Would You Go to the Loo in a Transparent Public Bathroom?


Newly installed public restrooms are causing quite the debate online for the fact they’re made of glass and appear completely transparent — until locked, that is.

The toilet blocks, of which there are two, were recently erected in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Shibuya at the Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park.

Image: Satoshi Nagare / The Nippon Foundation

Creator and architect Shigeru Ban is behind the colourful glass cubicles that immediately transform to become opaque when occupied. Ban says his design, while unconventional, solves two problems that typically concern visitors of public bathrooms.

“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park,” he says on the project’s website.

“The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside. 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.”

Aside for their functionality, there’s no denying the restroom design looks pretty cool. The bright colours have been chosen to mirror the colourful play equipment nearby, and at night time, they’re easily seen from a distance.

“At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern,” Ban says.

Image: Satoshi Nagare / The Nippon Foundation

The installations are part of a wider project called The Tokyo Toilet involving a number of designs from 16 different architectural firms around the world to update Tokyo’s dated public bathrooms with fun and innovative new structures.

Japan has a culture of cleanliness with a higher standard of hygiene than in much of the rest of the world, however public restrooms are limited in Japan due to stereotypes that public toilets are dark, smelly and even scary.

But The Tokyo Toilet project was designed to change this for Tokyoites and visitors. “To dispel these misconceptions regarding public toilets, The Nippon Foundation has decided to renovate 17 public toilets located in Shibuya, Tokyo, in cooperation with the Shibuya City government,” a statement on the project reads.

Image: Satoshi Nagare / The Nippon Foundation

“These public toilets are being designed by 16 leading creators, and will use advanced design to make them accessible for everyone regardless of gender, age, or disability, to demonstrate the possibilities of an inclusive society.”

Ultimately, the goal of the project is to make passers-by feel comfortable enough to use a restroom without hesitation, and to “foster a spirit of hospitality for the next person”.

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