An urban, liveable city is incomplete without a clean and accessible public restroom. It is a signal of welcome that rivals parks, benches, and trash cans. Easy access to clean, safe public restrooms is not only essential for personal and public health, but it is also essential for city liveability. Accessible toilets are also better for business and promoting tourism. People are more likely to visit parks, ride their bikes, jog, and walk if they know there are clean, safe public restrooms nearby. As a result, cities are increasingly investing in them. The Public toilet outside the Ebisu railway station in Central Tokyo is one of the examples of accessible and clean public spaces that make the urban neighborhood liveable.

Kashiwa Sato is a well-known Japanese artist who offers fresh perspectives on global society. He was born in Tokyo in 1965 and graduated from the Tama Art University Department of Graphic Design. After working for Hakuhodo Inc., a well-known Japanese advertising firm, he launched his own independent business in 2000. As a brand strategy architect, he has received high praise in a variety of fields for consistent, comprehensive work distinguished by a strong sense of creativity—from concept development to communication planning design to visual development.

Tokyo Toilet Project

Most seasoned travelers will wax poetic about the Japanese toilet, which is a technological marvel. It should come as no surprise that the quintessential Japanese lavatory experience should allow both residents and visitors to feel more than welcome in a foreign space in a country that places so much emphasis and value on the concept of omotenashi (hospitality). Shibuya, a commercial and financial district in downtown Tokyo, is also home to two of the busiest railway stations, Shibuya Station and Shinjuku Station. 

Public Toilet wrapped with White Aluminium Louvres In Central Tokyo by Kashiwa Sato - Sheet1
Tokyo Toilet

As part of the Tokyo Toilet initiative, 16 creative heavyweights, including Tadao Ando, Shigeru Ban, and Kashiwa Sato, transformed 17 public toilets in Shibuya. Combining Japan’s exceptional hygiene standards with unique design elements, these public restrooms are accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, age, or disability, demonstrating the possibilities of an inclusive society, particularly in a country known for its homogeneity.

Kashiwa Sato’s Pure White Toilet

Alongside the Ebisu station in Central Tokyo, Japan, is a bright and white public facility that looks like a sculptural piece in the middle of an urban plaza. For a person walking toward this white box, the function of this structure is not easy to determine. Kashiwa Sato set out to create a distinct identity for the plaza that would draw attention. The designer considered the toilet a neighborhood symbol that people see daily, but he later stated that it should not have been too conspicuous.

Public Toilet wrapped with White Aluminium Louvres In Central Tokyo by Kashiwa Sato - Sheet2
Toilet outside Ebisu

The toilet, designed on a square plan, has four individual stalls made of white aluminum louvers that give off a light and airy impression. The purpose of creating a pure white toilet is to reflect cleanliness, which is expected in every toilet, by combining all of its components in the color white. The white aluminum louvers enclose a light-filled corridor surrounding the main facility to provide a secure and private environment. The bright and light appearance of the aluminum louvers creates a quiet appearance that blends naturally with the cityscape. The louvers are separated by two-centimeter gaps, resulting in a permeable wall with an open space at its base.

Public Toilet wrapped with White Aluminium Louvres In Central Tokyo by Kashiwa Sato - Sheet3
Pure White Toilet with white aluminium

According to Sato, the facility should be easy to enter, easy to use, and have a clean appearance that inspires passersby to feel a little brighter and fresher. The Tokyo Toilet Project’s goal is to contribute to a society that is clean, secure, harmonious, and accepting of diversity. Kashiwa Sato’s design promotes security from both the inside and the outside by allowing appropriate levels of visibility into the restroom while ensuring the privacy of users in the stalls. The toilets are also easily accessible and usable by anyone, regardless of age, gender, or disability. Sato also mentioned that the design creates a bright and refreshing atmosphere in the area while remaining unobtrusive to daily commuters.

Rethinking Toilets

While toilets are frequently overlooked or dismissed as insignificant, access to adequate toilet space is a critical practical issue for many people daily. To ensure community participation, public restrooms must be safe, accessible, and inclusive. Toilet planning and provision should be guided by city-wide policies, principles of user-responsive design, and clear roles and responsibilities for toilet provision and maintenance. The provision of a clean and accessible toilet promotes individual and collective health and economic outcomes while providing inclusive public spaces and protecting user dignity. Public toilets frequently reflect dominant groups’ right to occupy urban public spaces. Rethinking toilet access can help us rethink definitions of ‘ability,’ gender, and eventually a public space. Providing accessible toilets and better sanitation has the potential to validate, reinforce, and celebrate public culture and our collective ‘right to the city.’

Inclusive Public

The role of architects and designers in designing cost-effective and sanitary toilets can be emphasized with better policymaking. There isn’t enough ‘design’ in the current scenario of ‘designing public toilets.’ There is a lot more emphasis on toilet location and seat count. The government is critical in identifying locations where public restrooms are needed, after which other stakeholders are brought in. Responsible and sensitive designs can ensure the use of appropriate materials, streamlined movement patterns, appropriate sewage treatment and disposal, and practical and well-thought-out layouts, all while adding an aesthetic touch in response to site conditions. The design approach for public toilets in the Tokyo Toilet Project emphasizes heavily embracing better sanitation and accessible public spaces. Such design competitions only encourage architects and designers to create better designs for the well-being of a community.

References :

  1. Kashiwa Sato.  

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  1. Tom Ravenscroft. (3 August 2021). Kashiwa Sato creates “pure white toilet” in Tokyo. 

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  1. Japan Architecture News. (June 23 2022). Kashiwa Sato Wraps Public Toilet With White Aluminium Louvres In Central Tokyo.

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Poornima is an architect from the city of Pune. Being a heritage enthusiast, she loves to explore the various threads of architecture, culture, and ecology that tie a community. She hopes to bring about a change in the perception of development in India.

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