(21) Public toilets in Tokyo and Japan

In an earlier post about “provisional spaces” in Tokyo, I cited the following public toilets as examples of urban design elements that feel temporary, unpolished, or generally at-odds with modern design:

This comes from my perspective as an American, where a public toilet building would generally have doors, and where I would not expect a passerby to be able to see the urinal, such as this on in the city of Shimonoseki:


Or this public bathroom with a view of Kachidoki-bashi in Tokyo (map):

Or this toilet, at night:


My wife tells me that adults don’t often use these facilities…perhaps that’s why so many of the public toilets in Tokyo are located in parks with slides and playground equipment for children, such as here:


Or this futuristic toilet in Taito-ku, near Yoshiwara (map):

Or in Ebisu East Park (aka: octopus park) 恵比寿東公園(通称:たこ公園) (map):


These small, open-air toilets have the advantage of being easy to clean, and they are arguably safer than fully-enclosed toilets, as potential criminals would not be able to hide inside. In addition to these advantages, Tokyo’s public toilets are also a joy to look at, coming in a variety of designs. Even similar toilets, such as the following, have unique design elements:

There are plenty of stylish and contemporary designs (the second picture is an example from Kyoto):

And this retro-feeling bathroom on the north side of Numabukuroko station, in Nakano-ku (map):


On a related-note, I was surprised to find that women will clean a restroom regardless of whenther men are inside; On several occasions I’ve been in the middle of using the urinal when the cleaning staff have come in and cleaned the urinals on either side of me. In the United States this is generally unheard of. Such as situation is somewhat famous in Japan, and was included in the collection of Japan Times cartoons by Tim Ernst (See: Cartoonist Ernst captured ‘fish-out-of-water’ gaijin as they floundered)



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