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Japan’s ‘total toilet makeover drive’

By Floro Mercene

In preparation for an expected 40 million visitors during Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games, the Japanese government has launched a national toilet improvements campaign.

Tokyo’s Narita Airport is the first to be overhauled for the Olympics, with its “total toilet makeover” drive. Narita Airport, Japan’s busiest international hub, has earmarked 5 billion Yen ($46 million) to refurbish the bathrooms.

Restrooms with sophisticated interior designs and functionality have been introduced in Narita Airport. Two of the design restrooms already opened in the arrival lobby has stalls that are large enough for travelers to bring their baggage carts in. Some of the stalls are designed for children. The stalls in the departure area lobby have space for people to bring in products they bought there.

The new bathrooms in Narita’s Terminal 2 include a voice-guidance system that talks to blind users, and a light alert system to help signal to the deaf in emergencies. There are also designated double-wide stalls for travelers with service animals with leash hooks, pet mats and cans for dog waste disposal.

Japan’s high-tech commodes sometimes intimidate and confuse users from the rest of the less-lavatorially-advanced world with its incredibly confusing array of additional functions. They are typically equipped with features ranging from seat warming and bidet functions – with variable pressure – to air-drying and smell-removing mechanisms.

The worry is that often toilet controls are not labeled in English. And both functions and icons vary by models. It can be nerve wracking trying to figure out which button to push. The Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association has agreed on eight symbols that signify: big flush, small flush, raise the lid, raise the seat, dry, front bidet, rear bidet and stop. Models released from April this year will all be standardized. Its aim is for foreign visitors to have nothing to worry about and simply enjoy the comfort and technology.