Unique and Incredible Toilet Renovation Project in Shibuya, Tokyo

How are you doing these days? It is December and 2020 will be over soon. This year was very unusual worldwide and a year of patience. All of us had to face hard times all year round. I belong to a volunteer guide association for foreign tourists in Japan, however, we had almost no activities during the year after the COVID-19 pandemic in the world except online seminars sometimes among the association members.

The other day, one of our volunteer guide association members shared a very interesting topic at online seminars. It is about the public toilet renovation project in Shibuya-ward, Tokyo. As it was quite unique and informative for us, I would like to share the topic here. As you have already known, Japanese people are highly sensitive to hygiene and sanitary. I also wrote about the toilets in Japan in my blog before (→please refer to the page), our commitment to the toilets is so unique and enthusiastic in the world!

Overview of the project

The project is supported and conducted by The Nippon Foundation, one of the major public interest foundations in Japan which leads International cooperation projects. According to their press release, clean toilets are a symbol of world-class hospitality in Japanese manners, however, public toilets at public spaces such as parks gave us negative images such as “Dark, Dirty, Smelly and Dangerous” and the users are quite limited so far. Therefore, they are going to redesign public toilets of 17 locations in Shibuya-ward which everybody can use with comfort regardless of gender, age, and disabilities, and are aimed to realize building diversified society. Moreover, 16 world-famous designers and architects participate in the project in order to spread a message of “Inclusive Society” to the world through their exceptional creativities.

Why the Nippon Foundation chose Shibuya-ward for the project is that the place is world-famous and they would like to make Shibuya a cultural/artistic central city like NY and London as well as a leading innovative society. Shibuya is very attractive among people and tourists, however, still remains an unfriendly society for disabled people. Therefore, they are going to deliver a strong message from Shibuya about “Inclusive Society” through proceeding with the project, according to their official journal.

Completely different design for each location

Toilets’ designs completely vary by each designer/architect, but all facilities equip Washlet (Japanese great inventiveness!), Ostomate facilities and are wheelchair accessible. Toilets at 7 out of 17 locations had finished redesigning so far and the rest of the locations to be finished by summer in 2021. I would like to share the information and images of 7 locations delivered by the Nippon Foundation briefly as follows,

1. Jungu-Dori Park (designed by Tadao Ando)

According to the architect, the concept of the design is well-ventilated and beautiful to the eye. The outer wall is the vertical grid so that we can see inside from outside, which means we can check safety from outside, as well. The round-shaped ceiling is protruded to stay under the roof in case of rain, which is called “Amayadori” in Japanese. Tadao Ando is one of the world-famous architects and the Shibuya Station of the Tokyu-Toyoko Line was designed by him.

2. Nishihara 1-Chome Park (designed by Takenosuke Sakakura)

The design of the building is quite simple, but the concept is “lantern” toilets which means the outer walls are used frosted glass and shine at night. All 3 toilets are unisex. The designer’s other major work is the residential building in Tokyo Midtown.

3. Ebisu East Park (designed by Fumihiko Maki)  

The park has very outstanding playground equipment which shape is a big red octopus. The designer was inspired by the equipment and designed the toilets which remind us of “squid”. The designer was a professor of Tokyo University who was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1993.

4. Higashi 3-Chome (designed by Nao Tamura)

The design of the building is inspired by “Origata” which is a symbol of Japanese gift culture and the origin of “Origami”. The red color is very eye-catching even at night in the sense of safety. The designer is a capable young woman who actives internationally based in NY.

5. Ebisu Park (designed by Masamichi Katayama / Wonderwall)

The toilets are using 15 concrete walls which put them randomly and made an “ambiguous space” between toilets and the object. It seems like a maze so that the place is very popular among nursery school children in the neighborhood according to our guide member. The designer is the Principal and founder of Wonderwall inc who led the designs of UNIQLO Global Flagship Stores (New York, Paris, Ginza, etc).

6. Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park (designed by Shigeru Ban)
7. Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park (designed by Shigeru Ban) 

These 2 locations were designed by the same artist and are similar concepts (Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park is orange and purple color and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park is blue and green color.)  These may be most astonished and epoch-making among others. It is almost transparent and we can see inside of each room when no one uses them, then it turns invisible when someone uses the facility. The building also shines at night in the sense of safety. The designer is working for the NPO sector such as residences, museums, and disaster support as well as a professional architect.

The photo @ THE TOKYO TOILET by Nippon Foundation
(The Photographer is Satoshi Nagare)

For the rest of the locations in the next year, some other world-famous creators such as Kengo Kuma who designed the Olympic stadium in Tokyo this time, Kashiwa Sato who is a representing Japanese famous product designer as well as Mark Newson who is a world-famous product designer will participate in the project.

Additionally, our hospitality minds will be encouraged by enhancing maintenance and cleaning of toilets. The cleaning staff wearing on the uniform clean each location 3 times a day. Besides, the professional toilet spectators will check the facilities and improve maintenance there.

The project uniforms are designed by NIGO, a Japanese famous fashion designer.
The image @ THE TOKYO TOILET by Nippon Foundation.

We will have additional interesting and attractive spots to visit in Shibuya when you come to Tokyo next time. I am also looking forward to having a chance to visit each one with my foreign guests when we can travel between countries freely in the near future. Additionally, toilets in Japan are a kind of wonderlands to visit, especially, commercial facilities and department stores are focusing on introducing the concept toilets there to invite more customers. Even toilets at stations have redesigned/renovated for improving convenience and reducing crimes there more and more.

If you want to get the more detailed information including the background of the project, please visit the website as follows;
THE TOKYO TOILET by the Japanese Foundation: https://tokyotoilet.jp/en/

For your information, I just found an interesting media which has some articles about “something around toilets in Japan”, please visit the website if you are further interested in the topic.

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