The Tokyo Toilet1/5
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon FoundationEbisu Park
The Tokyo Toilet2/5
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon FoundationYoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park
The Tokyo Toilet3/5
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon FoundationHaru-no-Ogawa Community Park
Higashi Sanchome The Tokyo Toilet4/5
Photo: SS Co.,Ltd. Hojo Hiroko; provided by Nippon FoundationHigashi Sanchome
The Tokyo Toilet5/5
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation Nishihara Itchome Park

In photos: Japan's top architects and creatives are redesigning Shibuya's public toilets

These new loos by Shigeru Ban, Tadao Ando, Masamichi Katayama and more are in parks all around Shibuya – and they are stunning

By Tabea Greuner
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Shibuya is rapidly transforming into a hip shopping paradise – think Shibuya Scramble Square with its Shibuya Sky observation deck, the glitzy Parco department store, and Miyashita Park with its rooftop garden. Sure, those buildings are beautiful, but if you really want to see some cutting-edge design, check out Shibuya's new series of extravagant public toilets.

In cooperation with Shibuya’s local government, the Nippon Foundation launched a project called The Tokyo Toilet, which focuses on replacing 17 public toilets in Shibuya with modern, accessible structures. The buildings will be designed by 16 of Japan’s foremost creatives and especially architects including Shigeru Ban, Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma.

The first few toilets on the list are now ready for use, with the entire lineup scheduled to be completed by spring 2021. We will update this list regularly, as soon as new toilets are open to the public. For a map showing where all the new fancy loos are located, click here.

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Lavish lavatories

The Tokyo Toilet
The Tokyo Toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation

NEW: Jingu-Dori Park by Tadao Ando

Legendary self-taught Japanese architect Tadao Ando, famous for his impressive concrete structures, took inspiration for his public toilet from azumaya, wooden pavilions with eaves. The unique cylindrical structure, located midway between Harajuku and Shibuya stations, is accessible from two sides through a passageway covered by a latticed wall. The eaves not only protect you from rain but also create an engawa, a traditional porch-like space surrounding the building. In spring, you’ll find Ando’s creation surrounded by blooming cherry trees. 

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates, and is equipped with high chairs for babies.

Find it at: 6-22-8 Jingumae, Shibuya

The Tokyo Toilet
The Tokyo Toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation

NEW: Nishihara Itchome Park by Takenosuke Sakakura

This creation by Japanese architect Takenosuke Sakakura, representative director and chairman of Sakakura Associates, is the only toilet on this list that features two unisex cabins next to the standard accessible version. The facility has light green frosted glass walls and bright green coloured doors to match its park location – the walls are even imprinted with tree patterns. Unlike the dimly lit public toilets you often find in parks, Sakakura’s building doubles as a massive lantern come evening. 

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates, and is equipped with a high chair for babies.

Find it at: 1-29-1 Nishihara, Shibuya

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The Tokyo Toilet
The Tokyo Toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by Nippon Foundation

Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park by Shigeru Ban

Japanese starchitect Shigeru Ban was entrusted with designing two locations, and one of them is this see-through structure with walls that turn opaque as soon as the doors are locked.

Transparency isn’t really a feature you look for in a public toilet, but Ban’s design aims to tackle the age-old problem of being able to tell how clean a public toilet is – not to mention whether it’s occupied – before you go inside. Colour-wise, the modern building's bright jewel tones harmonise well with the surroundings, and at night the structure transforms into a massive fancy lantern. 

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates, and is equipped with a high chair for babies.

Find it at: 5-68-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya

The Tokyo Toilet
The Tokyo Toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by Nippon Foundation

Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park by Shigeru Ban

This is the second high-tech restroom created by Shigeru Ban, following the same concept as his other transparent toilet block (see above). This building is more colourful, in order to match the nearby playground.

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates, and is equipped with a high chair for babies.

Find it at: 1-54-1 Tomigaya, Shibuya

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The Tokyo Toilet
The Tokyo Toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation

Ebisu Park by Masamichi Katayama

The lead architect at Wonderwall, Masamichi Katayama came up with this stunning design by finding inspiration in kawaya, Japan’s early toilets from the Jomon period (10,000-6,000 BCE). Kawaya were simple huts made from hardened soil and wood, positioned over rivers.

Katayama’s modern interpretation evokes a kawaya’s simple appearance and atmosphere, turning this public lavatory into a space that serves as both an object and a toilet. The building is made from 15 concrete walls, creating a maze-like space with pathways leading to three separated toilets – for men, women and anyone. Users are encouraged to interact with the facility as they would with any other element at the park, such as a playground or bench.

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates, and is equipped with a baby chair.

Find it at: 1-19-1 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya

Higashi Sanchome The Tokyo Toilet
Higashi Sanchome The Tokyo Toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by Nippon Foundation

Higashi Sanchome by Nao Tamura

The design of this bright red bathroom, created by designer Nao Tamura, was inspired by origata, a traditional Japanese art of gift wrapping which involves folding a single sheet of paper multiple times. Even though Tamura had only a narrow, triangular patch of land along the railway line to work with, she was able to incorporate three differently-sized bathrooms.

The concept represents Shibuya ward’s hospitality towards its domestic and international visitors. While living in New York, Tamura developed a strong affinity for the LGBTQ+ community, and she says the structure is part of her vision for a society that embraces each individual equally, which is why the block includes separate bathrooms for men, women, and everyone. Shibuya is the perfect location for such a progressive design, as it’s the first ward in Tokyo that recognised same-sex marriages in 2015, as well as being the site of the annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival.

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates, and is equipped with a high chair for babies.

Find it at: 3-27-1 Higashi, Shibuya

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The Tokyo Toilet
The Tokyo Toilet
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by Nippon Foundation

Ebisu East Park by Fumihiko Maki

Architect Fumihiko Maki’s creation is set in Ebisu East Park, which is commonly known as Octopus Park, thanks to its octopus-shaped playground equipment. The toilet has accordingly been nicknamed the Squid Toilet, although there’s nothing marine about it.

The translucent glass structure does double duty as both a toilet and a rest area, and its undulating roof makes it look like a chic glass pavilion. With its decentralised, clean and bright layout, it’s a comfortable space filled with natural light.

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates, is equipped with a high chair for babies, and boasts equipment for the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Address: 1-2-16 Ebisu, Shibuya

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