Take a trip to Kita-Kyushu and discover the secrets of “Cool” Japanese toilets

TOTO Museum, where you can learn everything about toilets

Moji Customs
Moji Customs built in 1912 (Moji Ward, Kita-Kyushu City)

Kita-Kyushu City in Fukuoka Prefecture has many tourist spots that still show the industrial prosperity in early 20th century such as steelworks that are registered as a World Heritage site as “Site of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” and the customs for foreign trades.

The reason why industrial work became so active in the city was its close proximity to the site of coal, which was used as fuel for industrial production, and there were ports that were suitable for importing raw materials such as iron ore and for transporting products. This is also the reason for TOTO to choose Kita-Kyushu as a production base.

The exterior of TOTO Museum

“TOTO Museum”, located 15 minutes by bus from JR Kokura Station, stands by the Murasaki River that is a famous spot for cherry blossoms in Kita-Kyushu City. It is a fun museum where you can learn about Japan’s manufacturing activities and the transition of Japanese toilet culture. If you scan the QR code at each exhibition corner with a device such as a smartphone, an explanation of the exhibition is shown in multiple languages, making it easy for visitors from overseas to tour around (Note: You may need to install an app such as QR code reader in order to read the QR code). In general, you may not pay much attention to sanitary wares including toilets, but what’s behind them is a culture of human life. You can enjoy seeing Japanese manufacturing spirit including a variety of ideas and wisdom to use sanitary wares in a clean and comfortable way.

TOTO Museum entrance
TOTO spirit corner
“If you make 1,000 products, all 1,000 products must be good ones”. This spirit of the pioneer, who emphasized “quality and homogeneous products”, is still the standard of TOTO’s manufacturing even now.

One of the frequently asked questions by visitors from overseas is “why they made a company to produce sanitary wares”. You can find out the answer to this at “TOTO spirit” corner. You can learn the passion of the founders who spent their fortune and worked hard to develop domestic sanitary wares in order to “create comfortable and clean life culture” in the early 20th century when the sewerage system was not very developed in Japan.

Transition of toilets

You will see the history of plumbing areas, which are places that use water such as toilets, washrooms and bathrooms, by each category. The warm water bidet called “Washlet”, a famous product is also being displayed.

How to use a Washlet
Miniature sanitary wares
TOTO salespeople used to carry miniature sanitary wares instead of a catalog. They are old-fashoned, but their refined design proves their advanced technology.
Sanitary wares that anyone can use comfortably
Being comfortable for anyone from kids to sumo wrestlers to use is an important condition of a sanitary ware
Global Gallery

At the “Global Gallery”, TOTO products that are being sold worldwide are exhibited, categorized by each area. They are designed in each country to suit the needs of the people living in the country. Products for Europe have simple and modern design and ones in America have a slightly classic shape. The difference in tastes in each country and area is interesting to see.

The Museum Shop carries plenty of original goods that are fun for souvenirs including toilet paper with a mascot of Kita-Kyushu City “Teitan” printed on it and cute miniature toilets. The restroom in the museum is fully equipped with the most advanced types of toilets. As you use one, you will instantly feel its quality. So try and experience how comfortable Japanese toilets are.

Miniature toilets

Experience fantastic Japanese toilet culture at the GALLERY TOTO!

“GALLERY TOTO” opened in Narita Airport Terminal 2 is an “experience-based toilet gallery” where you can actually experience the beauty of the most advanced toilets in Japan. The passion to let the world know about the comfortable toilet culture of Japan from Narita International Airport resulted in the creation of this gallery. You can find it in NARITA SKY LOUNGE “WA” in the access way connecting Terminal 2 building (main building) of Narita International Airport and the Satellite (annex), so you should definitely stop by.

GALLERY TOTO

The skills of craftsmen passed on for 100 years exist in the manufacturing process

Do you know why sanitary wares such as toilets are always made of ceramics? The answer is that ceramics are said to be sturdy and keep the toilet clean. Because it is made of ceramics, it can support the weight of more than 100 kg (about 220 pounds) and can withstand decades without being scuffed or corroded. It is also easy to clean, which helps keeping it sanitary.

