Prior to the opening of the Tokyu Kabukicho Tower last April, the project was primarily known as the latest move to spruce/clean up the Kabukicho district, a part of downtown Tokyo with a lively but seedy reputation. Once the high-rise entertainment complex started welcoming visitors, though, the thing that grabbed many people’s attention wasn’t the 53-story building’s shops, restaurants, arcade, or "Evangelion" stage play venue, but its bathroom facilities.
The building’s basement level 2 restroom, connected to a dining/drinking area, was designed as a “genderless restroom,” the term used in Japan for a gender-neutral setup. Initially, all of its fully enclosed stalls were designated as gender-neutral, with a shared island-style hand-washing station outside of them. This arrangement was met with a strong negative response, though, with many voicing concern about the personal safety implications of men being able to loiter and congregate near restrooms being used by women.
▼ The genderless restroom, as it appeared when the building opened
The building’s management responded by quickly instating security guard patrols through the restroom, then in May installed temporary-looking partitions to funnel men and women towards separate gender-dedicated stalls, as seen in the photo below.
On July 24, permanent renovation work began, and as of the restroom’s reopening on August 4, the restroom is no longer designated as genderless, and is now separated into an area with seven stalls for women only, three for men, and two “multi-purpose” stalls (referring to a restroom that can be used by visitors with disabilities, caretakers, and parents with young children regardless of gender).
Gender-neutral restrooms aren’t unheard of in Japan, and are in fact fairly common in small shops and restaurants, which may only have one or two booths for the whole facility. The associated hand-washing stations also tend to be either within the booth or in a space outside that’s easily visible.
Though such layouts are generally a product of limited space more than anything else, they also alleviate concerns of being isolated with a stranger in/around the bathroom or of someone blending in with a large crowd to cover up sudden unscrupulous acts. By comparison, the Tokyu Kabukicho Tower’s larger gender-neutral design, especially being located on the restaurant/pub level of a building in a part of town known for hard-drinking and rowdy partying, had more potential to make some feel a sense of unease, and ultimately that’s what the management has chosen to address.
Source: Tokyo Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
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