TOKYO. — On southwestern Japan’s Miyajima island, a short walk from one of the country’s most famous ancient temple sites, there’s a brand new attraction for tourists – a state-of-the art public toilet block nearly as big as a tennis court.
The 183 square meter facility – created jointly by the local municipality and Toto, Japan’s biggest toilet maker – is just one of hundreds that have been spruced up across the country ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, removing old-school squat toilets to welcome foreign tourists.
The challenge is dwarfed by that faced by planners for Tokyo’s previous Olympics. Before the 1964 games, only 20% of the city had a sewerage system, pit toilets festooned the city and trucks dubbed ‘honey wagons’ patrolled neighborhoods to suck human waste into tanks for disposal elsewhere.
But the refurbishment program for 2020 plugs into a public concept of advanced cleanliness that has become embedded in the Japanese psyche since the 60s, Masakazu Toki, professor emeritus in cultural anthropology at Edogawa University says.
“Japan wanted to become a ‘leading country’ in the eyes of its visitors by making the country pristinely clean,” evident in a campaign to make the streets cleaner ahead of the 1964 Olympics said Toki.