Japan is known for its extreme and painstaking cleanliness. It must be one of the most hygiene-conscious countries in the world. Whose thoughts don’t turn to the Tokyo subway, the city’s (non) place par excellence, renowned for its impeccable cleanliness, brightly shining floors and total absence of litter? Venturing into the intimacy of the country, even the public lavatories – the koshu toilet – are remarkably clean, but they are seldom used, because in the collective imagination they are seen as dirty, smelly and scarily dark. In order to quash these prejudices, the Nippon Foundation – the historic non-profit organisation set up in the Seventies by the businessman and philanthropist Ryoichi Sasakawa – decided to become involved, along with the municipal government and local tourist board, in the renovation of one of the city’s most trendy districts, Shibuya, famous for its shops, fashionable bars, restaurants, discotheques and various forms of entertainment. Sixteen of the most prestigious architects on the contemporary scene were brought in: Tadao Ando, Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto, Toyo Ito, Masamichi Katayama, Kengo Kuma, Junko Kobayashi, Fumihiko Maki, Marc Newson, NIGO®, Miles Pennington, Takenosuke Sakakura, Kashiwa Sato, Kazoo Sato, Nao Tamura and Tomohito Ushiro.
The keywords: avantgarde technology and design. The objective: to make the lavatories accessible to all, regardless of gender, age and disability (toilets for ostomates), demonstrating the inclusive nature of Japanese society. The facilities are free of charge, and a continuous maintenance and cleaning service ensures that the spaces are kept in tiptop condition, as well as fostering a welcoming feel. In Japan, toilets have always been a symbol of the country’s hospitality culture.
Seven of the seventeen lavatories are already up and running as of August, and the others are set to open in Spring 2021. The first seven include those in Ebisu Park and near Ebisu station, designed by Masamichi Katayama and Nao Tamura, respectively; and the one in Nishihara Itchome Park designed by Takenosuke Sakakura. The designers also include three Japanese Pritzker Prize winners: Shigeru Ban, with the toilets in the Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Pari and the municipal Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park, Tadao Ando with those in Jingu-Dori Park and Fumihiko Maki with those in Ebisu East Park.