The existence of the Japanese-style toilet in places of education may be circling the drain.
As you can infer from its lengthy name, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology has its fingers in a lot of different pies. It turns out that one of those pies is school toilets (apologies for the disgusting metaphor).
The governmental organization, which also goes by the much more compact name MEXT (apparently someone decided that “X” was a good enough abbreviation for culture, sports, and science) recently conducted a nationwide study of the bathroom facilities at elementary and middle schools across Japan. The results of the investigation, which encompassed places of pooping at some 29,000 places of education, were made public on November 10, which is also Toilet Day in Japan.
The compiled statistics showed a total of roughly 1.4 million toilets installed in the schools, with the majority, 56.7 percent being Japanese-style squat toilets. The survey tallied approximately 790,000 Japanese-style toilets versus about 610,000 Western-style commodes (i.e. ones with a seat to sit on when making solid waste deposits).
In contrast, the majority of Japanese homes are now outfitted with Western-style toilets. Squat toilets are unlikely to be found in recently built housing, as they’re increasingly being seen as an unattractive fixture for regular deuce-dropping sessions. Japanese toilets are also becoming less common options in public restrooms, as bathroom stalls in newer rail stations, entertainment complexes, office towers, and other facilities are predominantly Western-style, with often only a single token squat toilet for old-school holdouts.
▼ “So lonely…”
So in light of the MEXT report, some Japanese citizens are calling for schools to get rid of their Japanese-style toilets and replace them with Western ones. There’s definitely a certain logic to the stance, since if children aren’t accustomed to using a squat toilet at home, having to use one at school is going to present a challenge, since there really is a bit of a knack to skillfully using a Japanese-style toilet. Some people have also begun questioning why schools make children experience an inconvenience that most Japanese adults, through the prevalence of Western-style toilets outside of school settings, don’t have to put up with anymore.
However, the NPO Japan Toilet Labo, also known as the Japan Toilet Research Laboratory, cautions against schools getting rid of all their squat toilets. While they’ve become very uncommon in Japanese homes, some older or lower-income houses do still have Japanese-style toilets, and pupils who’re accustomed to them may feel uncomfortable using a Western-style toilet, which requires sitting on the same toilet seat that other users do.
Nevertheless, the MEXT study found that 85.2 percent of the municipalities polled said they plan to increase the number of Western-style toilets at their schools in the future, with roughly half of that group looking to make more than 90 percent of their toilets Western-style.
Moreover, it’s not just kids’ toilet preferences that are being taken into consideration as part of the debate. School facilities, including gymnasiums, are often used as shelters following natural disasters in Japan. Following a series of powerful earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture earlier this year, many of those unable to return home were temporarily housed in elementary and middle schools. Observers noticed that there were often long lines to use Western-style toilets, even as the Japanese-style stalls were empty. That gives schools one more impetus to increase their number of Western-style toilets, to make sure that both bathroon lines and digestive tracts keep flowing smoothly.