The latest must-have product in Japan isn't some high-tech device. In Japan, electronically controlled, heated, bidet-accessorized, high-tech toilets are commonplace and now they've made another contribution to lavatory luxury. It's high-end toilet paper and it's rolling off the shelves at more than $12 per roll.
It all started five years ago. The aging owner of an obscure, family-run paper company called Mochitsuki Seishi was troubled by sensitive skin and determined to find a solution. "Even wearing a necktie makes his skin red," said company managing director Masayo Morisawa, who is the owner's wife. "He needed softer toilet paper." After years of tinkering, the balm for his behind was finally discovered by essentially inverting the process of modern paper manufacturing. Instead of large-volume, high-speed production, this toilet paper is made by delicately processing the paper pulp fiber and precisely managing the water temperature used in the process. It yields a softer wipe.
The resulting three-ply toilet paper is so fragile it has to be rolled by hand. Which means, the original 10-person factory is too small, so the rolling work is farmed out to part-timers who do it in their homes.
A gift box of eight artistically patterned, pastel colored rolls will set you back about $100. "Suitable for birthdays and thank-you gifts for wedding guests," each roll comes wrapped in handmade Japanese "washi" paper.
Now this luxury three-ply toilet tissue is a national obsession. This company- Mochitsuki Paper, which used to turn out 300 rolls a month, is now struggling to meet demand as it can only produce 12,000 rolls in a week. They've hired extra staff, but they can't keep up with the orders.