Restroom technology has not changed a whole lot over the last 50 years or so. Yet that has never stopped Japanese designers from pushing the envelope with their public restroom offerings. Their latest offering truly changes the toilet game. What is this offering? Transparent restrooms in public parks.

Yes, you read that correctly. Japan’s Tokyo Toilet has installed their revolutionary restrooms at two public parks in the city. The restrooms offer unobstructed views – at least most of the time – to people strolling by. But it is not what you think. Users are not being leered at as they do their business. Technology takes care of that.

Transparent Only When Unoccupied

Lest anyone suspect that Japan has lost its sense of propriety, the new restrooms are only transparent when unoccupied. The minute someone enters and closes the door, the transparent walls turn opaque. They remain that way until the space is again unoccupied.

The technology required to do the job is already a few years old. Builders of high-end luxury homes have been known to make entire exterior walls from glass that can transition from complete transparency to full opaqueness with the flip of a switch.

Adopting the concept for public restrooms is all about changing perceptions. The architect who designed Tokyo’s transparent toilets says people care about two things when approaching a public restroom: cleanliness and occupation. In other words, they want to know that the restroom they are about to enter is both clean and unoccupied. Transparent walls answer both questions.

A New Emphasis on Hygiene

Changing perceptions of public restrooms could actually be a two-way street, according to Salt Lake City-based Alsco. As a purveyor of washroom supplies, in addition to uniforms and linens, Alsco says that restroom hygiene should be a priority for any business that offers public restrooms.

It is safe to say that few of us would argue with such an assessment. It is also safe to say that most of us have visited public restrooms that clearly had not been cleaned in a while. Building restroom walls with transparent materials shines the light on any such lack of cleanliness.

Imagine you are a business owner and you decided to install Tokyo Toilet’s transparent restrooms. How likely would you be to get on the maintenance team to make sure the restrooms were kept spotlessly clean? The last thing you would want is for your guests to walk by the restrooms and see filth.

More Comfortable for Guests

Experimenting with transparent toilets in Tokyo is as much about making guests more comfortable as it is changing preconceived notions. A person approaching a public toilet and seeing how clean it is, from the outside, is more likely to feel comfortable about using it in time of need.

By the same token, approaching a public toilet and seeing a dirty space turns people away. Even someone who genuinely needed to use the restroom might feel anxious about doing so. Dirty spaces have that effect on people.

Another thing to consider is that transparent public restrooms could make people uneasy just by their presence. Think about it. Are there some people who would be nervous about using such a restroom even though the walls turned opaque when the space is occupied? Are there people who would consider the restrooms inappropriate?

At any rate, transparent public restrooms certainly change the toilet game. It will be interesting to see how well Tokyo Park users receive the restrooms. Who knows? By this time next year, the restrooms could be all over Tokyo. And if they work there, why not here?