Public toilets are something of a last resort and for people who are desperate enough to venture into a quagmire of foul smell and dodgy hygiene. With a reputation of higher standards of hygiene and toilet innovativeness that stumps most new visitors to the country, Japan has come up with another innovative way to conquer toilet anxiety.
Renowned Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has come up with two public smart glass toilets as part of a Tokyo toilet project run by the Nippon fountain. They are located in the city’s Yo Yogi Fukamachi mini-park and the Haru-noogawa community park.
They have been designed with two key points in mind—cleanliness and security. Something that almost everyone can identify with.
“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park,’ comments Shigeru Ban on the Tokyo toilet webpage, “the first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside.”
Tokyo Introduces Transparent Smart Glass Public Toilet
Ban’s toilet project features the latest, state-of-the-art technology - smart glass.
It is transparent and opaque both, depending on usage. A prospective user can check the state of the toilet as it is transparent if nobody is using it. One can check the cleanliness status and that no-one is lurking inside. The moment one enters, the walls turn opaque, allowing privacy to the user.
Divided into three cubicles, the two colorful smart glass public toilet units match the hues and colors found in both parks, instantly becoming a part of the environment. There are separate toilets for women, men and an accessible facility bathroom. At night, the facility lights up the park, referencing a lantern. And also advertises its security aspect.
“This project by the Nippon Foundation aims for the realization of a society where all kinds of diversity are accepted, by building public toilets. With the full cooperation of Shibuya city, 17 toilets that are accessible for anyone regardless of gender, age, or disability will be created,” said the Nippon Foundation.
Sixteen creators are involved in the projects. The toilets will be the constructed by Daiwa House Industry co., ltd., while Toto Ltd. will supply the toilet equipment and advice on layout.
These toilets will be using smart glass technology.
The liquid crystal molecules in the glass panels are randomly arranged when there's no electric current running through, creating the opacity when the power is off. When an electric current runs through the glass, the liquid crystal molecules will align and allow light to pass through. That's when the glass panel is clear.
Japan’s Obsession With Smart Glass Tech
This is not the first time that this smart glass tech has been utilized in Japan. In 2014, Oita City introduced public toilets that turned opaque when sensors detected motion.
But the motion detection sometimes went off at inappropriate moments, according to a Kotaku report.
Along with the two facilities designed by Ban, “The Tokyo Toilet Project” has also opened three other public restrooms, created by interior designer Masamichi Katayama in Ebisu Park; Pritzker winner Fumihiko Maki in Ebisu East Park; and New York-based furniture designer Nao Tamura near Ebisu Station.
The coming weeks will see restrooms designed by architect Takenosuke Sakakura in Nishihara Itchome Park and Tadao Ando, yet another Pritzker Prize winner, in Jingu-Dori Park. The rest of the toilets designed by other participants will open in the spring of 2021.