Tokyo flush with cash in installing Western-style toilets


Tokyo is striving to make Western tourists feel more at home when they visit Japan's capital--at least when they are using a toilet.
The metropolitan government will splash out 3.77 billion yen ($33 million) from its fiscal 2017 budget on more Western-style bowls in restrooms, replacing the hole-in-the-floor Japanese-style lavatories.
The "seats" will be installed in lavatories at metropolitan parks, elementary schools, junior high schools, “Toei” subway stations and elsewhere in the Japanese capital.
It's a significant jump from the 800 million yen allocated in the initial budget for fiscal 2016 and is meant to meet the demand of the growing number of tourists who are expected to visit Tokyo.
Public-run elementary and junior high schools will get 1.33 billion yen for new toilets, while 1.18 billion yen will be set aside for "seating arrangements" at 28 stations on Toei subway lines operated by the metropolitan government, officials said of the plans for fiscal 2017. The government aims to Westernize 80 to 90 percent of all toilet bowls in each of the facilities by fiscal 2020.
The officials also said they will speed up the Westernization of toilet bowls at cultural facilities, metropolitan high schools, municipal government buildings and community centers.
They have set the target of Westernizing all toilet bowls at a total of 37 parks, including metropolitan parks that will host Olympic and Paralympic venues, by fiscal 2020, the year of the Tokyo Games.
Support will also be provided for the Westernization of restrooms at 60 more facilities, including inns, hotels and restaurants, the officials added.
The metropolitan government set forth, in a summary of mid- to long-term policies it released in December, a target of hosting 25 million non-Japanese visitors in Tokyo in 2020.
It said it planned to make it a priority to install more Western-style toilet bowls, partly out of consideration for tourists, and partly also for the convenience of children and elderly residents, who would take shelter at public elementary and junior high schools and other facilities in times of natural disasters.
The education ministry recently surveyed the number of Western-style toilet bowls at elementary and junior high schools around Japan. The survey, the first of its kind, was taken following the succession of strong earthquakes that struck Kumamoto Prefecture last April. In the aftermath of the disasters many elementary and junior high schools were pressed into service as evacuation shelters.
The survey found that, as of April 1 last year, Western-style bowls accounted for about 610,000, or some 40 percent, of all 1.4 million or so toilet bowls installed at about 30,000 public elementary and junior high schools in Japan. The ratio of Western-style bowls stood at 54.2 percent in Tokyo.--Asahi shimbun
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