Japan's hi-tech loos now less confusing with symbol guide

Healthy and helpful

On Tuesday, the Japan Restroom Industry Association announced that it had developed a new set of control panel illustrations for multifunctional "super toilets", standardizing the symbols for the benefit of foreign visitors.

The country's famously fancy toilets have always been the subject of fascination, but the varying button designs used by different manufacturers have also paved the way for some rude surprises delivered to foreigners' nether regions. But when tourists were surveyed in 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal, a quarter of foreign users said that they didn't understand the various buttons nor their respective functions on a typical Toto toilet.

The confusion arose when manufacturers created their own symbols after the first toilet with washing and drying functions appeared in Japan in the mid-1960s.

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Japan has been drawing record numbers of tourists in recent years and Tokyo is expecting millions of visitors when it hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympic Games in 2020.

At a launch event this week, the firms said they had agreed to simplify the pictography in response to complaints from tourists that they are confused by symbols that differ depending on the make of toilet.

But now an industry group has chose to flush away this confusion that particularly bogs down foreign tourists by unifying the confusing symbols. They have also targeted to push for it to be an global standard.

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