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'Minister of Toilets' aims to transform Japan's public loos

44 Comments

When tourists from China visit Japan and go on wild spending binges, the term describing their behavior is "bakukai," literally "explosion purchasing." But not only is Japan regarded as a shopping Mecca; Shukan Shincho (May 28) reports that visitors from China are also mightily impressed by Japan's lavatory facilities. Not only are those warm-water bidets a nice thing to have, Chinese visitors gush enthusiastically, but Japan's toilet tissue is also soooo soft.

The Japanese government nevertheless feels that there's still room for improvement, and is planning to devote more attention to the beautification of public sanitary facilities. To this, er, end, LDP upper house member Haruko Arimura, who serves in the cabinet as Minister in Charge of Women's Empowerment and a number of other posts, may also soon be adding the unofficial title, "Minister of Toilets."

Of course, it's not only Chinese who have been raving over the washlets. None other than Hollywood actor Will Smith ("Independence Day") praised them to the media, remarking "They're paper free. Wherever you sit on the toilet, somehow it hits the bull's eye perfectly. It cleans and then dries you. It is just water and then air."

Last October, Arimura was appointed by the cabinet to head the special task force entrusted with transforming Japan into a "society in which all women shine." One of the three subcommittees of the newly formed task force was entrusted with "considering the toilet problem."

Architect Akito Yokoyama, a member of the subcommittee, told Shukan Shincho, "At our first meeting Ms Arimura explained why she wanted to take up the matter of toilets. 'Women,' she said, 'are unable to bring themselves to enter filthy toilets in public parks. To enable women who work outside the home to thrive, it's necessary to improve the environment in public toilets.'

"Ms Arimura intends to summon various experts on toilets to the subcommittee meetings," Yokoyama continued, "She said to us, 'I don't mind if you call me Minister of Toilets; I want to fix up public lavatories.' She's really on a roll."

As concrete examples of the kind of improvements Arimura is considering, Yokoyama mentioned such ideas as "to invite corporate sponsors to post advertisements on the walls, with the revenues going toward maintenance of the facilities. Or with the notion of improved safety in mind, making it so the toilets attached to police koban are accessible to anybody.

"These are the kinds of ideas that could only come from females," he said. "Ms Arimura is to be praised for her foresight. Not only is she saying that it's good to make them comfortable, clean and safe, she's seeking to transform toilets into a 'space in which a person can feel serenity.' Now we're considering incentives like awarding the 'Toilet Grand Prix' to the best facilities."

The subcommittee expects to complete its guidelines by the end of May, after which the involved ministries and agencies will make adjustments before the details are worked into the government's budget for the coming fiscal year.

"Starting with Yuko Obuchi, female politicians have been involved in a seemingly endless string of scandals of late," notes political analyst Atsuo Ito. "But Ms Arimura seems to be pretty solid. She hasn't proposed any noteworthy policies up to now, but as a way of making herself stand out, dealing with the problems of toilets may be a good idea, as anyone will be able to see the results. By the same token, some time ago former Environment Minister Yuriko Koike was successful in overseeing the 'Cool Japan' concept.

"So perhaps this time Ms Arimura will become associated with the 'Toilet reformation,'" said Ito.

Shukan Shincho's writer concludes with a lowbrow pun. "I guess we can say Ms Arimura is staking her 'fate as a politician' ('seijika no un') on becoming the 'Minister of Toilets,'" he writes. In Japanese the word for "fate," pronounced "un," is a homonym for bowel movement.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


44 Comments
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Japanese public toilets go from one extreme to the other. Squat toilets are horrible.

5 ( +12 / -6 )

I think they would have to play Metallica to drown out embarrassing sounds ...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

‘Women,’ she said, ‘are unable to bring themselves to enter filthy toilets in public parks.

Yes, well... how do you think they got that filthy in the first place? - Dirty women.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Chris Sommovigo: I think they would have to play Metallica to drown out embarrassing sounds ...

What tune? "Harvester of Sorrow"?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Squat toilets are fantastic if you're any bit constipated. It's actually pretty unnatural sitting down to do your business....

6 ( +10 / -6 )

Not only is she saying that it’s good to make them comfortable, clean and safe, she’s seeking to transform toilets into a ‘space in which a person can feel serenity.’

...mentioned such ideas as “to invite corporate sponsors to post advertisements on the walls

Ah yes, nothing says serenity like having advertisements in your face wherever you go.

These are the kinds of ideas that could only come from females,” he said. “Ms Arimura is to be praised for her foresight.

Does anyone else feel they are trying to focus too much on the fact that she is female? I mean, could these ideas really have only come from females? Do only women enjoy clean toilets?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Squat toilets are fantastic if you're any bit constipated. It's actually pretty unnatural sitting down to do your business....

