The wisdom of a doorless public toilet



IF you’ve been to Japan, you may have ignored the fact that all public toilets at train stations, shopping malls, parks and tourist areas have no doors. Of course, you don’t care. However, if you’re like me, who’s on the alert for something unusual like what you can imagine with the vagina artist creating a new version of a kayak model and the human rights of porn stars, you’ll also be tempted to discover the reasons for such doorless public restrooms.

Sure, we have the same model in this country as you can see in many public urinals that are poorly designed and maintained by authorities. Looking back from the time when they repainted the urinals from Bayani Fernando’s pink panther theme to someone else’s green grass motif, from the looks of it, you’ll understand they’re at an armpit level compared with the elegance you can experience in Japan.

Let me explain. This issue of doorless toilets came to me when Christoph Roser talked about the application of lean principles in Japanese public toilets. Roser, a professor of production management at the Karlsruhe University, suggests the wisdom of the “absence of something” in Japanese public toilets:

“There is no door. You can walk in and out without touching a door handle! Consider that in the USA, only 66% of people wash their hands after the toilet – and even fewer are using soap – and you will be glad to avoid this door handle. The percentages in Japan are even lower. There is of course still a door handle for the toilet stall, but this is behind the sink area and you can wash your hands on the way out (please do!).”

Speaking of percentages, if 66 percent of American people wash their hands after using a toilet, can you imagine us Filipinos doing the same thing? Now, here’s the context clue – our toilets are everywhere. One may find it behind an electric lamp post, an old narra tree, a grassy lot, or a concrete wall full of graffiti and commercial posters. Of course, defecating and urinating in public is against the law.

But where are the law enforcers to clean the mess?

Let’s go back to civilization and discover the value of having a doorless public toilet. In this part of the changing planet, if you’re forced to use a toilet with a door, you have only three strategic options: One, choose only the side of the door that is often left untouched. Two, if you’ve no choice but to touch the doorknob, use a paper towel you can get freely from a nearby fast food restaurant. Lastly, you can wait until someone touches the doorknob so that you can “piggyback” your way inside the toilet.

After using the toilet, figure out once again how you will leave it without touching the door handle or its knob. So what does that leave us who are gifted with a keen sense of hygiene? But more than anything, excellence means paying extreme attention to minor details.

That’s why I can’t imagine why construction engineers and architects must spend four years in college and pass a government licensure exam, to design toilet doors that are made of heavy metal that is difficult to open, in the first place? Were these heavy metal doors with shining doorknobs intended for a public toilet or a bank vault?

If you’re interested to know where to find them, give me a short email and I will give you a photograph of such logic-defying toilet door.

Related to our topic of doorless Japanese public restroom is the ostomy toilet. Indeed, a customer is king and queen in the land of the rising sun. Roser claims that most public toilets have a facility to cater to people that have undergone a colostomy procedure, no matter their small percentage.

I’ve not seen it yet. Or maybe I’ve not recognized it for that purpose.

But that’s not all. Roser observes that in many highway restrooms, the name and schedule of the duty janitor are displayed, presumably under the principle of good housekeeping ownership as if telling the whole world that his integrity, reputation, and family honor is at stake.

If you’re dead serious, why not include your photograph and your phone number in case the toilet won’t flush?

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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  1. Joshua Schneider on

    Well, coming from a country that is tied up in knots about who gets to use what bathroom (CR) and from the state that has the guts to stand up against political correctness (North Carolina), are we really wanting to go the way of Japan. I have lived there (Osaka and Kanazawa) and have a very high respect for the tradition of obeying laws (and common) sense. I would place very high odds that Japan will not fall into the PC trap.
    That being said, do we have any respect for our laws or the folks that enforce them. If the PC crowd brings their unisex bathrooms to the Philippines, I for one would like to have a door. Not because of gender, but just a fan of common sense.

  2. To be safe and it is generally available, is to carry a small bottle of disinfectant with you just like your wallet or handbag.

    This is a excellent report on hygiene. Thanks.