Cover YOYOGI FUKAMACHI MINI PARK 1-54-1 Tomigaya by Shigeru Ban - Photograph by Satoshi Nagare, courtesy of the Nippon Foundation

As a symbol of Japan's world-renowned hospitality culture, the unlikely public toilet was redesigned ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in a project spearheaded by the Nippon Foundation. Here's a list of facilities that have been given a timely makeover. Scattered in 17 locations throughout Shibuya, 16 creators were invited to unleash their creativity with the only requirement being that the facility had to be wheelchair accessible. Have a loo-k at the fascinating results.

White by Kashiwa Sato

The appropriately named White was designed to be clean and safe, and because it's located beside the police box in front of the Ebisu station, was designed to be not too conspicuous.

Its designer is Kashiwa Sato, one of Japan's most sought after creative directors whose client list include Honda, Issey Miyake and Walter Knoll. Sato’s major works include the brand design of Tokyo's National Art Center, Tokyo, the global brand strategy of Uniqlo, and Fuji Kindergarten as well as the Cup Noodles Museum where he was involved as a producer.

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A Walk in the Woods by Kengo Kuma

A Walk in the Woods was designed as a toilet village inside the lush greenery of Shoto Park. Comprising of five huts, each is covered with eared cedar board louvers installed at random angles and connected by a walk in the woods that disappears into the forest.

One of Japan's renowned architects, Kengo Kuma, who also designed the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, is known for his innovative use of natural materials. Kuma has designed architectural works in over thirty different countries and received the Architectural Institute of Japan Award, the Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award (Finland), and the International Stone Architecture Award (Italy) amongst other accolades.

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The House by Nigo

The concept of The House is about learning from the past. In contrast with the ever-changing city of Tokyo, it was designed to be quietly comfortable, nostalgic to some and new to others, depending on their age and generation.

Ironically, this toilet was designed by Nigo, pioneer of the street culture whose fashion brand, BAPE, took the world by storm. Since 2011, he has been designing for Human Made but has also released collections from Louis Vuitton and Adidas

Amayadori by Tadao Ando

Amayadori means shelter from the rain in Japanese and was designed to become a “place” in the urban landscape that provides immense public value. As such a circular floorplan was employed so that the small structure doesn't just contain a toilet, it is encircled with a corridor with vertical louvers for visitors to shelter. 

Pritzker Prize winning architect Tadao Ando is one of Japan's most celebrated architects. Despite being self-thought, this erstwhile boxer's work is often characterised by the use of raw concrete, natural light sources, and an intricate interplay between the interior of the building and the surrounding natural exterior. Notable work includes Osaka's Church of Light and The Oval at Benesse Art Museum Naoshima.

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Andon Toilet by Takenosuke Sakakura

Once uninviting and rarely used, Andon Toilet was designed to be bright and open so that it would not only improve the image of the restroom but the entire park. The restroom also glows at night so that it will illuminate the park like andon, or lanterns, creating an inviting public space for visitors.

Takenosuke Sakakura's father was none other than Junzo Sakakura, whose connection with Le Corbusier is the stuff of legend. Takenosuke continues his father's distinguished architectural legacy as Chairman of the Board of Directors at Sakakura Associates with works including Gallery Saka, the residential building in Tokyo Midtown, and the Oiwake Club villas.

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The Squid Toilet by Fumihiko Maki

Ebisu East Park is a popular neighbourhood park that is used as a children's playground so the toilet was designed to function not only as a public restroom but also a public space that serves as a park pavilion equipped with a rest area. The park is known colloquially as “Octopus Park” because of its Cephalopod shaped playground equipment, hence the name The Squid Toilet.

Pritzker Prize laureate and 67th AIA Gold Medalist Fumihiko Maki is widely considered to be one of Japan's most distinguished living architects. His modernist buildings tend to be direct, at times understated, and made of metal, concrete and glass, yet fuse Eastern and Western elements.

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Red Toilet by Nao Tamura

Inspired by Origata, a traditional Japanese method of decorative wrapping, this motif embodies the spirit of hospitality towards Shibuya’s multinational visitors. In order to replicate the Origata technique and the precise folds of paper that embody it, steel plates create the exterior's structure and facade. Bright red was chosen to make the block easy to spot and project a "sense of urgency".

New York based designer Nao Tamura is a designer in the most modern terms. Her talents cross cultures, languages, disciplines, concepts and styles. Truly global in her insights and execution, she has received a number of prestigious awards including IF Design Award, Red Dot Design Award, Industrial Design Excellence Award, Milano Salone Satellite Award.

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Modern Kawaya by Masamichi Katayama/ Wonderwall

A kawaya is a hut over a river dating back to primitive times. Trying to envision one of these such structures, an ambiguous space, that is simultaneously an object and a toilet, was built by randomly combining 15 concrete walls. The design creates a unique relationship in which users are invited to interact with the facility as if they are playing with a curious piece of playground equipment.

Principal and founder of Wonderwall and interior designer extraordinaire Masamichi Katayama has transformed retail spaces for clients like BAPE, Ambush, Uniqlo, and Kaws, Combining cultural influences with avant-garde instincts, Katayama received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the FRAME AWARD 2020 sponsored by the Dutch design magazine FRAME, following Philippe Starck in 2019.

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Transparent toilets by Shigeru Ban

Two things cross our mind before entering a public restroom—cleanliness and whether anyone is inside. Designed to address these concerns, this pair of toilets feature transparent glass walls that become opaque when they are occupied. At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern.

Known for his  innovative work with paper, Shigeru Ban received the Pritzker Prize in 2014. While his intriguing buildings like Centre Pompidou-Metz in Metz, France and Cardboard Catheral in Christchurch, New Zealand receive great acclaim, his non-profit work especially using recycled cardboard tubes to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims is also well documented.