My sister and brother-in-law have just been for a 10 day visit. They lived in this area for a year about 4 years ago so they have seen most of the general things as well as some of the not so general things. In an attempt to find a few new experiences we decided to go on a tour of a toilet factory - something that is not usually on the tourist itinerary!
Japan produces fantastic toilets - in fact I think they are one of the most photographed things in Japan, perhaps coming a close second to vending machines. We were on a private tour and it turned out to be fascinating. It was the Toto factory in Nakatsu and I would have to say we were treated like royalty.
We turned up at the gate and were immediately shown to the parking lot by a kind man on a bicycle. We were then greeted by two people who took our photo (and later presented it to us at the end of the tour) and then gave us an interesting PowerPoint presentation about the history of the company and the basic products that they make at the factory. We then headed in through the factory to see how they make toilet bowls and wash basins. I think what struck me the most was how much people are involved in the process rather than machines. Of course they use machines for some things and some of their robots used for drilling holes and painting were pretty impressive. But so much of the work seemed to be done by people in teams.
Their quality checks were also very thorough. As well as checking for cracks, visible imperfections and whether every part was level or not they had a great way of checking for if the toilet would flush properly or not. They paint some coloured water on the bowl (the pee) and then put a piece of cloth (the toilet paper), and 5 sausage shaped weights (the poo) into the bowl and then put in the average volume of water needed for a flush. If anything is left in the bowl after this exercise then the bowl is put in the defect line.
Another thing that I was impressed with was the fact there is basically no waste produced at the factory and their focus is very much on looking after the environment. All products which are rejected before they get to the firing stage are made back into clay and made into new products. All products which are rejected after they have been fired are broken up and used as gravel at schools etc.
Their focus is very much on preserving water and their current toilets only use 4.8 litres of water for an average flush, compared to 20 litres when they first started producing toilets.
We weren't able to take any photos inside the factory, but if you click here it gives a bit of an idea of the process.
Today I received a hand written letter from them thanking us for coming and welcoming us back any time. Fantastic service from a fantastic company! I recommend their tour to anyone who is looking for something different to do in this area.