The “transparent” toilets, created by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban and more than a dozen other top designers, are made from colored “smart glass” that turns opaque when the cubicles are occupied.
Amenities were opened this month at five locations in the capital’s Shibuya district as part of the Tokyo Toilet Project, organized by the non-profit Nippon Foundation.
Aside from the novelty, the foundation said there were important practical considerations behind the unusual toilet, which it likened to “curious playground equipment.”
“There are two problems with public toilets, especially those located in parks,” he says. “The first is whether it is clean on the inside, and the second is that no one is secretly waiting inside.”
Using new technology, the foundation said the cabins’ glass exterior walls turn opaque once the door is locked, allowing potential users to examine the interior before spending a dime.
“At night, they light up the parks like a beautiful lantern,” he added.
Japanese high-tech toilets have long been the subject of fascination with visitors to the country.
Toto, the manufacturer of the Washlet line, now markets its toilets – with wash and dry modes, seat heaters, and lids that open and close automatically – in China and several other countries.
The foundation noted, however, that despite the hygienic reputation of Japanese toilets, many people still mistakenly believe that public facilities are “dark, dirty, smelly and frightening.”
The project plans to install the toilets at 17 locations in Shibuya next spring.