How Japan’s toilet obsession produced some of the world’s best bathrooms

The government has launched a “Japan toilet challenge”

Toilets are a feminist issue. Or so the government says.

The Japanese government this year launched the Japan Toilet Prize, part of a campaign to improve quality of life by improving the quality of restrooms. No matter than Japanese public facilities are almost always clean and stocked with toilet paper.

The task is to ensure that washrooms are always clean and safe and to tackle one of the thorniest of bathroom problems: how to reduce the lines outside ladies’ loos.

“Without appropriate environments where women can use sanitation facilities, their access to social participation in schools and workplaces is restricted,” Haruko Arimura, the Japanese minister for women’s empowerment, told the government’s “World Assembly of Women” forum in Tokyo in August. In fact, she said that restrooms are so pivotal to women’s advancement that she doesn’t mind if she’s known as “minister of toilets.”