A Slice of Tokyo Life with Transparent Public Toilets

One of the best things about living in Tokyo is that there is always some artsy stuff popping up somewhere. This time we’re talking about transparent public toilets.

In an effort to overturn the image of public toilets as dirty, creepy and dark places, the Nippon Foundation nonprofit organization, in cooperation with Shibuya Ward, launched the Tokyo Toilet Project.

A group of 16 architects banded together for the project, which aimed to construct contemporary, artsy public toilets at 17 locations by the summer of 2021.

Perhaps the most striking are the colourful transparent glass stalls installed in Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park in Shibuya. Designed by award-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the glass automatically turns opaque when the door is locked, with the structure lighting up the park like a beautiful lantern at night.

These toilets went viral shortly after their opening in August 2020, so I decided to check them out for myself.

Tokyo transparent toilets in Shibuya Ward

FAIL.

After making the trek across Yoyogi Park one chilly winter evening, I sadly found this sign dated 2021/12/23 posted to the doors.

Sign on transparent toilet doors

Translation:

To users of the transparent toilet

This toilet uses a special glass that turns from transparent to opaque when the stall is locked, but as the glass takes time to change due to the cold temperature, it is currently being kept opaque.

The toilet itself can be used as per normal. When using it, please make sure you lock the door.

— Shibuya Ward, Parks Division

So I wasn’t able to see the transparent toilet cubicles for myself this time. It was very anti-climatic, to say the least.

I still decided to use the toilet and take a look at the inside. It was very clean and modern, especially for a public toilet in the middle of a playground. There’s even something of an infinity mirror.

Inside the transparent toilet at a park in Shibuya Ward

How the Tokyo transparent toilets are supposed to work

The default state of the glass panels is opaque, but when the door is unlocked, an electric current runs through the crystals in the panel to create a transparent effect.

Tokyo transparent toilets in Shibuya Ward

If the door is properly locked, the electricity is cut off, reverting the glass to opaque. This ensures that the toilets can still be used with privacy during a power outage.

Hopefully we’ll have better luck seeing this action when the weather gets warmer!

How to get to the Tokyo transparent toilets

The transparent toilets are installed in two locations on the outskirts of Yoyogi Park: 代々木深町小公園 (Yoyogi Fukamichi Mini Park) and はるのおがわコミュニティパーク (Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park). They are located around 250 metres from each other.

The closest station to both is Yoyogi-koen on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line.

Yoyogi Fukamichi Mini Park

Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park

Looking for more things to do in the crazy capital? Check out my archive of Tokyo posts to get some ideas.

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