Japan is known as the most polite nation on Earth, and that extreme politeness extends to all aspects of life, including bathroom etiquette. Many public toilets feature a wall-mounted device that, when pressed, creates a sound that masks that of urination. However, electronics company Roland has come up with an improved version that drowns out embarrassing bathroom noises completely.
Before the technology boom of the 1980s, toilet users would either flush the toilet or turn on a sink to mask the sounds they made when relieving themselves. However, as this was a needless waste of water, a more eco-friendly solution was sought, and thus the concept of the toilet sound generator was born. The most famous of the resulting devices, developed and manufactured by toilet brand Toto, is the Otohime (literal translation – “sound princess”). These devices resolved the water waste issue but only partially efficient in making people comfortable in the toilet, because the sound they generated didn’t do a perfect job of masking the embarassing noises. Luckily, a better solution is now available to them.
Japanese homeware brand Lixil has partnered with instrument maker Roland to address the sensitive issue of bathroom noises. They’ve created a new device called the “Sound Decorator”, which, unlike current solutions that only try to mask noises by emitting another sound, generates a pattern that makes the original sound less audible altogether. They achieved this by engineering a sound with a similar but stronger wavelength to that of urination, and, through what is known as the “auditory masking” effect, they were able to neutralize the weaker wavelengths and thus cancel out the unwanted noise.
When the device is activated, it evokes a serene forest, with a babbling brook and the chirping of songbirds. As Lixil’s press release says, “We brought the equipment up to the mountains and recorded many samples such as ‘Ogawa no Susoragi’ and wild bird’s chirping. You can taste relaxation with the sound that makes the image of the forest.”
Lixil began selling their “Sound Decorator” systems from February 1st, but the devices are only available in Japan. There are two versions available, one that is activated by a motion sensor when the user waves their hand close to the panel, and the other which automatically generates the sound when someone approaches the toilet.
The hand operated version costs 21,800 Yen (USD 200), and the automatic version costs 32,800 Yen (USD 300).
There is no word yet on whether the technology will expand to include the infinitely more embarrassing noises produced by gas and defecation.