JAPAN is creating a series of awards to recognise excellence in public lavatories as the country ramps up its facilities for tourists to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The awards were unveiled just days after a panel set up by Haruko Arimura, the minister in charge of women's empowerment, recommended that the government promote the charms of Japanese toilets as a way of attracting tourists.
"Japan's toilet technology should serve as the perfect tool to spread our culture of omotenashi," the report said, using the term for the Japanese concept of hospitality.
The panel has outlined the Japan Toilet Challenge, seeking to acknowledge efforts by companies, operators of public facilities and municipalities across the country that keep their lavatories clean and safe.
Others that will be recognised include companies that develop environment-friendly toilets, organisations that draw up maps of public restrooms and organisations that seek to export Japan's lavatory technology to foreign countries.
It has also called for clearer instructions in foreign languages to meet the needs of tourists.
Japanese toilets are synonymous with the application of technology and come with heated seats, built-in bidet functions and air driers. The devices are so popular that thousands of Chinese tourists take them home as souvenirs every year.
According to MyTravelResearch.com, the humble toilet is often a reason why a traveller stops at a destination and can help “stimulate the local visitor economy”.