Secret Planet Killer: High-Tech Japanese Toilets

Japan's second most dubiously famous technological predilection (behind panty-vending machines) is its highfalutin' toilets, which warm, wash, blow dry and deodorize your bum, just to cover the basics. Japan is also well regarded for taking the lead on going green-average energy consumption per person is half ours. Tragically, the Japanese desire for a pampered and squeaky clean butthole is killing that ethos-and the planet.

Super-deluxe-awesome-o toilets are always on, constantly sipping power-they now make up four percent of household energy consumption, more than dishwashers or clothes dryers. And they're in 68 percent of homes. One expert says it's the Japanese equivalent of the slightly suicidal American love of the Hummer, except that sales of quasi-mecha toilets aren't slowing down. (Probably because 23 to 30 percent of Japanese men apparently sit down to pee. So inefficient.) How serious is the problem? Tricked out commodes might knock Japan out of meeting its Kyoto Protocol goals, even as the government demands more efficiency out of manufacturers.

Toto, for its part-besides cutting energy usage of its toilets in half-has come up with a smart toilet that learns everybody's pooping schedules and warms up just prior to your usual pit stop, so it only powers on when it needs to, rather than staying armed and ready all the time. Technology really can solve all our problems, even the ones it creates. [Washington Post]