• Kyodo

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Western-style toilets remain less common than squat toilets at public elementary and junior high schools in Japan despite concerns that Japanese squat toilets are causing many children to delay using them, a national survey released Thursday said.

Of the roughly 1.4 million toilets at such schools nationwide as of April 1, 43.3 percent, or 610,000, were Western-style, while 56.7 percent, or 790,000, were squat-style, the education ministry survey showed.

While 85.2 percent of the municipalities answering the survey said they hope to switch to Western-style toilets when they construct or renovate their school buildings, many apparently face hurdles in converting them amid limited financial resources.

A separate online survey conducted by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. this year found more than 30 percent of elementary school students refrain from defecating at school, with the trend more evident at schools with squat toilets.

Some experts point to health and sanitary problems of squat toilets, saying children could suffer constipation from holding back, and the floor around squat toilets tend to be splashed and get dirty more easily.

Among 1,799 respondents to the first survey, including municipalities and other school operators, 1,533 said they hope to raise the ratio of Western-style toilets to 60 percent or more.

The education ministry provides subsidies to cover one-third of the cost of renovating restrooms at public elementary schools and junior high schools, although schools often put more priority in enhancing the quake resistance of school buildings.

The survey was conducted in response to calls for Western-style toilets from elderly people who evacuated to schools in the wake of major earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture and its vicinity in April.

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