The Wonder of Japan’s Open-Air Urinals
Uncharacteristic -- Osaka, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl,
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 — 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos

I explained that where I come from urination is a private affair...

Continuing along the lines of my previous two posts (on garments with silly English, and a confusing traffic sign), this is a picture I snapped last year at Osaka Castle Park when I was visiting with friends (and doing impromptu portraits and dodging paper airplanes).

It is, of course, the plainly-visible urinals on the men's half of an outside public bathroom near the castle.

I titled the image “uncharacteristic” not because of the visibility – most outside public bathrooms are more or less like this – but because this particular bathroom is much more clean and well lit than you're almost ever likely to find.

Alice Gordenker at the Japan Times (a national English-language daily) delved into this somewhat unnerving subject in her always-entertaining “What the Heck is That?” column a couple of years ago:

So, What the Heck is That? — Men's Restrooms

It's a funny and enlightening read; the quote at the top of the page is from the article.

I've referenced Alice's columns before, in posts about golden poop and tree bondage.

All 8 comments so far, oldest first...

Ahh, this is a cultural thing.

The French often have publically visible urinals too, and no one thinks twice about it…

— comment by Tim Armes on December 15th, 2008 at 11:51pm JST (15 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

I do recall one public toilet in Japan, I can not now remember where it was, but I think in the Hakone area, where those going to the girls’ facility had to pass along just behind the backs of the men using their own facilities. Slightly unnerving!

— comment by Peter on December 16th, 2008 at 12:09am JST (15 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Once when traveling along a semi-rural road in Japan with a male friend at the wheel, we came upon a rest area near the ubiquitous souvenir stop. A tour bus had pulled in and a line of about 15 or 20 men were urinating over the edge of the pavement area and facing us as we drove by. I think my friend was embarrassed for me, and I, of course, was embarrassed for him (he is not Japanese).

By the way, I think my question about Tanuki genitals for Alice in the Japan Times was both humorous and revealing on the Japanese viewpoint on private parts.

— comment by Cheryl K. on December 16th, 2008 at 2:36am JST (15 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink


— comment by Marcina on December 16th, 2008 at 11:33am JST (15 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

It’s been over a decade since I last visited Japan, but I do remember a public lavatory – quite spacious, modern, and clean – that had separate men’s and women’s entrances opening on a single common restroom, with sinks and cabinets for use by either men or women as well as a wall of men’s urinals exposed to public view.
It struck me as a most amusing example of Japanese politesse that the doors were segregated by gender, but the facilities were not.

— comment by Fred on December 18th, 2008 at 2:57am JST (15 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

In 1950 I was in Yokuska, Japan. The sidewalks had concrete channels down the middle. The channels were covered with concrete covers. Ever so often a cover was missing. This was the public rest room for both men and women. Sure had to watch where you were walking.

— comment by RalphB on January 9th, 2009 at 4:27pm JST (15 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

This is rediculous. I bet alot of women who go into professional male sports locker rooms have not only a view of naked males, but also a view of men using urinals. Men deserve more privacy and should demand it!

— comment by joe m on September 26th, 2009 at 3:06am JST (14 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink

From San Diego, CA, United States

The rest room in the photo looks very clean – something that wouldn’t surprise me in Japan. I grew up being extremely private about using the bathroom. I’ve lightened up over the years out of necessity. There have been many times that guys using the urinals are visible to those outside because the door is propped open for ventilation, or from the door being constantly open as men enter and exit. I don’t worry about it anymore. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

— comment by Brett on August 20th, 2010 at 11:27pm JST (13 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink
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