Toto was incorporated by Kazuchika Okura as Toyo Toki Company, Ltd., in Kokura, Japan in the year 1917. The company is later renamed TOTO in 1970. Capitalizing on the recent upswing in urban population, the company quickly found a market for its sanitary ceramic products.
The company grew further in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake. The quake decimates most of Tokyo and the company becomes a major supplier in the rebuilding process. To keep up with the demand, the company operates the first tunnel kiln in Japan and opens a plant in Chigasaki, Japan.
With the advent of World War II, the demand for war production kept the company afloat despite shortages of raw materials. In august of 1945, the company, along with the entire city of Kokura came close to being lost as an American B-29 made three passes in heavy cloud cover before proceeding to its secondary target of Nagasaki to drop the second atomic bomb.
After the war, as reconstruction began in earnest, the company’s fortunes began to increase dramatically. In 1946, the company adds metal fittings and faucets to its ceramic product lines.
In 1964, Toyo Toki gets another big boost as Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games. The games spark a building boom that leads to the company’s introduction of modular prefabrication technologies. The culmination of this technique is seen in the 1,044 room Hotel New Otani, which is built specifically for the Games. The company supplied the bathrooms for this hotel, showcasing its prefab expertise.
To keep up with the increased demand, the company opens four plants in the Kokura area, one near the Chigasaki plant, and a plant in Shiga, Japan. In 1970, during a water shortage, the company designs a toilet that uses a mere 1.6 gallons per flush. The company, now TOTO Ltd., begins manufacturing enamel baths. In 1977, TOTO opens its first overseas plant in Indonesia: PT Surya TOTO Indonesia.
By the 1980’s, the company features a host of technologically advanced products including the Washlet; a microcomputer controlled toilet seat that also features a warm water washing feature. The Washlet is a huge hit and becomes a cultural phenomenon. The company also expands into modular kitchens, measuring tools, and optical discs.
In 1990, the company begins selling in the USA, and by 1994, has expanded to China. In addition, the company introduces in 1993 its crowning achievement in what it terms “clean technology”, the Neorest. The Neorest combines features of the Washlet as well as a variety of other innovations into one high performance unit. Despite these advances, however, the company felt the effects of a steep recession in 1997. In 1998, the company declared that it would be forced to cut 1,000 jobs by the year 2000 and in 1999 the company posted a net loss of ¥21 billion. Undaunted, the company continues to strive to make the most technologically advanced products it can and has recently begun to show growth as it has reduced its dependence on the housing industry. The year 2006 saw the opening of the TOTO Universal Design Research Center to design and create new products for the marketplace.