If you have been to Japan even once, I am pretty sure that you have had an intimate encounter with one of the greatest inventions in the world: washlet.

In fact, many international travelers are so impressed by Japan’s toilet system that they can never forget about their first experience using one. And more often than not, I have heard that it is one of the things they miss most about Japan. I mean, just recall the involuntary sighs of “ahhhh….” when you place your behind onto a spotless, warm toilet seat on a freezing winter night. (Don’t worry, it’s not because someone sat there for a long time before you.) Who would have thought that doing your business in the lavatory could be such a blessing!

Today’s rather unusual blog post is about the greatest toilet brand in the world, TOTO, and how I have embarked on a curious journey traveling around Kyushu Region exploring the wonders of Japanese toilets.


The reason why I flew from Tokyo to Fukuoka is because Fukuoka is the birthplace of TOTO, the revolutionary brand that changed the world’s sanitary ware.

First of all, no one can miss Fukuoka City’s most iconic spot: Dazaifu Tenmangu. If you visit in early spring, you may be in for a treat surrounded by fragrant plum trees in the shrine compound.

For lunch, pop by popular noodle shops for a piping bowl of Fukuoka’s meibutsu (specialty): Tonkotsu Ramen.



TOTO Museum

Kitakyushu City is where TOTO was born. Where I am  standing in front of is the TOTO Museum, established to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its founding back in 1917, a time when Japan did not even have a sewer infrastructure, a time when the outdoor squat-style washiki toilet were commonplace.

TOTO has come a long way in modernizing not only Japan’s toilet system, but the world’s, with its continuous commitment to innovate for the growth of society. That was the vision of Kazuchika Okura, the first president of TOTO.

Marvelled by the cleanliness of pure white ceramic sanitary ware during a European inspection, Kazuchika Okura was convinced that Japan was destined for a massive revolution. He then founded Toyo Toki Company (hence TOTO), which literally means “oriental ceramics”.

Little did he know that his life’s work has come to fruition, 100 years later now that this brainchild has become a household name worldwide that supports millions of people’s daily life,  and that Japan’s toilet is now synonymous with world class cleanliness and comfort. Talk about a great success story!

TOTO Museum is open to public for free, and not only do you get to flip the pages of TOTO’s history, I am sure one would gain so much insight and have a whole new level of appreciation for something as simple, (but in actual fact extremely sophisticated) as a toilet bowl–something that’s seemingly so humble, but utterly indispensable from our daily life. I know I did.

I had lots of fun observing the revolution of Japan’s toilets: from Jomon & Yayoi Period’s Kawaya (literally just a few woods tied together at the edge of a river), Heian Period’s Hibako (a wooden box that has a torii gate shaped handle where ladies can hang the hems of their kimono on), to modern day’s ultra high-tech washlets with a ton of cool features!

This is NEOREST NX, the pinnacle of luxurious toilet, providing not only ultimate comfort with its advanced technology in cleansing, deodorizing and sanitizing effect, but has also perfected the beauty of a toilet bowl with its seamless design. Not only that, it has also maximized its eco-friendly potential by minimizing required water amount for flushing.

This is the perfect specimen of a world class toilet, in my opinion.

Experience the differences in size by sitting on various toilet seats, from child-size to sumo-size!

In the Global Gallery, we can observe TOTO products that are designed to adapt to the cultural differences worldwide. For Singaporeans and Malaysians, we can get the best of TOTO products from TOTO Asia Oceania, including some of the line-ups from the highest end NEOREST collection.

TOTO Corporation Kokura Factory No.1

Located just next to the TOTO Museum is a factory where one can witness firsthand how TOTO toilet bowls are manufactured from raw materials.

Albeit less casual than the museum and guests are expected to follow certain protocols for safety, the factory tour offers a once in a life time chance to encounter up-close the shokunin spirit of Japan.

I had imagined such a world renowned brand to have everything automated where rows and rows of robots would create fancy toilet bowls ready to be shipped, but I was so wrong! So many steps are required by the craftsman’s sharp eyes to details and full concentration.

The glazing process for example, are partly done manually to ensure precision, it was really fascinating.

The inspection procedure is also of course, carried out by skilled staff who know exactly what constitutes a flawless toilet bowl.

There’s an experience corner where one can use a hammer to knock on the ceramic, finding out if a toilet bowl meets the standard requirement or not by judging the sound it makes.

From forming to glazing to firing and eventually inspection and packing before the product get delivered to thousands of happy users, here at the TOTO Kokura Factory you can learn about almost the entire manufacturing process and understand how these often under-appreciated sanitary fixtures in our homes are made so awesome.

Access: About 10 mins taxi ride from JR Kokura Station, or 10 mins on foot from Kawaraguchi Mihagino Station on Kitakyushu Monorail.

For those of you outside of Japan, you can even take a virtual tour online on TOTO Museum’s website!



I am sure you would want to get some sightseeing done coming all the way to Kitakyushu City, other than visiting TOTO Museum.

The nearest travel attraction is Kokura Castle, the only castle left standing in Fukuoka (albeit reconstructed). If you visit in spring time, you can find hundreds of cherry blossom trees around the moat at Katsuyama Park!

My personal recommendation would be to venture a little further to Mojiko Port, which is about 20 minutes away from TOTO Museum.

I have a special liking for port towns such as Kobe, Yokohama and Otaru, and Mojiko is Kyushu’s equivalent to a romantic harbor town.

