Toilets from Japan becoming a symbol for the rich in Vietnam

High-tech toilets with bidet functions and heated seats have joined automobiles and beauty products as Japanese-made status symbols for wealth in Vietnam, according to industry insiders.

Toilets from Japan becoming a symbol for the rich in Vietnam

Kazuyuki Shiozawa, second from left, and employees at Toto Vietnam Co. try to sell Washlet toilets to wealthy people in the Southeast Asian country. (Akiko Suzuki)

“People in their 30s who are wealthier than the middle class are increasingly installing Washlet toilets” said Kazuyuki Shiozawa, 45, a salesman at the Vietnam branch of Japanese toilet manufacturer Toto Ltd.

Toto Vietnam Co. opened here 17 years ago.

Toto’s overall shipment of its Washlet brand toilets around the world since June 1980 topped the 50-million mark in March, the company said.

Shiozawa said Vietnam is now contributing to those shipment figures, but declined to offer figures.

High-tech toilets are used in about 70 percent of households in Japan, but only a few percent in Vietnam.

One reason for the low penetration ratio in the Southeast Asian nation is the price.

Such toilets cost about 300,000 yen ($2,780) each in Japan. In Vietnam, the price rises to about 400,000 yen, mainly for changes to deal with such differences as electricity voltage.

The Vietnamese who can afford such a luxury are known to show off their toilets to their guests, Shiozawa said.

Other companies are marketing bidet toilets that cost 70,000 yen, Shiozawa said.

Vietnamese tourists sometimes buy attachable toilet seats with bidet and seat-warming functions in Japan to take home.

At an airport in Hanoi, many boxes of home appliances filled the luggage carousel for a flight from Osaka.

Rice cookers appeared to be the most popular appliance from Japan, followed by attachable toilet seats.

Elderly people in Vietnam recalled times when toilet users had to wipe with used papers in cities, while people in rural areas resorted to leaves.

Cleaning one’s bottom with a stream of water was generally unheard of until a few years ago, they said.

Toto is targeting Hanoi, the capital city in the northern part of the country, which has a different climate than, for example, Ho Chi Minh City in the south.

Hanoi can get very cold in winter, so the heated seats and warm water spray could be a draw.

“The value of the Washlet is hard to understand unless people use it about 10 times,” Shiozawa said. “I want to expand the number of first uses. Many Vietnamese visit Japan now for fun or business, so there are various possibilities ahead.”

VNF ( Asahi )

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