17 Cool Toilets in Shibuya: Tokyo Toilet Project

Have you heard of the Tokyo Toilet Project before? Japanese smart toilets are already getting all the hype that it deserves, but when you think of public toilets, what comes to mind? Cramped stalls with questionable hygiene? A necessary evil that many of us try to avoid when possible? If you have children or live with a disability that makes it hard to access public restrooms, the idea of using the restroom outside your home can be daunting.

But prepare to have your perceptions shattered by the Tokyo Toilet Project. The Tokyo Toilet Project is an initiative that aims to transform 17 communal facilities (aka public restrooms) in Shibuya into inclusive, protected, and inviting spaces for all users. The project has enlisted the expertise of 16 talented architects and designers to contribute their skills and creativity to the endeavor. Here’s a rundown of all the cool toilets in Shibuya you can find. Happy washing!

What is the Tokyo Toilet Project?

The Tokyo Toilet Project is more than just about renovating public restrooms or taking Japanese smart toilets to the next level. It’s a groundbreaking initiative to make public restrooms more accessible, inclusive and inviting to everyone.

The project is funded by The Nippon Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to promote social change through various projects. It involves the construction of 17 public toilets in the Shibuya area. But these aren’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill restrooms.

What sets the Tokyo Toilet Project apart from other public restroom initiatives is its emphasis on inclusivity and accessibility. The toilets have features such as barrier-free entrances, spacious interiors, and braille signage, with the hope that everyone can use them.

Moreover, the creative designs of the toilets challenge preconceived notions about what public restrooms should look like and create a more welcoming atmosphere for all.

In addition to these unique features, the Tokyo Toilet Project also prioritizes hygiene and safety. The project’s partner, TOTO LTD, advises on toilet equipment and layout to ensure that state-of-the-art technology minimizes the spread of germs inside. The toilets also feature automatic cleaning and maintenance systems, ensuring that they are always in top condition.

Why is the Tokyo Toilet Project Important?

The Tokyo Toilet Project tackles a critical issue that has long been overlooked: the lack of accessibility and inclusivity in public spaces. For far too long, people with disabilities, the elderly, and parents with young children have faced challenges in finding suitable restroom facilities in public areas.

By designing public restrooms that cater to everyone, regardless of gender, age, or disability, the Tokyo Toilet Project is revolutionizing this essential aspect of urban life. These restrooms boast spacious interiors, enhanced safety features, and impeccable hygiene standards, creating an inviting environment for all users.

The Power of Design in Public Spaces: Unleashing Creativity for a Greater Cause

The Tokyo Toilet Project’s emphasis on design is undoubtedly one of its most captivating aspects. Each toilet was meticulously crafted by a different designer or architect, resulting in a cool and eclectic collection of restrooms that are as unique as they are functional. This creative approach showcases the immense power of design in shaping public spaces and emotions.

The designers were given free rein to create restrooms that reflect their vision and philosophy. This artistic freedom led to a diverse range of designs, from bold colors and playful patterns to minimalist and understated aesthetics. However, all of these creations share a common commitment to inclusivity, accessibility and hygiene.

17 Cool Tokyo Toilets in Shibuya

Here’s a list of the 17 public restrooms in the Tokyo Toilet Project, including the title of each toilet and its respective designer:

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

1. Ebisu East Park by Fumihiko Maki

Ebisu East Park is a popular neighborhood park loved by both kids and adults. For the comfort and safety of all visitors, designer Fumihiko Maki designed the facility with a decentralized layout for his Tokyo Toilet project. This means you’ll have clear sight lines from every corner, ensuring a sense of security and convenience. But they didn’t stop there! They added a cheerful roof that not only promotes ventilation but also floods the space with natural light. This creates a bright and clean environment that feels truly special, almost like being on a giant playground.

Where: 1-2-16 Ebisu

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

2. Ebisu Park by Masamichi Katayama / Wonderwall

In Japan, the origin of toilets can be traced back to the concept of “kawaya,” which was a hut (ya 屋) built over a river (kawa 川). These huts were simple and primitive structures, typically constructed using hardened soil or bound pieces of wood. To capture the essence and atmosphere of these ancient kawaya huts, the architect created an “ambiguous space” that serves both as an artistic object and a functional toilet.

By randomly combining 15 concrete walls, we crafted a design that leads users into three separate areas designated for men, women, and everyone. This unique design encourages users to engage with the facility, almost as if they were interacting with a fascinating piece of playground equipment.

Where: 1-19-1 Ebisu-Nishi

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

3. Ebisu Station West Exit by Kashiwa Sato

Given its prominent location next to the police box in front of Ebisu station, Kashiwa Sato aimed for the toilet to blend seamlessly into the neighborhood rather than standing out. The focus was on creating a facility that is effortlessly accessible, user-friendly, and visually appealing.

