Here’s a List of the Newly Improved Public Toilets in Tokyo, Japan So Far

Here’s a List of the Newly Improved Public Toilets in Tokyo, Japan So Far

Public toilets never looked so charming.

Considered to be one of the cleanest countries in the world, Japan doesn’t let up when it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of their surroundings. Believe it or not, they also consider their toilets as a symbol of their country’s renowned spick and span reputation. Now, Japan wants to make the experience of public toilets even better for its locals. 

The Nippon Foundation recently launched The Tokyo Toilet Project in partnership with the Shibuya City Government and the Shibuya City Tourism Association. This project aims to renovate 17 public toilet locations in Shibuya to dispel stereotypes that public toilets are dark, dirty, and overall unpleasant. 

According to the Nippon Foundation website, all these newly innovated spaces will adopt an advanced design that will make public toilets accessible regardless of gender and disability to uphold an inclusive community. The launch dates of the new public toilets in Shibuya, Japan are as follows:

Public toilets launched on 31 May 2020

Jingumae (designed by Nigo®)

Keeping things a bit vintage but still alluring to look at, designer Nigo conceptualised a public toilet that would feel like an old home. This area would feel nostalgic to some but new to others, depending on one’s generation. The interiors are designed so that natural light seeps through and maintains an airy colour motif to keep the whole establishment looking cool and calm. 

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Public toilets launched on 24 Jun 2021

Nabeshima Shoto Park (designed by Kengo Kuma)

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed this public toilet to make it feel like a cosy area amidst a walk in the woods. According to his description, it’s composed of five huts that are covered with eared cedar board louvers that are installed at random angles. Each of the cubicles also has its own distinct layout and interior to accommodate different needs, whether visitors are with younger children or disabilities. 

In a post on the Tokyo Toilet official website, architect Kuma further describes the public toilet, “By dividing each section into separate buildings, we created a ‘public toilet village’ that is open, breezy, and easy to pass through, a design appropriate for the post-pandemic times.”

Public toilets launched on 5 Aug 2021

Ebisu Park (designed by Masamichi Katayama)

Japanese toilets were originally made in a kawaya. These were prehistoric huts in Japan built over rivers during the Jomon period. Using kawaya as the inspiration, designer Katayama built an “ambiguous” space consisting of 15 concrete walls. The maze-like structure leads to designated areas for men, women, and everyone.

This design aims to pique the curiosity of civilians and encourage them to engage with their surroundings “as if they are playing with a curious piece of playground equipment,” the architect explained in the Tokyo Toilet website.

Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park (designed by Shigeru Ban)

In an attempt to answer the question of whether a person is inside a cubicle or not, Japanese designer Shigeru Ban came up with a public toilet whose colour becomes opaque when somebody’s occupying it. According to Tokyo Toilet’s official website, “Using the latest technology, the exterior glass turns opaque when locked. This allows users to check the cleanliness and whether anyone is using the toilet from the outside. At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern.”

Public toilets launched on 7 Aug 2021

Ebisu East Park (designed by Fumihiko Maki)

Since this public toilet is located near a children’s park, architect Fumihiko Maki designed a pavilion-looking toilet complete with a rest area. Knowing that both adults and children frequent this place, Maki intentionally designed the public toilet to be safe and comfortable where there are good sightlines throughout the area. 

Tokyo Toilet’s official website also elaborated on the features saying, “The cheerful roof that integrates the different sections promotes ventilation and natural light, creating a bright and clean environment while giving the facility a unique appearance similar to playground equipment.”

Higashi Sanchome (designed by Nao Tamura)

Japanese designer Nao Tamura envisioned a public bathroom where the LGBTQ+ community can feel safe and accepted. Hence, this public toilet in Shibuya features three separate spaces that redefine how a public bathroom establishes personal space. 

“The design was inspired by Origata, a traditional Japanese method of decorative wrapping. A symbol of gift-giving, this motif embodies the spirit of hospitality towards Shibuya ward’s multinational visitors, and carries my vision to create a safe space that envelopes all users,” Tamura wrote in Tokyo Toilet’s website. 

Public toilets to open on 31 Aug 2021

Nishihara Itchome Park (designed by Takenosuke Sakakura)

This park’s former public toilets were said to be hardly in use because they didn’t look too inviting. So, architect Sakakura redesigned the facility to be more appealing with a bright and open space that complemented the entire park. The new public toilets are also meant to be more inclusive with the unisex bathrooms. Architect Sakakura added, “We hope that the restroom will illuminate the park like andon, or lanterns, creating an inviting public space for the visitors.”

Public toilets to open on 7 Sept 2021

Jingu-Dori Park (designed by Tadao Ando)

Architect Tadao Ando calls this design “Amayadori,” which means “taking shelter from the rain.” The public toilet’s main feature is the cylindrical wall of vertical louvers that’s meant to let visitors feel the breeze from the surrounding nature. According to the designer, he chose the circular floor plan because it felt comfortable yet safe. “A feeling of safety will be emphasized by the free and centripetal circulation which passes through to the other side,” Ando explained in the Tokyo Toilet website.

Public toilets launched on Oct 2021

Bonus: Oath Hill Park (designed by Kengo Kuma)

Elsewhere in rural Japan, the penchant for creative and futuristic design continues. Nowhere is this more evident than in the latest public toilets designed by Japanese architecture studio Kengo Kuma and Associates, featuring umbrella-like structures inspired by the conical shape and snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji. 

Located along a popular hiking trail in Oyama Town, these scenic public toilets are situated near a sheltered observation deck in Oath Hill Park. Here, visitors are welcome to sit on one of the benches encircling the shelter, take a break to use the restrooms, or capture stunning photographs of Japan’s iconic volcano. 

White umbrella-shaped structures are joined together at the roof and supported by wooden pillars connected with iron rings. Meanwhile, the public toilets also have a cylindrical shape and a similarly peaked roof, blending in with the natural surroundings. With a beautiful sunset and Mount Fuji winking in the distance, going for a bathroom break doesn’t get any more scenic than this.

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There are a couple more innovative public toilets to open in Japan with tentative launch dates. According to the Nippon Foundation though, they’re aiming to open the rest in the spring of 2021.

This upgrade of the public toilets in Shibuya might actually make Japan the country with the best public toilet facilities ever, especially if they’re going to apply this project in other prefectures. Which public toilet in Japan is your favourite?

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