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'See-through' toilet at central Japan museum sheds light on world sanitation

The "see-through" toilet that allowed people to get an idea of what it would be like to relieve themselves outside is seen at the INAX Live Museum in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, on Nov. 15, 2019. (Mainichi/Yuko Machida)

TOKONAME, Aichi -- A "see-through" toilet cubicle using one-way mirrors, designed to make people think about sanitary conditions in developing countries where people sometimes have to relieve themselves outdoors, recently was put on show at a museum here.

The cubicle display, planned by Japanese housing equipment manufacturer LIXIL Corp. ahead of World Toilet Day on Nov. 19, was set up outdoors at INAX Live Museum in the central Japan city of Tokoname.

In developing countries, many people have to relieve themselves outdoors, and poor sanitary conditions have claimed many young lives. The idea behind the project was to shed light on this issue, bringing it closer to home.

Children take a look inside the "see-through" toilet at the INAX Live Museum in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, on Nov. 15, 2019. (Mainichi/Yuko Machida)

The toilet, for display purposes only, uses one-way mirrors, so people can't see inside the cubicle, but the user sitting on the toilet can see out. After sitting down, one feels like they are exposed to the piercing stares of other people, making it an awkward experience, even when not actually doing one's business.

Yume Ito, 8, a second-year elementary school student visiting the museum, commented, "It was really embarrassing (to think about actually using it). I felt sorry that there are children who have to go in places like this," she said.

According to LIXIL Corp. and other sources, some 673 million people across the world still relieve themselves at the sides of roads or in grassed areas and other such locations, either due to custom or because they have no other option. Disease-producing bacteria in excrement can spread via insects and people's hands and enter the body, which can cause children with weak immune systems to come down with cholera or diarrheal illnesses. It is said that 800 children die each day because of this. For young girls approaching puberty, the problem is particularly serious, as the lack of a toilet sometimes is a reason they don't attend school.

A LIXIL representative expressed hope that the museum toilet, which was set up for a limited time between Nov. 15 and 19, would raise awareness about the issue.

"When you go inside, people most likely feel scared, or embarrassed, or unsettled. We want people to understand that there are still environments like this in the world," the representative said.

(Japanese original by Yuko Machida, Nagoya News Center)

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