Public-restroom enthusiasts and reformers should keep an eye on the innovation being unleashed via "The Tokyo Toilet Project."

Using public restroom facilities isn't always ideal. They're not the cleanest, they're dark, and they could even be unsafe. To help lessen the anxiety of using public bathrooms in Japan, the nonprofit Nippon Foundation launched “The Tokyo Toilet Project."

The Nippon Foundation commissioned 16 well-known architects to renovate 17 public toilets in the public parks of one of the busiest areas of Tokyo, Shibuya. In a statement, the Foundation described their goal for the project:

"[These toilets] will use advanced design to make them accessible for everyone regardless of gender, age, or disability, to demonstrate the possibilities of an inclusive society. In addition to the construction, we have arranged for ongoing maintenance so that people will feel comfortable using these public toilets and to foster a spirit of hospitality for the next person."


Courtesy Nippon Foundation

The Transparent Toilets of Shigeru Ban

The most striking design to come from the project so far are the six cubicles constructed this month in Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park and the Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park. Their concept was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, and seems a little counter-intuitive at first.

Two units are comprised of three cubicles each, which are made from tinted glass in cyan, lime green, blue, yellow, pink, or purple.

“There are two concerns with public toilets, especially those located in park. The first is whether it is clean inside, and the second is that no one is secretly waiting inside," explains the Nippon Foundation.

The clear walls allow prospective toilet-goers to see inside the stall to check for both safety and cleanliness. Once inside, the occupant locks the door and the special glass turns opaque in response. When the door is locked, privacy is ensured—and when the door is unlocked, the glass reverts to transparency.


Image Courtesy Nippon Foundation


Image Courtesy Nippon Foundation

The stalls also glow. "At night, they light up the parks like a beautiful lantern,” the Nippon Foundation says.

There are other toilet designs debuting now, as well as through 2021. Public-restroom enthusiasts and reformers can follow the project at the Nippon Foundation website.

Are those toilets opaque enough for you? Does their transparent function make them more appealing to you? Comment below!