Transparent toilets: Designed by Shigeru Ban Architects, a Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm, two new sets of transparent toilets have been installed in two Tokyo parks. Satoshi Nagare/The Nippon Foundation
One of Tokyo's most popular districts has recently added some unusual new attractions: transparent public toilets.
Designed by Shigeru Ban Architects, the two new sets of see-through restrooms have been installed in Shibuya, the bustling city center famous for its busy pedestrian crossing.
Though the restrooms sound risqué, they're actually part of an innovative project aimed at changing people's perceptions of public toilets.
Designed by Shigeru Ban Architects, a Pritzker Prize-winning architecture firm, the two new sets of transparent toilets have been installed in two Shibuya parks -- Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park.
"There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park," says a statement on the project's official website, Tokyotoilet.jp. "The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside."
Shigeru Ban Architects' design tackles these two concerns by offering a toilet with glass walls that -- at first -- allows the public to see through from the outside. But once a user enters the toilet and locks the door, the walls turn opaque to provide privacy.
"This allows users to check the cleanliness and whether anyone is using the toilet from the outside," says the statement. "At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern."
High-tech toilets: Once a user enters the toilet and locks the door, the walls will turn opaque to provide privacy. Satoshi Nagare/The Nippon Foundation
During CNN Travel's visit to the Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park this week, a steady stream of visitors came to take photos of the new attraction.
The toilet facilities were impressively clean, a mix of gleaming white and chrome.
Part of the thrill is that once inside, you can't tell if the glass is frosted or not. The walls between the compartments have mirrors installed, adding to the weird feeling of being on display.
This means it's incredibly important remember to secure the door lock, which is located well below the handle.
During our visit, one person presumably did indeed forget to lock it, stirring laughter among those outside.
Both park facilities include a women's toilet, a men's toilet and a multi-use toilet.
No more guessing: The Tokyo-based architecture firm says the design is aimed at tackling two concerns that may deter people from using public toilets: "The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside." Satoshi Nagare/The Nippon Foundation
Tokyo Toilet Project: The two sets of transparent toilets, located in Tokyo's Shibuya district, are a part of the newly launched Tokyo Toilet Project. Satoshi Nagare/The Nippon Foundation
These two transparent toilet sets are a part of the newly launched Tokyo Toilet Project, a series of re-invented public toilet facilities.
Founded by the Nippon Foundation, a private, non-profit charity that focuses on social innovation, the Tokyo Toilet Project has partnered with some of the biggest names in the architecture and creative industries including Tadao Ando and Toyo Ito to create 17 new public toilet facilities around Shibuya.
"The use of public toilets in Japan is limited because of stereotypes that they are dark, dirty, smelly and scary. To dispel these misconceptions regarding public toilets, The Nippon Foundation has decided to renovate 17 public toilets located in Shibuya, Tokyo, in cooperation with the Shibuya City government," the Nippon Foundation says in a news release.
"These public toilets are being designed by 16 leading creators, and will use advanced design to make them accessible for everyone regardless of gender, age, or disability, to demonstrate the possibilities of an inclusive society."
Five facilities have been opened to the public so far, including the two see-through toilets.
Twelve more new public toilets are coming between August 31 and the summer of 2021.
All the facilities will be constructed by Daiwa House Group, the largest home-builder in Japan, with toilet equipment and layout advice provided by famed Japanese toilet manufacturer TOTO Ltd.