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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 06:47 GMT 07:47 UK
Japan pushes for toilet exports
The Neorest toilet
Neorest is the "21st century toilet", according to this advert
Japan's number one toilet maker is planning to start selling its luxury loos in China and the US for thousands of dollars apiece.

The company far outsells its domestic competitors in selling bathroom furniture, and the Toto logo can be seen on lavatories up and down the country.

But now, it says, the outside world is ready for its brand of lavatorial luxury.

China is first on the list, and could receive its first shipment within a week, with the US to follow in September.

"There are people in Shanghai and Beijing who can easily afford such items," a Toto spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse.


Japan's lavatories are already a step ahead of the rest of the world.

Heated seats are routine, while some toilets come festooned with buttons and control panels.

Foreigners have been known to become rather confused with the plethora of Japanese characters explaining the different functions, and some have on occasion been caught by surprise when a hidden bidet operates instead of the expected flushing.

As a result, cartoon pictures replacing characters on cisterns are likely to be in use by non-Japanese.

Big ticket, small numbers

But in this case, Toto's big selling point is that there is no cistern.

The upscale toilets - the Neorest - will sell for about 330,000 yen ($2,770;1,700) apiece in China, and the company hopes to move about 200 units a month.

Although initial sales will be supplied from Japan, production could start in China too.

In the US, though, they will be more expensive - about $4,000 to cover the increased shipping costs - although sales are predicted to be about 1,000 a month.

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