High-tech sanitation: Race to the bottom | The Economist

JAPAN is often viewed with antipathy in China, but increasingly commerce is trumping contempt. During the lunar new-year holiday in February, Chinese tourists thronged to Japan in record numbers. Many came home lugging a high-end Japanese luxury: a heated toilet-seat complete with pulsating water jets, deodorisers and even music to drown out less melodious tinklings. In recent weeks the run on Japanese loos has been a topic of much debate among Chinese commentators, revealing deep insecurities.

Chinese visitors bought more high-tech lavatory seats than almost any other Japanese product during the week-long break, according to Hottolink, a Japanese consulting firm. Most popular was a new variety with hands-free lid opening, say staff at a branch in Tokyo of Bic Camera, a consumer electronics store where Chinese shoppers are so numerous that signs advertise wares in Chinese and assistants speak Mandarin. These cost around ¥65,000 ($540). Some bought several seats, including portable, battery-powered ones.

Relations between China and Japan have shown recent, tentative signs of warmth after a long chill. But only three years ago demonstrators in several Chinese cities called for a boycott of Japanese goods in protest against Japan’s stance in a still-festering dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Some Japanese companies responded by minimising or hiding their branding on products sold in China.

via High-tech sanitation: Race to the bottom | The Economist.

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