Unusual and interesting toilets from all around the world.

1950s Fixtures in Japan

Japanese Bathroom Fixtures from the 1950s


On a trip to Japan in 2024 I visited Hakodate City in the southern part of Hokkaidō, the northernmost of Japan's four largest islands. While there I visited the Museum of Northern Peoples, an ethnological museum presenting the peoples who have inhabited Hokkaidō, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and onward through far northeastern Siberia and the Aleutian Islands.

The museum occupies a building that once housed the Bank of Japan. Previous bank buildings had been destroyed in a series of fires, this structure was built in 1926. It managed to escape destruction in the huge fire of 1934 that destroyed about two-thirds of all the structures in Hakodate.

A sign by the first floor men's room reproduces part of a talk by the museum director on this history of the building. The fixtures there and in the men's room on the second floor date from a renovation in 1954.

They are a stark contrast from the modern multi-function fixtures now found throughout Japan. They were manufactured by Tōyō Tōko, literally the "Oriental Pottery Company", a brand that changed its name to Toto. In 1980 they began manufacturing the famous Washlet line, an electronic bidet with water washing and air drying.

Main Floor Men's Room

Here's the text from that sign. "Taishō" and "Shōwa" refer to reigns of Emperors, 1912–1926 and 1926–1988, respectively; the Emperor known in the west as Hirohito is known as by his postumous name of Shōwa in Japan. Toto's predecessor was founded in 1917.

About the history of our facility

The Bank of Japan Hakodate branch repeatedly burned down due to large fires, it uses the current third generation building of 1926, and has been used as a museum since 1989. For this reason, traces of Taishō and Shōwa period remain here and there.

It was renovated in 1954, but the area around this toilet and corridor are part of the extension on the first floor. Therefore, the toilet was newly installed at that time, and I can imagine that the toilet bowl, doors, hand-washing area, etc., are almost the same as those days.

The men's urinal flushing method is not a sensor type or button type, it is a method that automatically flows when a certain amount of water is stored in the overhead water storage tank, and in the past, it was sometimes seen in old schools, etc. And now we can hardly see it. In addition, because of the difference in average height between the present and that time, the position of the male urinal is set low.

Judging from the logo mark of "Toyo Pottery Co., Ltd." (currently Toto) stamped on the lower side of the toilet and hand-washing area, it turned out to be a mark that was used from 1928 to 1961.

— Director's Talk

Here's the view as you enter the first floor men's room. It's three steps up to enter, right away you see that this is not a 21-century design.

1950s era sinks.
1950s era urinals

Here are the urinals and the high wall-mounted tank with the old flushing mechanism the director mentioned.

Notice the knob above the center urinal. Below it is an explanation of how the original 1954 design is still functioning, so appreciate it but don't mess with it.

1950s urinals with original flushing mechanism.
Warning regarding the original flushing mechanism.
Squat Toilets

One of the toilets is a traditional squat toilet with a modern flushing mechanism.

See the dedicated page for more details on the squat toilets of Japan. Most people's first question is how you use the thing. Squat facing toward the dome over the drain hole. Yes, solid waste will land in the nearly flat part, but flushing introduces water from the rear and will wash waste into the drain.

1950s floor pan or squat toilet.
Modern toilet with control panel on the wall.
Japanese Toilet
Control Panels

They have added a 21st century Toto Washlet model with a wirelessly-connected wall-mounted control panel. It controls the various bidet functions including wash water temperature and spray intensity.

Second Floor Men's Room

A second public men's room on the second floor repeats the same design, with the addition of a very large sink.

1950s sinks.
Large sink from the 1950s.
Array of four urinals from the 1950s.
Urinal from the 1950s.