This is why it’s important to vote in city council elections.

For the second year in a row, Nagoya City was voted Japan’s “least appealing city” by a decisive margin. To be fair it was only from a field of eight major Japanese cities, so saying this result means Nagoya is a bad city is like saying a Best Picture Oscar nominee is a bad movie because it didn’t win.

▼ Maybe next year…

Still, it certainly means some self-examination is in order for city officials to find out what is making Nagoya the Hitchcock of Japanese cities. The Nagoya City Council is convening for this very reason and starting with the question: “Do you think it’s because we don’t have toilet paper in our public restrooms?”

Currently, anyone who visits one of the public toilets in Nagoya’s 600 parks, especially in haste, would be dismayed to find that no paper is provided. There aren’t even any toilet paper holders to eliminate any doubt that you just happened to enter at a bad time.

The case for toilet paper was succinctly and passionately laid out by councilman Yoshinori Matsui:

“To increase the appeal of Nagoya… To make foreign and Japanese tourists think, ‘I had a nice time visiting Nagoya…’ In the spirit of hospitality… Wouldn’t it be better to have toilet paper in the parks?”

It’s certainly hard to argue with that, but some people are. Opponents of the TP initiative are citing costs and potential for mischief as reasons and reminding all that Nagoya had flirted with public toilet paper in the past but with disastrous results. Assistant manager for the Nagoya City Environmental Works Park Maintenance Division Katsuyoshi Shimosa recalls:

“Entire rolls were thrust into toilet bowls. Sometimes they went missing altogether.”

Most would probably argue this is part and parcel for a major city in an effort to provide the most basic of comforts to residents and visitors alike. Online commenters certainly did just that as they had trouble understanding why this debate is even needed.

“Yeah, we need toilet paper.”
“Nagoya… Come on now.”
“Don’t they know there are special holders that prevent people from stealing?”
“That’s not very appealing at all.”
“Wow, I thought toilet paper was standard practice everywhere.”
“So, Nagoya is saying that they can’t use toilet paper because they can’t trust their citizens with it. That’s not appealing.”
“Why bother even having toilets if there’s no paper?”

If I may play Nagoya-advocate, one wouldn’t have to have lived so long in Japan to remember the time when a lot of public toilets all across the country didn’t have paper. Instead, you were supposed to carry your own (the packs of “pocket tissue” with ads stuffed inside that companies hand out for free on the streets of Japan were handy candidates) or buy a pack from the vending machine in restrooms which were equipped with one. In fact, it wasn’t until this decade that Osaka began righting the wrong of paperless facilities in earnest. So, Nagoya really isn’t that far behind other major cities in this regard.

▼ This sign was found in Kyoto Station circa 2010

Then there’s also the issue of the tax money required for this plan. Equipping a single toilet with paper for a year is estimated to cost about 30,000 yen (US$266) which means providing paper in all of the public parks would require an additional budget of about 25 million yen ($221,000).

Is it worth that? Yes, absolutely. But some money will have to be moved around to make it happen, especially if Nagoya decides to go all-out with its hospitality and provide round-the-clock staff who go around and fold the ends of the paper into little triangles. Now that would be appealing!

Source: Chukyo TV News, Itai News
Top image: Wikipedia/Brandon Blinkenberg
Inset image: Wikipedia/AlpsdakeWikipedia/Gwydioin M. Williams