Where: 1-5-8 Ebisu Minami

tokyo toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

4 and 5. Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru no Ogawa Community Park: “Transparent” by Shigeru Ban

Viral all over social media, Pritzker-prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban is the figure behind the transparent toilet. The toilet’s glass walls turn opaque when the user enters and locks the door, creating a secure and private environment. The Transparent toilet also has a gender-neutral design, solving the age-old problem of having separate restrooms for men and women.

Where: 5-68-1 Yoyogi and 1-54-1 Tomigaya

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

6. Hatagaya: “… With Toilet” by Miles Pennington / UTokyo DLX Design Lab

To address the issue of underused and forgotten public toilets, Miles Pennington introduced the concept of ‘…With Toilet’. This innovative approach combines a public toilet with an additional functional space that serves various purposes and is open to everyone. The aim is for this space to be transformed into an exhibition area, pop-up kiosk, information center, or cozy meeting space.

Where: 3-37-8 Hatagaya

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

7. Hiroo Higashi Park by Tomohito Ushiro

Situated within a park, encompassed by lush greenery and frequented by numerous residents and visitors, this toilet design aims to be an artistic installation seamlessly integrated into daily life. The toilet features illuminations that can emit light in different ways. Each illumination is unique, ensuring that no pattern is ever repeated to symbolize the world’s population.

Where: 4-2-27 Hiroo

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

8. Higashi Sanchome: “Floating Lantern” by Nao Tamura

Designed by Nao Tamura, this public toilet for a small triangular lot in Shibuya encapsulates a vision of a society that embraces and supports the marginalized community. Inspired by Origata, a traditional Japanese method of decorative wrapping symbolizing gift-giving and hospitality, the design represents Tamura’s aspiration to create a safe space that envelops all users. With a focus on safety, privacy, and urgency, the design features three distinct spaces that redefine the notion of personal space in a public restroom.

Where: 3-27-1 Higashi

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

9. Jingu-Dori Park: “Amayadori” by Tadao Ando

This toilet, located in the serene greenery of Jingu-Dori Park, is named “Amayadori.” Tadao Ando chose a circular floorplan with a spanning roof and engawa (veranda-like space). My main focus was on providing a comfortable and safe environment. Inside the structure, visitors can enjoy the refreshing breeze and natural light through a cylindrical wall with vertical louvers. The design also emphasizes a sense of safety with free and centralized movement, allowing easy access to the other side.

Where: 5-22-8 Jingumae

10. Jingumae by Nigo

The design concept revolves around drawing lessons from the past, with a primary focus on accessibility and user-friendliness. In the midst of Tokyo’s constantly evolving cityscape, characterized by towering buildings, NIGO envisioned a toilet that exudes a sense of familiarity and nostalgia, reminiscent of a traditional home quietly nestled in a corner of Harajuku. Depending on their age and generation, individuals may perceive the toilet as either nostalgic or novel, contributing to its unique appeal.

Where: 1-3-14 Jingumae

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

11. Nabeshima Shoto Park – “Garden Toilet” by Kengo Kuma

Kengo Kuma is an internationally acclaimed architect responsible for designing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium. In Shoto Park, he designed a “public toilet village” is open, airy, and integrated with the lush greenery. The village consists of five huts, each adorned with eared cedar board louvers arranged at varying angles.

Each toilet within the village is thoughtfully designed with a unique layout, facilities, and interior to cater to diverse needs, including families, dressing and grooming, and wheelchair accessibility

Where: 2-10-7 Shoto

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

12. Nanago-Dori Park – Kazoo Sato/Disruption Lab Team

The toilet might look like a cute white bubble, but its circular shape allows air to flow freely and get rid of unwanted odor. The toilet uses the concept of the “Hi Toilet” — a voice command feature where all functions can be activated without needing physical contact.

Where: 2-53-5 Hatagaya

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

13. Nishihara Itchome Park: “Shibuya Stream” by Takenosuke Sakakura

The newly designed unisex cubicles in Nishihara 1-chome have a distinct appearance reminiscent of paper lanterns. These cubicles emit a soft and calming light that adds to the tranquil atmosphere of their surroundings. Sakakura, the architect in charge, effectively utilized space by incorporating frosted glass. Inside the cubicles, occupants can enjoy a partial view of the park’s trees through the frosted glass, giving a unique sense of being in a misty setting. As evening falls, the entire building lights up, resembling a glowing lantern.

