Destination Japan

Photographer captures wacky Japanese public toilets

Francesca Street, CNNUpdated 2nd April 2018
(CNN) — Most of us don't visit public bathrooms unless we really need to. Not Hidefumi Nakamura.
This Japanese photographer travels the length and breadth of Japan to find the country's quirkiest public toilets -- and snaps them for his increasingly popular Instagram account, @toilets_a_go_go.
From turreted, castle-style structures to modernist facades to tiled buildings surrounded by cherry blossom, Nakamura's photographs are eye-catching shots of these idiosyncratic bathrooms.
"I was interested in Japan because there are various designed toilets," Nakamura tells CNN Travel.

Quirky designs

Toilet 10 - Nagasaki Peace Park edit
Nakamura found this public bathroom in Nagasaki Peace Park.
Courtesy toilets_a_go_go/Hidefumi Nakamura
Nakamura started documenting zany bathrooms when he established his Instagram account in January 2017: "I wanted the theme when I started Instagram," he explains.
Before actively seeking out these unusual WCs, Nakamura had always found Japanese toilets a bit strange: "In the past I thought that the design was not good," he says.
But once he started photographing them, he found their individual quirks increasingly interesting -- and so his account was born.
Toilet 25 - Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan edit
This castle-like bathroom was spotted by Nakamura in Suginami.
Courtesy toilets_a_go_go/Hidefumi Nakamura
He says he's not sure why Japan has such diverse designs: "Perhaps because the architects can do it freely," he ponders.
Nakamura's photographs capture the unique architecture of each bathroom and give a flavor of each location. In his captions, he adds extra detail about the bathroom's surroundings and distinctive features.
One toilet block in Itabashi, Tokyo, Nakamura notes, is memorable because of its Namako wall, a Japanese wall design demarcated by its tiled design.
Toilet 24- Suginami-ku, Tokyo, Japan edit
This emerald-roofed bathroom in Suginami captured Nakamura's attention.
Courtesy toilets_a_go_go/Hidefumi Nakamura
There are also some eye-catching, fairy-tale-themed bathrooms in Japan's parks, from a castle-themed design in Suginami to a block that resembles a tree trunk in Bunkyō, Tokyo.
In Tokyo's Mizutanibashi Park lies a grand public bathroom that looks more like a town hall than a WC, while at Oku Station in Tokyo the bathrooms are concealed by alphabet letters spelling out the station name.


Toilet 28 - street crner edit
Nakamura names this bathroom as his favorite.
Courtesy toilets_a_go_go/Hidefumi Nakamura
There's a plethora of wacky designs to choose from, but Nakamura's favorite is more subtle.
He picks out a block on a street corner, describing it as "old, but it is a beautiful toilet!"
Quirky toilets can sometimes become a tourist destination in their own right: in 2016, Lonely Planet published a guide to the world's best bathrooms in "Toilets: A Spotter's Guide" -- from a "panoramic toilet" at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery to a shack situated on the edge of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Toilet 8 - Oku Station edit
At Oku station in Tokyo, Nakamura shot this distinctive alphabet-inspired toilet.
Courtesy toilets_a_go_go/Hidefumi Nakamura
In China, officials launched a toilet revolution in November 2017 -- aimed at improving restroom facilities across the country.
Toilet 27 - Mizutanibashi Park edit
This grandiose public bathroom is in Mizutanibashi Park, Tokyo.
Courtesy toilets_a_go_go/Hidefumi Nakamura
Despite international interest, Nakamura says he's not interested in photographing toilets across the globe -- he'll stick to Japan for now.
"I love the diversity of Japanese toilets!" he says.