Located at the tip of Fukuoka by the Kanmon Straights, which connects Kyushu to Japan’s main island by just a bridge, Mojiko offers an easy access to Yamaguchi Prefecture with just a 5-min ferry ride if you plan to check of more prefectures on your list!

Spot the iconic “banana man” along the port.

Enjoy a fresh fruit parfait by the ocean is another way to spend a relaxing afternoon.

Here are more suggestions of popular spots in the Kyushu Region to make your journey more fulfilling:

We are crossing the prefecture border from Fukuoka Prefecture into Oita Prefecture!


7 Hells of Beppu

You may have heard of the famous “Hells of Beppu“, one of the most popular onsen spots in Japan.

Go on a “Jigoku Meguri” to tour all the 7 Hells of Beppu. This is Umi Jigoku, one of the bubbling hot springs featuring cobalt blue hues just like the ocean.

Within Umi Jigoku you can also spot a really rare reddish thermal pond called the “Akaike Jigoku”.



Another well-known onsen resorts not too far from Beppu, Yufuin is a crowd favorite when it comes to Oita’s sightseeing spot!

Lake Kinrin is an iconic spot for its serenity, especially during early morning when the mists are dense.

Yufuin Floral Village makes another compulsory stop, if you love a fairy-tale like atmosphere with owls and other adorable animals.

For Snoopy fans, know that there’s a cafe and souvenir shop along the shopping street too.

For the night, I checked into a private accommodation. I would really love to reveal the location but sadly it isn’t open to public booking, so please bear with me for a moment here while I brg about my stay *insert pleading face emoji*…

First of all, other than an outdoor private onsen, the villa features the most coveted toilet in the world: NEOREST NX, blending in so elegantly into the calming space of the villa.

As if we haven’t seen enough buttons in a Japanese toilet cubicle yet, this is a chance to relish the Japanese’s ultimate thoughtfulness into fulfilling every single potential need one would have during a lavatory visit, which has somewhat becomes an entertainment on its own, if I may.

TOTO Technical Center (Tokyo)

*Note: TOTO Technical Centers in Japan and overseas are open to professionals like interior designers, architects and contractors, via appointments only.

State-of-the-art technology

While I am sure most of us who know TOTO are wooed by its Japan-quality efficiency and convenience, I was really glad I had the chance to take a glimpse into behind-the-scenes of TOTO’s state-of-the-art technology and marvel at just how well thought out every single step of creating a product is, in order to strive for creating a better environment for the world.

For example, there are various experience corner where you can learn about the meticulous design combined with precise technology that results in the most optimal products that are both efficient and environmentally-friendly.

This is the Hybrid Ecology System, which combines two innovative water streams—one from the plumbing system and one from a small tank inside the toilet—to maximize flushing efficiency.


What is so beautiful (literally) about TOTO is that apart from practicality and performance, the aesthetics is never overlooked. Take the faucets for example. Classic & elegant, bold & stately, relaxed & unassuming… the dizzying array of choices you have for just what goes onto the top of your basin will have you occupied for a long time at the showroom!

In fact, in terms of design, for many years consecutively, multiple products of TOTO have received international recognition such as the iF Awards and Red Dot Design Awards.

One of the most stunning products that has won the “Best of the Best”–the most prestigious award in the Red Dot Design Awards is the Touchless Faucet TLE24 series. Think of never having to touch a faucet ever again at a public washroom, especially practically the entire world has been conditioned to stay more hygienic than ever during the pandemic, this genius creation is a real godsend.

Functionality & Originality

Exploring further and you can also find displays where you can roam in amazement how various TOTO products are designed for diverse social settings, including mini potties for children at shopping malls, infant bathing basins and washing cubicles made for nurseries, as well as wash basins that allow also teeth-brushing with mad efficiency for the lady’s powder room.

The Japanese just have endless of cool ideas!!

You could hear me exclaiming “sugoi!” non-stop, totally swooning over the amount of effort and consideration put into TOTO’s product designs, very typical of Japanese companies with their omotenashi spirit.

For those of you who have been to Japan before, you may have seen this foldable platform in the public toilet cubicles before and for the longest time wondered what it is for… Well, this is for those who need a change of clothes to step on so that they don’t having to get their socks/feet soiled (think of wet toilets often spotted outside of Japan! Yikes!).

This is why I love Japan… *teary eyed*


Finally, I also got a chance to discover some of the novel products designed by TOTO, such as this “bedside toilet” created to alleviate the burden of having go go through unnecessary movements (eg up and down the stairs) for mobility-impaired elderlies at home or nursing homes, as well as all sorts of sophisticated toilets designed to make going to the washroom a more pleasant experience for those with physical disabilities.

I was deeply touched by TOTO’s commitment for making small but impactful innovations continuously that result in eventually big, revolutionary changes for a better world. Wow I never knew writing about Japanese toilets can make me so emotional! *sob*


Anyway, I’ll end this post on a positive note by saying that never have I had more admiration and respect for toilets (and people who create them!!) in my life than now, after the very inspirational discoveries I had with TOTO. I want to extend my special thanks to the TOTO Asia Oceania team headquartered in Singapore to fly all the way here to Japan to make this happen.

I hope you have enjoyed this rather unusual travel post sharing about my favorite toilet brand in the world. By the way, I must applaud myself for holding back this far from making crappy rest room puns… (sorry.)

Finally, if you are thinking it’s time you will finally give your (and your family’s) bottoms some well deserved care, I strongly recommend you visit one of TOTO’s showrooms for customers/consumers and try it on yourself.

Website: https://asia.toto.com/