Where: 1-29-1 Nishihara

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

14. Nishisando by Sou Fujimoto

The minimalistic, white-washed toilet is a hand-washing facility that is accessible to everyone, not just restroom users. The facility is designed as a single large vessel, accommodating people with different needs. The shape of the facility features a large concave center, which incorporates hand washing stations of varying heights. This design encourages a sense of community, where people of all ages can gather around the vessel to wash their hands, drink water, and engage in conversation.

Where: 3-27-1 Yoyogi

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

15. Sasazuka Greenway: “Toilet in the Park” by Junko Kobayashi/Gondola Architects

Architect Junko Kobayashi designed a unique public toilet beneath the Keio Line elevated railway tracks in Shibuya. It features a large yellow awning, cylindrical toilets with rabbit silhouettes, and a rusted weather-resistant steel plate panel structure. The design creates an open, bright, and secure space with a playful atmosphere, reflecting Kobayashi’s vision for a distinctive and enjoyable public facility.

Where: 1-29 Sasazuka, Shibuya

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

16. Urusando by Marc Newson

This toilet design draws inspiration from vernacular Japanese architecture, incorporating a copper Minoko roof typically found in shrines, temples, and rural areas. This roof form aims to evoke a feeling of comfort and peace amidst the busy urban setting. Over time, the copper roof will develop a patina, integrating the structure into Tokyo’s fabric. The interior of the toilet features a bright and hygienic monochromatic green finish, emphasizing trustworthiness and simplicity.

Where: 4-28-1 Sendagaya

Photo: Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

17. Yoyogi Hachiman: “Three Mushrooms” by Toyo Ito

The toilet facilities at Yoyogi-Hachiman shrine resemble three mushrooms emerging from the forest, situated at the shrine’s entrance along Yamate-Dori. The design creates harmony with the surrounding natural environment. With three separate toilets and interconnected pathways, the facilities are easy to navigate and promote safety through good visibility. Each toilet is equipped with features for accessibility, catering to the needs of diverse individuals, including the elderly and parents.

Where: 5-1-2 Yoyogi

How much money has the Tokyo Toilet Project cost?

The Nippon Foundation did not disclose the exact cost of the Tokyo Toilet Project to the public. However, considering the involvement of 16 renowned architects and designers, and the costs associated with construction, materials, and technology, it is likely that the project required a significant investment. The Nippon Foundation is known for its philanthropic activities and its commitment to supporting initiatives that address social issues, including public health, education, and community development.

Are there any other projects similar to the Tokyo Toilet Project in Japan or around the world?

While the Tokyo Toilet Project is a unique and ambitious initiative, other projects in Japan and around the world have focused on improving public restrooms in terms of design and functionality.

1. Osaka’s Nakanoshima Children’s Book Forest: This public facility in Osaka, Japan, designed by architect Tadao Ando, incorporates a children’s library with public restrooms. The building features a unique, curved design and aims to create a welcoming environment for families and children.

2. Portland Loo (Portland, Oregon, USA): The Portland Loo is a series of standalone public restrooms designed to be durable, safe, and easy to maintain. These restrooms are also environmentally friendly, featuring solar-powered lighting and using minimal water for flushing. They can be found in various locations throughout the city of Portland.

3. Exeloo Public Toilets (New Zealand and Australia): Exeloo is a company that specializes in designing and manufacturing innovative public restrooms. Their facilities are self-cleaning, energy-efficient, and designed to deter vandalism. Exeloo toilets can be found in various cities across New Zealand and Australia.

4. Public Toilets in Reykjavik, Iceland: Reykjavik has invested in designing public restrooms that are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing. Some of these facilities feature contemporary designs and are adorned with murals or artwork, making them inviting and visually appealing.

While these projects may not share the exact same goals as the Tokyo Toilet Project, they all aim to improve the quality, design, and accessibility of public restrooms. This growing interest in enhancing public facilities demonstrates a global trend toward creating more inclusive and welcoming urban environments.

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The next time you find yourself wandering the streets of Shibuya, make it a point to experience one of the Tokyo Toilet Project’s groundbreaking restrooms. Each unique design showcases the remarkable talents of accomplished architects and designers.

You might just be amazed at how a seemingly simple public facility can profoundly shift your perceptions! The Tokyo Toilet Project serves as a striking reminder of the transformative power of design, challenging the status quo and inspiring us to rethink the way we approach public spaces.

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What is the goal of the Tokyo Toilet Project?

The goal of the Tokyo Toilet Project is to make public restrooms inclusive and accessible to all through unique and innovative design.

How many toilets have been constructed under this initiative and in what district of Tokyo are they located?

There are 17 toilets in total and they’re located throughout Shibuya.

Can you name two or three of the toilets?

There is a toilet called “Transparent” and another called “Floating Lantern”.

How much did the Tokyo Toilet Project cost?

The project is privately funded, and the cost has not been publicly disclosed.

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