Obviously you've never had the experience of being in the process of using one when another person enters the lavatory and then extinguishes the lights when he exits, leaving you squatting in pitch blackness in a very vulnerable position.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

I just love the signs showing tourist how to us the toilet. I burst out laughing each time I see the sign ( man sitting backwards and other position with a big cross ) and when I exit the cubical I get some weird looks. If I emitted the sound off spray painting the porcelain no one looks at you and try so hard not to make eye contact. Other thing I notice especially Tokyo salarymen is how they only wash the tips of few fingers. Like why wash at all ?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I wonder if this (doubtless very well-funded) new appointee will be able to make the revolutionary step of making soap available in lavatories. Department stores are all well and good with automatic flushing, warm seats and all the other accoutrements to a satisfying excretory experience, but if one spends the day in a park and would like to wash one's hands before enjoying a picnic, nine times out of ten you're out of luck.

Similarly, once you get out of the inner-city areas, most train stations seem to view soap as an outrageous luxury, making it a statistical probability that most banisters and handrails are smeared with faecal remnants.

In 2015, in a country which seeks to promote itself as a global leader, is it really too much to ask for the Minister to get a bit of soap in her bailiwick?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Just get rid of those medieval ones on the ground please. We all do not have super flexible achilles tendons and calves and having long legs makes it even worse.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Butt in closing….When you Gotta Go, you Gotta Go. hahaha.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I would be more likely to feel serenity during my visits to the Temple of Cloaca were someone to educate Japanese salarymen that it isn't strictly necessary to hawk up phlegm as loudly as humanly possible and then gob it out into the washbasin.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Or with the notion of improved safety in mind, making it so the toilets attached to police koban are accessible to anybody

... NO,NO,NO... please not next to a Koban... they could plant mirrors or whatever... the Jap. police don't have a good reputation... no, please noooo....

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Install hand soap in all of them. That might be a start. And as a great number of men especially don't wash their hands - prominently displayed hygiene signs would do wonders

6 ( +6 / -1 )

It's all these incontinent geriatrics causing problems in the squat type thunderbox. I'm sure that if they were asked to squat above the Grand Canyon they'd miss it. The thing is, they just can't get down that low without the aid of a forklift resulting in a cluster bomb effect.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The thing is, they just can't get down that low without the aid of a forklift resulting in a cluster bomb effect.

No argument there. They have a total aversion to even going near the washbasin as well. People wonder why I don't touch the handstraps on trains

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I hate these squat toilets. I wont go into detail but once I came out having failed to deliver a full payload.

2 ( +3 / -0 )

most train stations seem to view soap as an outrageous luxury

Back in the good old days, they viewed toilet paper as a luxury, too. One had to buy a small (too small) packet at the entrance. Too late to think of it later when you noticed the absence of a suitable wiping material except your hand.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Please, for the love of god, start with some urinal cakes! I can't tell you what it's like to breathe in one of those public restrooms when it's 35 degrees, 90% or more humidity, and the place hasn't been cleaned in a while.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Is it just me , but do other foreigners find , that when they're using a urinal in a public loo, the Japanese native beside them (be they young or old) , feels they have to hawk up a big spitball?

What is this .... Territorial spitting ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Would the title for the Minister of Toilets be "Benjo Daijin?"

0 ( +3 / -3 )

...but if one spends the day in a park and would like to wash one's hands before enjoying a picnic, nine times out of ten you're out of luck

That's where a little foresight and packing sanitizing wipes solves the problem (since it's your problem, not the municipal government's). Scrub your hands--as you would with soap--and use the disposable cloth to open the door when exiting. Done. Problem solved.

As for tissue, God knows enough of it is handed to you on an almost daily basis. Be (Boy Scout) prepared.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It may sound like a crazy idea to Westerners, but trying to explain a modern Japanese toilet with its many washlet functions or the squat-type toilet found in older homes and many public restrooms is an issue that befuddles a lot of non-Japanese.

And that's only the beginning. Many older Japanese homes have water heating systems for baths and showers (known by the name balance gama) that can be a bit tricky to use, unlike today's on-demand hot water heaters in the bathroom or next to the kitchen sink.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not being able to read Japanese, I learned: Don't push the buttons, just don't push the buttons.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I hope someone tells Will Smith that you are meant to wipe your bum at least once with paper to get the main remnants BEFORE hitting the button that turns on the frighteningly accurate sprayer. If not, it can make the toilet messy if you've done one of those sticky poos that rear their heads every now and then.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

‘Women,’ she said, ‘are unable to bring themselves to enter filthy toilets in public parks.

