Japan Installs Fancy Transparent Public Toilets in Tokyo; Dare Use Them?

These transparent toilets in Tokyo have smart glasses that turn opaque when the user closes the door.

Japan has installed transparent public toilets in Tokyo in an effort to ensure hygiene. Designed by Shigeru Ban, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, these toilets have smart glasses that will ensure privacy of the users, claims the government. But people are not convinced. Here is how these toilets work.

The smart glass has sensors and as one enters the toilet and closes the door, the glass turns opaque. This prevents anyone outside the toilet from viewing what's happening inside. An NGO Nippon Foundation, carried out the project in association with 16 designers.

Transparent toilet
Two transparent toilets have been installed at a park in Shibuya district in Tokyo, Japan. Twitter

The Smart-Glass Technology

When the door opens the glass turns transparent again. The toilets in various colors including mango, watermelon, lime, violet and teal have been installed in two public parks at Shibuya district in Tokyo. The transparency will force people to keep the toilets clean and thus ensure hygiene, says the government.

Though the toilets have become spots of attraction and many people are gathering to have a look, most of them are not comfortable using it. There is a debate about whether they should trust the technology. Netizens expressed their fears that if sensors malfunction when a person is using the toilet, the glasses will turn transparent, making it an embarrassing moment for the user.

However, reports also claimed that some people are happy that at least this can make people keep toilets clean. Despite the fact that Japan has had toilets that have the lids opening and closing automatically along with seats that warm up, the country's public toilet system has been criticized for a long time.

In fact, till 2017 Japan had 40 percent of public toilets made of brick and mortar, with a squat stall. As many as 300 public toilets have been refurbished between 2017 and 2019. However, even to this day there are many public toilets that lack basic facilities like hand soap.

Fancy VS Basic Amenities

Thus, people have said the government should focus more on making sure that the basic tools and cleaning materials are made available in the toilets than building fancy toilets. But at the same time those who care for hygiene have given thumbs up to the new technology and want more such toilets throughout the country.

Japan was supposed to rebuild its public toilets, replacing them with advanced technology before the Summer Olympics started. But due to COVID-19 pandemic the plan has not been implemented yet.

Tokyo is not the first county to experiment with transparent toilets. In fact, Switzerland had installed two versions of the transparent toilets in 2012 and 2015 designed by Oliver Rambert. But the smart glass turned transparent if there was no motion detected by the sensor for 10 minutes. This was designed to help users in terms of medical emergencies, but was not received well by citizens who put privacy and comfort before cleanliness.

Overall, the see-through toilets have mixed reactions from people. It is not sure if more toilets will be installed in the same manner in the coming days.