Restrooms with transparent stalls opened in parks in Tokyo's Shibuya district in August, challenging the stereotypes of dirty and dangerous public toilets.
Users need not worry about being exposed to the outside world as the high-tech glass stalls in the toilets become opaque when locked.
When the toilets are not occupied, the glass stalls are transparent, enabling users to check for cleanliness and safety before entering. At night, they light up the parks like beautiful lanterns.
The colorful transparent toilets, designed by Shigeru Ban, the 2014 winner of the Pritzker Prize, an annual international award for architects, were installed in Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park in Shibuya, the bustling center of youth culture.
They are part of the Tokyo Toilet Project launched by the Nippon Foundation nonprofit organization in cooperation with Shibuya Ward to construct public toilets at 17 locations by the summer of 2021.
A total of 16 leading architects designed the toilets in the project, including Tadao Ando, the winner of the 1995 Pritzker Prize, and Kengo Kuma, who designed the new National Stadium, the main venue for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, originally scheduled to be held this summer but postponed for one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mihoko Ueki, project coordinator for the social innovation team at Nippon Foundation, said, "The use of public toilets in Japan is limited because of stereotypes that they are dark, dirty, smelly and scary."
The foundation decided to reimagine public toilets to counter such misgivings, according to Ueki.
The new 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," she said.
The photogenic, transparent toilets have immediately gone viral on social media, drawing mixed reviews from Twitter users.
One Twitter post said, "They're looking good. My heart went pitapat. Japan's toilets are awesome." Another post said, "I'm worried about whether the toilets would suddenly turn transparent when using them in an emergency such as an earthquake."
Ueki dismissed such concern, saying, "When the door is unlocked, an electric current runs through the crystals in the glass panels, creating a transparent effect."
"When locked properly, the electricity is cut off and the glass stalls change to opaque, so people could not see inside in the event of a power outage in an emergency," she said.
Under the project, all the toilets will be constructed by major Japanese home builder Daiwa House Industry Co. and leading Japanese toilet maker Toto Ltd. will advise on toilet equipment and layout.