Japan Unveils A Universal UI Language . . . For Toilets

Japan’s biggest bathroom equipment manufacturers have decided to do a bit of toilet training. The Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, a consortium of companies producing plumbing products including Toto, Panasonic, and Toshiba, came together to create a standard set of icons for the control panels on Japanese toilets and bidets.

Bathroom humor aside, Japanese toilet technology does not mess around—the most common Japanese bidet is often referred to in English as a “super toilet,” and is one of the most advanced toilets in the world. With seven functions, it has been listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s most sophisticated toilet since 1997. And while Japanese users don’t have trouble deciphering the familiar control panel, tourists used to less sophisticated bathroom technology often do.

The new iconography is an effort from the industry to standardize the pictograms that depict how to work typical Japanese toilets, whose controls often baffle Westerners used to simpler models. As initially reported by The Verge, the icons indicate how to raise the lid, raise the seat, large flush, small flush, rear spray, bidet, dry, and stop.

The new symbols fit in with a larger effort to simplify Japanese iconography for tourists to Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics. For instance, previous icons in the city’s wayfinding system depicted “hospital” with an image akin to a subway car. The symbol for Buddhist temple was a left-facing swastika–which Japanese people recognize as the Sanskrit symbol for Buddhism, but which could be misunderstood by visitors. The revamped system makes the signage more universally accessible.

And the new bidet icons? Honestly, it’s a helpful bit of UI design for those unfamiliar with the capabilities of Japan’s public toilets, whose mistakes could have pretty disastrous consequences. Sure makes waving your hand in front of a sensor to flush seem primitive.

[Images: via Sanitary Net]