TOKYO >> On a trip to Japan from Australia in mid-July, Ben Radewell was amazed when taking video of his friend stepping into a glass-walled cube that sits in a corner of a park in Shibuya in Tokyo. The walls became opaque as she entered, making her invisible from the outside.
The cube in Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park is a public restroom that was installed by The Tokyo Toilet, a project launched by the Nippon Foundation to change the image of public restrooms as being gloomy and dirty.
The walls are made of special glass that is transparent when the restroom is vacant. But once the room is occupied and locked, the glass becomes opaque. It was designed by internationally recognized architect Shigeru Ban.
The restroom has drawn interest as a “see-through toilet” and has become a tourist attraction among international visitors. Radewell learned about the cube via social media. He said he was surprised by how beautiful and futuristic it is, adding that the toilets everywhere in Japan were wonderful, including those with warm toilet seats.
Sophia Marino, 40, arrived from Italy on a family vacation, and her kids couldn’t stop laughing at the novelty. She said public restrooms in Italy are either dirty or require payment and that she was envious that restrooms are clean everywhere in Japan.
The convenience and cleanliness in Japanese daily life are notable to many foreign tourists. Japan was ranked first among 117 countries and regions in the 2021 Travel & Tourism Development Index released by the Swiss research institute World Economic Forum. By category, Japan received high marks for its transportation infrastructure, public safety and cleanliness.
Since 2016, in an annual ranking published by a British agency, Haneda Airport has been named the world’s cleanest airport for eight consecutive years.
Will Bailey, 49, who arrived from the U.K., said a clean airport makes him feel welcome. He also wondered why there is so little garbage on the streets of Japan despite there being so few trash cans.
Also catching the eye of foreign tourists are the large number of vending machines throughout the city. U.S. visitor Lucinda Ward, 29, was happy that she could buy water anywhere while sightseeing in the hot weather. She said vending machines in the U.S. are limited and noted that it is safe to place the machines anywhere in Japan.
John Daub, an American who produces a YouTube channel promoting Japan, has lived in the country for 20 years.
“Convenience stores being open 24 hours a day and trains running on time are all fresh and amazing for foreign tourists. The whole country is like a theme park,” he said. “Even little things that Japanese people take for granted in their daily lives can be a tourism resource. It would be a good idea to take advantage of the perspectives of foreign tourists to emphasize Japan’s appeal.”