National

Only 36% of toilets in public high schools are Western-style: lawmaker survey

Kyodo

Japan may be known as the world leader when it comes to high-tech toilets, but only 35.8 percent of those in prefectural high schools are Western-style.

That is what a group of national and prefectural lawmakers have found in a survey they commissioned, saying the low rate reflects a lack of government subsidies and low priority for modernizing toilets that were mostly installed in the 1960s and 1970s.

The proportion of Western-style toilets in prefectural high schools is lower than at public elementary and junior high schools, which stood at 43.3 percent in a separate education ministry survey released in November 2016.

The lawmakers’ survey, covering around 225,000 toilets in roughly 3,200 prefectural high schools across Japan, found that about 80,000 were the seated variety and 145,000 the squat variety as of April 1.

The lawmakers are promoting the installation of Western-style toilets in schools. Their survey covered all prefectures except Miyagi.

Advocates pushing seated-style toilets cite two reasons: Many students use Western ones at home and are not used to squat toilets, and sitting-style toilets are easier to use for the elderly and disabled when schools are used as disaster evacuation centers.

One reason public elementary and junior high schools have a higher percentage of Western-style toilets is that they receive government subsidies covering one-third of the cost of renovating a restroom — a benefit high schools do not receive. At larger high schools, renovation costs can reach hundreds of millions of yen, according to the education ministry.

The low ratio of Western-style toilets has stirred concerns that children who shun the squat type tend to hold back and could suffer constipation. Some experts have also pointed out a sanitary problem related to squat toilets as the floors around them tend to get dirty more easily.

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