some manufacturing work to foreign countries with cheaper mass-production facilities. Obviously, China is one such place where many Japanese corporations outsource their labor. Does this play at all into the Chinese conscience when they buy products from Japan?