You may see a lot fewer squat toilets in Japan by 2020, as momentum is building on a push to make “Western style” toilets the norm.
According to a story published by the Kyodo News Service, a survey conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) found that, of the approximately 4,000 public toilets that can be found at the country’s tourist spots, 58 percent were Western style, while 42 percent were squat (or Japanese style) toilets.
Many foreign visitors, whose numbers could reach 40 million by 2020, see squat toilets as either confusing to use or unclean (or both), and the movement to replace them with newer toilet facilities is gaining ground. Since last year, the JTA has been offering subsidies to prefectures and municipalities in order to help them modernize their commodes. These subsidies meet about one third of the cost of the renovations, which can be quite pricey – it costs several million yen, or tens of thousands of dollars, to upgrade an entire bathroom facility from squat toilets to Western style systems.
Recognizing the importance of comfortable toilet facilities for tourists, the city of Kyoto has added a public toilets map to its website, showing where Japanese style, Western style, and multipurpose toilets that can be used by disabled people, parents with babies, and others can be found.
Meanwhile, Takashi Kawamura, mayor of Nagoya – where about half of the city’s public toilets are squat type – has made it thoroughly clear where he stands on the issue. He has issued a plan to Westernize all of the toilets in parks, subway stations, and other public facilities, and recently told a local assembly, “I want the city of Nagoya to have the coolest toilets in the world.”