A modern public restroom in Tokyo.

Miles Pennington and UTokyo DLX Design Lab, Hatagaya. Photos by Satoshi Nagare. All images © The Tokyo Toilet and Nippon Foundation

Whether running errands or visiting the local park, when nature calls, the options can be iffy. In the busy ward of Shibuya City, Tokyo, which attracts visitors for shopping and entertainment, the local administration faced a two-pronged problem: public restrooms have a reputation for being dark, dirty, and off-putting, and people just don’t like to use them. The Shibuya City government teamed up with The Nippon Foundation and conceived of a way to hit two birds with one stone.

Launched in 2020, The Tokyo Toilet project (previously) invited 16 acclaimed architects and designers, including fashion brands and interior design studios, to transform 17 public restrooms into inviting, high-tech facilities. The initiative placed enormous emphasis on a high standard of maintenance and accessibility for all genders, ages, and abilities.

Modern structures by the likes of Kengo Kuma, Tadao Ando, and Sou Fujimoto respond to each location and its surroundings, from an immersive forest-inspired building in Nabeshima Shoto Park to a museum-like entrance in Hatagaya to a futuristic globe in Nanago Dori Park. The Tokyo Toilet’s website monitors the upkeep of each facility along with a map of the locations, and as of March 2023, all of the renovations are complete.

You might also enjoy this Tokyo museum dedicated entirely to miniature architectural models, featuring concepts by many of the architects involved in this project.


The entrance to a modern public restroom in Tokyo made from timber.

Kengo Kuma, Nabeshima Shoto Park

A modern public restroom in Tokyo.

NIGO®, Jingumae

A modern public restroom in Tokyo made of concrete.

Masamichi Katayama and Wonderwall®︎, Ebisu Park

A modern public restroom in Tokyo with an LED screen.

Tomohito Ushiro, Hiroo Higashi Park

The rear of a modern public restroom in Tokyo shaped like a sphere.

Kazoo Sato and Disruption Lab Team, Nanago Dori Park

A modern public restroom in Tokyo with illuminated colored windows.

Shigeru Ban, Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park

A modern public restroom in Tokyo.

Sou Fujimoto, Nishisando

A side-by-side image of two modern public toilets in Tokyo.

Left: Kashiwa Sato, Ebisu Station, West Exit. Right: Mark Newson, Urasando  

A modern public restroom in Tokyo.

Junko Kobayashi, Sasazuka Greenway

A modern public restroom in Tokyo.

Toyo Ito, Yoyogi-Hachiman

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