Find out why some toilets come with an entry fee. 

Just the other week, our Japanese-language reporter Yuichiro Wasai was making his way home through Ikebukuro Station when he stumbled upon a fancy pay-to-use toilet called Prime Toilettes.

The luxury experience piqued his curiosity about the whole pay-to-use toilet system, so when he found himself at Tokyo Station last week, he decided to see if they also offered the same type of exclusive public toilet on their premises.

After enquiring at the information desk he was directed to Kitchen Street, which is known for its large cluster of restaurants, and, as it turns out, a couple of pay toilets as well.

Having already familiarised himself with the system at Ikebukuro, Yuichiro reached into his pocket and took out a 100-yen (US$0.91) coin.

He slid the coin into the machine, which then allowed him to turn the handle and step inside the previously locked restroom.

▼ It was quiet and clean – the perfect place to squeeze out a stubborn number two.

▼ Each cubicle was equipped with a baby chair, which is a godsend for parents.

▼ The urinals were modern and spotless.

▼ And though the washbasins were a little outdated, they were still clean, with automatic taps.

While it was a nice bathroom, it wasn’t as spectacular as the Prime Toilettes, but these pay toilets weren’t offering users a luxury experience. So why would people pay to use them? Were the free-to-use toilets really that bad? With those questions in mind, Yuichiro headed to the regular public toilets, which were so close to these ones it took him less than 27 seconds to get there.

Yuichiro didn’t have to hand over a single yen to use these toilets, which was strange, seeing as they had a far more inviting entrance than the pay-to-use ones.

▼ Inside, they looked more modern as well.

The only real difference, apart from the tiles, was the fact that the washlet panel for the toilet was located by the seat instead of on the wall.

There was also this notice pasted inside the cubicles, which asked users to refrain from leaving hypodermic needles behind.

After walking away from this restroom, it took Yuichiro another 30 seconds before he came across another free public toilet.

▼ This one looked even better than the other two.

Curious to find out why Tokyo Station offered both free and pay-to-use toilets when there wasn’t much of a difference between them, Yuichiro sent an email off to staff asking them that very question.

It didn’t take them long to reply, and in their email they mentioned that the pay toilets, which were installed in 1989, were being offered by the operators of Kitchen Street as an extra special level of service. At times when other toilets at the station are busy or occupied, there’s a higher chance that there’ll be a free stall in a pay-to-use toilet, and if people are concerned about cleanliness in regular restrooms at the station, they can always opt to use the less-frequented (and therefore cleaner) pay toilets.

That all made perfect sense to Yuichiro, and now that he knows he has a good chance of having an entire bathroom at Tokyo Station all to himself in return for 100 yen, he’ll be heading back to Kitchen Street soon. After all, it’s not far from the station souvenir stores selling all his favourite limited-edition chocolates.

Photos © SoraNews24