1. The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon FoundationThe Tokyo Toilet
  2. The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation
  3. The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation
  4. The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation
  5. The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation
  6. The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation
  7. The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation Nishihara Itchome Park
  8. Higashi Sanchome The Tokyo Toilet
    Photo: SS Co.,Ltd. Hojo Hiroko; provided by Nippon FoundationHigashi Sanchome

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

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

Tabea Greuner
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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

NEW: Nabeshima Shoto Park by Kengo Kuma
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation

NEW: Nabeshima Shoto Park by Kengo Kuma

Starchitect Kengo Kuma, famous for his use of exposed wooden beams, came up with this stunning design for the public toilet in Shibuya’s Nabeshima Shoto Park. The five separate ‘huts’ are clad in 240 Yoshino cedar planks and connected by a little path to make the entire structure feel like a walk in the woods.

Each building boasts a distinct interior design tailored for different needs. Besides a fully accessible restroom and another gender-neutral restroom, you will also find a toilet exclusively for children, as well as two separate urinals – a unisex version and one for men. Each toilet’s interior features more wood, such as reused cherry and metasequoia wood decorating the walls in the gender-neutral lavatory.

The accessible toilet is equipped for wheelchair users and ostomates, has a high chair for babies, and is designed to accommodate the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Find it at: 2-10-7 Shoto, Shibuya

NEW: Nanago Dori Park by Kazoo Sato
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation

NEW: Nanago Dori Park by Kazoo Sato

This dome-shaped lavatory was created by chief creative officer Kazoo Sato of advertising agency TBWA/Hakuhodo. Especially lately, we’ve all been in the awkward position of wishing we could use a public toilet without touching anything. To tackle this problem, Sato created an innovative lavatory that’s entirely voice controlled.

You’ll find a list of commands in English and Japanese next to the toilet. To activate the toilet, simply greet it with ‘hi, toilet’. It reacts with a chime, meaning it’s ready for your commands. The line-up of phrases it understands ranges from ‘open/close the door’ and ‘flush toilet’ to those controlling the bidet. You’ll even find commands to play special music that’s apparently meant to stimulate bowel movement – or at least mask its more embarrassing sounds.

The eye-catching hemispherical design isn’t just for show; the high ceiling means air flow can be better controlled, so unpleasant odors won’t hang around.

The toilet is accessible for wheelchair users and ostomates.

Find it at: 2-53-5 Hatagaya, Shibuya

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NEW: Ebisu Station, West Exit by Kashiwa Sato
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation

NEW: Ebisu Station, West Exit by Kashiwa Sato

Creative director Kashiwa Sato was in charge of revamping the public toilet in front of Ebisu Station’s bustling west exit. Sato focused on a bright, clean design, emphasised by a white exterior, to give it a modern look. The aluminium louvres add a sense of lightness that makes the building blend in naturally with the urban cityscape. The outer wall creates a corridor that runs in a U shape around the rectangular block. Inside, you’ll find five gender neutral restrooms.

Sato came up with the brand strategies for Uniqlo and Rakuten, as well as the logo design and signage for the National Art Center, Tokyo. He was also in charge of designing the pictograms on all the lavatories in The Tokyo Toilet project. 

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.

Find it at: 1-5-8 Ebisu-minami, Shibuya

NEW: Yoyogi-Hachiman by Toyo Ito
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation

NEW: Yoyogi-Hachiman by Toyo Ito

This quirky lavatory design is the brainchild of architect Toyo Ito, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The set of three toilets resembles a trio of mushrooms, designed to harmonise with the woodland in the background, which is home to Yoyogi-Hachiman Shrine. The facility boasts a calm and welcoming atmosphere, with bands of pale pastel tiles decorating the exterior. The three cylindrical blocks are connected by a path that’s illuminated after dark.

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

Find it at: 5-1-2 Yoyogi, Shibuya

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Jingumae by Nigo
Photo: Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation

Jingumae by Nigo

This small, cottage-style structure has been designed by fashion designer and creative director Nigo, best known as the creator of fashion labels A Bathing Ape and Human Made. Amidst Tokyo’s constantly changing skyline of cutting-edge high rises, Nigo decided to create a cosy place that reminds you of home, standing on a quiet corner in Harajuku. Some visitors may feel nostalgic about the design, but there’s something unmistakeably contemporary about it, too.

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

Find it at: 1-3-14 Jingumae, Shibuya

Jingu-Dori Park by Tadao Ando
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation

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

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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

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Nishihara Itchome Park by Takenosuke Sakakura
Photo: Satoshi Nagare; provided by Nippon Foundation

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

Ebisu Park by Masamichi Katayama
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

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Higashi Sanchome by Nao Tamura
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

Ebisu East Park by Fumihiko Maki
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.

Find it at: 1-2-16 Ebisu, Shibuya

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