Yoyogi Park should get the first upgrades. For all the cool events they throw and masses of both foreign & japanese attending them, their filthy toilets ruin the experience. Goes for both genders.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The squat toilets will be an embarrassment for Japan during the Olympics. Best to have western style toilets everywhere WITH a washlet. Many westerners may want to buy one or more on the way home, further stimulating the economy

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@smithinjapan I believe the correct term for urinal cakes is 'Bog Dice' :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It doesn't matter how advanced the toilet itself is when the room you're doing your business in has no temperature control. Having a squeaky-clean bum is all fine and dandy, but doing your business in a 35–degree broom closet with no AC or even positive airflow is not my idea of the pinnacle of advanced civilization.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Although uncomfortable, squat toilets are useful as there is no skin contact. Take your pick: (1) Sitting on a toilet covered in piss or (2) using a squat toilet.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Some people just don't appreciate living in a country like this. Pity the one who cleans the toilet near the eki where I live. It's just recently constructed but some users could have the habit of eating while pooing with all those wrappers of what they've eaten. Just wonder what else are those people doing there deep in the night when nobody is around. With the toilet paper available and with the water accessible, I wonder why can't they manage using them. They shld try living in my home country where you have to bring your toilet tissue and at times you have to pay a fee for using toilets.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Back in the good old days, they viewed toilet paper as a luxury, too. One had to buy a small (too small) packet at the entrance.

That's because you were doing it wrong. You open a hole in the tissue, poke your finger through for cleaning, then wipe your finger with the tissue.

Real army style.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Squat toilets need a grab handle on the wall in front of you. We can't all squat without falling over... I ended up losing my balance in one of those loos... not nice. Japan is a first world country so needs modern loos.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Squat toilets need a grab handle on the wall in front of you. We can't all squat without falling over...

Its an asian thing. They all are able to squat comfortably. For long periods of time too. Haven't you ever seen 2-3 gals or guys "squatting" near a train station, chain smoking and gossiping? A common site for JR East-

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Depends if the squatters are wearing sandals or street shoes. LoL, if one is wearing sandals, better they wait till they get home.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

My mind is so full of wat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In Western Australia, there are public toilets that have automatic doors and everything is quite automatic too, automatic flushing, auto hand wash..... as u enter, soft music will be played for your pleasure. Then when the door closes, there is a little voice announcing "You now have 2 minutes to use this toilet, enjoy your comfort"........

I don't know what will happen after 2 minutes, I could guess the door might just open while you are still on your business..... I suppose...!!!

I didn't stay for 2 minutes but I did what I did in less than 1min.....!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm surprised that no one even considers the flagrant overconsumption of electricity that these so called wonderful modern toilets use and the concomitant carbon and possible radioactive pollution from power plants that are the result of using those over electrified monsters. Architects can design buildings with sufficient air circulation so you don't have to air condition your public toilets or you can just suffer from the heat for the very few minutes you use the facilities. Hiring more cleaners for more frequent cleaning would be a great and natural resources saving solution. And also, hand soap and alcohol disinfectant hand spray would be great.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm surprised that no one even considers the flagrant overconsumption of electricity that these so called wonderful modern toilets use

Public toilets hardly use any electricity at all. Not all of them even have a light inside.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Live in Central America for a while and you will truly appreciate Japan's public toilets...oh and squat toilets are also in Europe and other parts of Asia as well....I don't like them either but when you gotta go, you gotta go....and the Port a Potties here beat anything I have ever used in the States....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here is a good suggestion for the toilet comity, when i went to Belgium, France, and Greece, there is a toilet attendant on the entrance and you paid a small amount to enter, this went towards the attendants wages, and the up keep of the said facilities, the facilities are kept clean, toilet paper was plenty full, and so was the hand soap, the attendant was also there to keep an eye on any damages or repairs that might happen, IE toilet not flushing or getting blocked, would woman feel safer if there was an attender on site whilst the facility was open? I think if this happened in Japan I could see it being a win, win, situation.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Brian.

The Toilet attendand is pretty much the norm in Europe, a system introduced by the ancient romans in public toilets to increase senate income.

When Senators said the money was dirty the reply was " Money doesn't stink.". Hence also why you often need to pay to unlock a toilet stall.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Some toilets in japan are so unsanitary that on occasion (usually on Railway stations) the fumes in the urinal are so pungent that my nostril hair has been singed. (True!)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

sea dog your quite right, i stayed at a youth hostel when I traveled around Japan, and there was/is one in Kyoto and the pungent fumes even made my eyes water, yet it can be eliminated by a simple chemical that counter acts it, you can get it from any industrial cleaning product supplier in the UK, so why they don't use it in Japan is beyond me, Iam sure so do but others need to be introduced to it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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