Out of almost 380 contenders, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has picked out 28 public toilets as the winners of its first ever toilet awards, which honor the nation’s best, brightest, and cleanest bathrooms.
The judging panel, which included architects and even an official from the Japan Toilet Association, waded through the hundreds of applications, judging each toilet based on its cleanliness, safety, comfort, sustainability, and novelty.
The winners included an airport, companies that had constructed makeshift toilets in the wake of Japan’s 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster, and even a toilet-themed art festival. Others received recognition for their innovations to female restrooms, such as including a space for breastfeeding.
One winner, the construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu Ltd., also won an award for its portable toilet seats. The company designed them specifically for women at construction sites. They include such features as a board for women to stand on while they change their clothes, so that they don’t have to stand on the floor of the bathroom in bare feet, and even noisemakers that can mask sounds when the bathroom is in use.
“Pleasant restrooms will improve the quality of daily life and encourage women’s empowerment,” said Haruko Arimura, minister in charge of female empowerment. “Having public toilets where women feel safe is a sign of the maturity and richness of a society.”
Residential plumbing has been elevated to somewhat of an art form in Japan, but the contest is not just a weird way of honoring bathrooms. According to the cabinet office, the idea of the award is to promote the use of comfortable toilets as a way to improve everyday life — and to increase the number of facilities in time for the 2020 Olympics, which Tokyo will host.