Tokyo To Offer ‘Toiler Tours’ After International Interest Sparked By Oscar Nominated Film, Per...

Japan’s high-tech toilets have consistently been a major point of interest for tourists. Tokyo has now capitalized on a recent spark in international interest in Japan’s toilets from the Oscar nominated film, Perfect Days, from German director Wim Wenders, which follows the story of a toilet cleaner in Tokyo.

Embed from Getty Images

One of the most interesting tourist attractions in the world is Japan’s high-tech toilets, which are often equipped with heated seats, a bidet function, auto-flushing, and in some cases, soundscapes for relaxation. 

There’s been a recent increase in the toilet’s of Japan from the new film Perfect Days from German director Wim Wendors. The film was recently nominated for best international feature at the 2024 Academy Awards. It follows the story of Hirayama, played by Kōji Yakusho, a Tokyo toilet cleaner. 

The toilets in the film are located in the Shibuya neighborhood in Tokyo, and now authorities in the area are taking advantage of the rise in international interest in their toilet technology by offering tours of 17 facilities that are designed by known architects Tadao Ando, Shigeru Ban, and others. Yumiko Nishi of the Shibuya City Tourism Association spoke on the reasoning behind these new tours.

“We are trying to change the image of public toilets as dark, dirty, and dangerous.”

The tours take place two times a week, when tourists are taken around in a shuttle to the 17 facilities. According to writers for The Observer, who joined the tour for their second ever exhibition, the first stop was at a facility in Nabeshima Shoto park where the toilets are designed to be surrounded by cedar planks. 

The design came from Kengo Kuma, who designed the main stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Kuma said he chose to use cedar planks so that the facilities would blend in with the park’s natural environment. 

Kuma described the facilities as a “toilet village” consisting of five huts that cater to men, women, families, and wheelchair users, as well as having a separate area for “dressing and grooming.” 

The advancements in toilet technology have been a part of the Tokyo Toilet project, which has been a collaboration between Koji Yanai, an executive at Uniqlo, the nonprofit Nippon Foundation, and authorities in Shibuya. The intent was to build new structures in Shibuya where the bathroom facilities were previously run down. 

An executive from the Nippon Foundation discussed how they surveyed the public’s opinion on the results of the project, with satisfaction rates reaching 90% when referring to the specific 17 new facilities; before the renovations the satisfaction rates for these facilities were around 44%. 

Embed from Getty Images

“People who previously didn’t give much thought to public toilets have started to take an interest in them.”

Embed from Getty Images

Each of the toilets that were renovated in the project are cleaned three times a day and checked monthly by a “toilet consultant,” each facility is also wheelchair accessible. 

The writers for The Observer wrote how the tour was two-hours long, and ended in front of “the dazzling white walls and undulating curves of architect Sou Fujimoto’s Vessels and Fountains – a combination of toilets and public handwashing facilities positioned at different heights to encourage children to use them,” wrote Justin McCurry, the Tokyo correspondent for The Guardian. 

Fujimoto himself stated that the idea behind the design was to “create a small community of people, a new type of public space where people can gather and communicate around water.” 

The recent popularity of the film Perfect Days has brought even more attention to Japan’s abundant public restrooms, emphasizing the idea that the restrooms should be clean and welcoming. In Japanese culture, children also are instilled with the responsibility of cleaning at an early age, as many of them take turns cleaning their school bathrooms at the end of the day. 

Yakusho’s character spends more than half of his time on screen cleaning lavatories, a reality in Tokyo now that the Tokyo Toilet project is complete. 

McCurry wrote about one of his fellow tour members, named Yuriko, who spoke about the general interest in the unusual tourist attraction. 

“I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been fascinated by toilets. When I saw this tour mentioned on the Tokyo Toilet project’s Instagram account, I knew I had to come. It’s not just that they’re clean and modern, they’re really stylish too,” Yuriko said