TOTO Kokura Factory No. 1 next to TOTO Museum has been making sanitary wares for around 100 years, since the time before the sewerage system in Japan was developed. Let’s follow the process in the manufacturing site where skills of experienced craftsmen that have been passed on and modern industrial technology are combined to create the beauty of function and the highest quality.

The main raw materials of ceramics are clay and water. TOTO’s sanitary ware making starts from blending more than 20 kinds of natural raw materials including pottery stones and clay and then pouring the mix into the molds. The shape of the inside of a toilet is very complicated in order to flush water effectively and to shut off the smell from the sewerage. Its size is large, so the shrinkage varies for each part. There is a machine that pours the mix into the molds, but it takes experienced skills to control it anticipating the shape to change during the process of drying and firing.

Forming process where each is finished by hand work
The uniform smooth finish of the surface creates the beauty and the smooth flow of water, so each sanitary ware is made by hand work in forming process.
Process where glaze (enamel) is sprayed on
Glazing process where glaze (enamel) is sprayed on to an even thickness

The shining surface of sanitary wares is due to enamel called glaze that is sprayed onto the surface of ceramics. TOTO also mass-produces by using robots programmed to copy the movement of experienced craftsmen, but they also use manual labor to pass on their technology.

Checking the product before firing by sight using the light
Checking the product before firing by sight using the light
On the left is a product after firing. An original shape (size) changes in itself  by more than 10% compared to before firing.
On the left is a product after firing. An original shape (size) changes in itself by more than 10% compared to before firing.

After being glazed, the ceramics are carried for a long time through a tunnel-shaped kiln on a cart. The firing temperature is more than 1150℃ (2102℉). Unevenness in the quality is never allowed as this is an industrial product. The temperature control in the kiln as well as how products should be arranged on the cart requires the know-how of experienced craftsmen.

TOTO inspects all the products
TOTO inspects all the products

After the firing process, the sanitary wares go through an appearance and function check as well as an inspection to ensure there is a small crack and so on inside that can not be visually confirmed by hitting it with a wooden hammer. Only the products that cleared all the strict inspection points are shipped.

Finished products
Japanese toilet culture

Let’s visit unique tourist spots in Kita-Kyushu

Kokura, where the TOTO Museum is located, is a great spot as a base for sightseeing in Kita-Kyushu. The Moji Port where you can see buildings from early 20th century and the night view of factory areas, which looks like a SF movie is popular among tourists and is only about 20 minutes away by JR rapid train.

Illumination of factory areas, a symbol of Kita-Kyushu ((c) NIPPON STEEL & SUMIKIN CHEMICAL CO., LTD)

Factory areas which symbolize Kita-Kyushu, the city of manufacturing, are illuminated on weekends. Its dynamic illumination is very beautiful and will leave a strong impression in your memory.

Old Moji Mitsui Club

“Old Moji Mitsui Club” (Moji Ward, Kita-Kyushu City) is registered as a national important cultural property. It was built in 1921 as a social club for Mitsui Bussan (MITSUI & CO., LTD.), one of the leading trading companies of Japan. The guest room where Dr. Einstein and his wife stayed when they visited Kita-Kyushu is also preserved. There is a restaurant on the first floor.

Kyushu Railway History Museum

Locomotives and trains that actively worked to transport people and goods are exhibited in Kyushu Railway History Museum (Moji Ward, Kita-Kyushu City). There is a train that you can get in and take a photo and a simulator where you can experience driving a train.

Tanga Market

When you visit Kokura, you should go see Tanga Market located about 3 minutes by monorail from JR Kokura Station. It is said to have started around 1910 and to this day about 120 shops selling local fresh seafood, vegetables and handmade delicatessen still stand in a row. You are recommended to try some local food such as Kamaboko, or boiled fish paste.

Kita-Kyushu City distributes a “Kita-Kyushu Welcome Card” at tourist information centers in the places including Kita-Kyushu Airport and JR Kokura Station. It is a useful guidebook with information including tourist spots, lodging, souvenirs, gourmet food, transportation and map of the city in 4 languages, English, Korean, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. Special discounts are available with this card for visitors from overseas, so you should get it before you start sightseeing.