By YUSUKE NAGANO/ Staff Writer
October 2, 2020 at 07:00 JST
People hearing nature's call near Ueno Zoo in Tokyo can now seek inspiration from some of the institution's finest animals.
Those who use the redesigned public restroom in Ueno Park and grace its toilet seats are greeted by murals of popular animals--a panda, a giraffe, a lion and a penguin--as seen from behind, drawn on the interior of the stalls.
The design is intended to make the person sitting on the toilet feel like they are sharing a special moment with the animals.
The designers also added decorative objects reminiscent of animal droppings to help provide the bathroom’s ambience.
The Tokyo metropolitan government launched a project in spring 2019 to make the public bathroom, located near the park’s iconic fountain, stand out and draw attention.
Situated near many first-rate museums in the Ueno district, the redesigned bathroom, called the “Ueno toilet museum,” is a recent creation by students from the nearby Tokyo University of the Arts.
After being approached about the project by Tokyo officials, the art students came up with an idea to make the bathroom a space where users can ponder the meaning of poop, an essential part of daily life for humans and animals alike.
About 40 students from the fields of architecture, design and painting worked on the restroom renewal.
The project was a little backed up, though. It took nearly a year and a half for them to complete it, finishing about six months behind schedule due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The restroom walls are clad with “poop tiles,” which are shaped like the animals’ droppings. The rooms are designed to evoke the animals’ natural habitats, allowing visitors to feel like they are sharing a moment with the animals as they relieve themselves alongside them.
Tomoya Maki, a 25-year-old graduate student who led the project, said the students interviewed staff from Ueno Zoo to learn about the importance of bowel movements for animals.
“We can’t have a conversation with the animals, so we check up on their health by examining their droppings,” a staff member told Maki and his group.
That comment stuck with Maki.
“I want many people to use the bathroom, and I hope it changes how they think about the act of excreting,” he said.
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