I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about Japanese toilets for years. Now I’ve got Steve Jobs and his avid Japanese team of iPhone app developers to thank! Who else but the Japanese would think of designing an iPhone app that replicates the sound of a toilet flushing. Now, thanks to the “eco-oto” (“エコ音”, which is short for “ecological sound”) iPhone app, you no longer have to feel embarrassed that someone is hearing you take a whiz in a public toilet. Do I hear you saying “Why on earth would I be embarrassed fulfilling a call of nature?” Well there are a few things that you need to know about Japan.
Japanese women are very self-concious about the noise that they make in the bathroom. Maybe it is because there are so many other women hanging out in front of the mirrors doing other things that it is no longer deemed appropriate to have a whiz (or whatever..) in a public toilet anymore. Whatever reason it may be, many toilets in Japan come equipped with a “sound” button on their control panel (if you don’t know why Japanese toilets have a control panel then you have a little catching up to do but unfortunately that it out of scope of this article!). When you press the “sound button” these toilets will play a recording either of some music, or more likely, they replicate the sound of a flushing toilet. The idea is that this sound will drown out the noise of you “fulfilling your duty” on the commode, and hence quash the embarrassment factor of taking a slash.
And, it only gets better. An amazing 80% of Japanese women are embarrassed to make an “excretion sound” in a public place. Surprisingly, 50% of males claim that they flush the latrine a couple of times while they are sitting on it in order to drown out the sound of their crash and trinkling. Wow. I guess that is why there is a market for adding “sound” buttons to high end toilets.
But, there is a problem. Not all public toilets have these cool futuristic control panels. While some people scope out public toilets in advance to make sure that they always know where a safe and noisy toilet is nearby, how embarrassing would it be if you got stuck in a public toilet without such a button!? Well that is what this iPhone app is all about. At the touch of your screen, your iPhone will replicate the sound of… well, a flushing toilet.
The app, which has been on sale in the Apple iPhone app store since last Thursday 5th Nov, is designed to be cute and pink and the buttons are large and easy to press so you can even press them if you have long nails. For people who tend to be louder than average, or perhaps for those days after a great curry you can even increase the volume of your simulated flushing sound (think Niagra falls). Better still, you can choose between “flushing water” for 30, 60, 90 and 120 seconds depending on your mood. I personally have no idea how people would ever know which to choose. More to the point, shouldn’t there be a 5 minutes option?
So why is it called eco-oto? Because apparently people who are “caught out” without a sound button on a public toilet are well known to constantly press the “flush” button on their public thrones until they are complete. Think about how much water is wasted there! Just as we’ve grown to know and love in Japan, the designers of this app actually went out and calculated that for us. Apparently each “use” of the eco-oto will save you flushing away a massive 6-8 litres of water!! (they thoughtfully mention however, that this discrepancy depends on the age and style of your toilet).
The app costs 115 yen or 99 cents and is semi-bilingual (it comes with hilarious Jinglish translations). You can download the app by using this direct link to the iTunes Appstore. Flushed with pride, the company responsible for this app – polygonmagic.com – also made this press release:
It’s quite funny, and apart from some of the features mentioned above, Eco-Oto also has the following selling points:
- Very easy for girls to carry around, with a cute & stylish design (its an app for Christ’s sake, how can it not be easy to carry around if you already have the iPhone!)
- Sound level that you use is automatically saved for next time (where would be be without that?)
- The pink dotted indicators slowly flush in towards the middle, to indicate how much more flush time you have (theoretically, this should be longer than your own “steady stream time”)
- The flush button flashes 10 seconds before the sound finishes (to warn you to put the squeeze on the flow – and here I was thinking that this would be delayed until version 2.0!)
- Easy for beginners (well, there is a first time for everything I guess)
Maybe it’s just me but I see this as being the first of a plentitude of similar apps. Just think of the power of the iPhone functionality. You could have one app which created a map of all of the people flushing toilets throughout Japan. Perhaps people could have another button that you press when you didn’t need to use the app so apple could create a nationwide map pointing out user-friendly toilets from embarrassing ones!
Better yet they could create an SNS which alerts you when your friends and other people are flushing nearby… or perhaps it alerts you when they enter a toilet and haven’t started flushing so that you can assist them remotely!? The possibilities are endless.
Do you think you’d ever use an app like this? Is the saving that embarrassment really worth 99 cents? Who on earth are you embarrassed about being heard by anyway? Better yet, share with us in the comments section your ideas for new toilet apps and maybe we can convince the developers to release a stippy toilet app!?