These ain’t no fortunate stones.

It’s just a little over a year before the grand opening of the 2025 Osaka/Kansai Expo when countries from around the world will come to display the most wondrous of things humanity has to offer. And with the clock ticking, construction work on the artificial island of Yumeshima is swinging into full gear.

Among these plans is one to construct a restroom facility using historic “unfortunate stones” (zannen ishi) at a cost of 63 million yen (US$420,000). Unfortunate stones are stones that were cut and prepared to be used in the wall of a castle, but ultimately were not for any number of reasons such as defects or even being seen as bad luck.

▼ Castle got raided? Blame the stones.

In the case of this restroom, 11 unfortunate stones are planned to be taken from the banks of the Kizu River in Kizugawa City, Kyoto Prefecture. During the reconstruction of Osaka Castle in 1620, stones were transported along this river, but many had fallen along the way.

Fallen stones like these can be seen along many rivers near castles and for the most part they just look like regular stones. However, if you look closely you can see the cut marks and even find serial-number-like engravings in them indicating when, where, and how, they were to be used.

Taking this project at face value, it seems like they’re planning to use ruins dating back centuries just to build a public restroom. And despite making this one of the most educational lavatories around, reaction online has been largely contentious.

“Unfortunate stones are national treasures, so please don’t use them for toilets.”
“How much are they spending on a restroom?!”
“This is unfortunate.”
“A cursed bathroom… Cool.”
“Those stones are really living up to their names.”
“It’s fitting for an unfortunate Expo.”
“If it has historical value, just leave it alone.”
“I think it’s basically a good idea, but I’m more worried about earthquake safety.”
“Aren’t there any better places to use them in the Expo?”
“Japanese people used to believe even stones have spirits. I feel like we’ve lost that.”
“Of course, they tell us now that it’s too late to do anything about it.”

However, it should be noted that these unfortunate stones aren’t quite the pristine artifacts they may seem. They were among the over 60 stones unearthed by chance during work on the riverbank and then just placed off to the side. Years later, they were in the way of a proposed highway, and barely saved then thanks to the effort of Kizugawa City and others.

▼ They’re currently awaiting the final leg of transport in a location in Osaka City.

The architects behind this restroom are hoping to give these unfortunate stones a new purpose as what they call “banzai stones”. In addition to providing the structure of the restroom, it is hoped that they help to raise awareness of other unfortunate stones around the country.

They also plan to keep the stones in exactly the same condition. This is done by scanning the precise shape of each one and then creating a joint that fits them perfectly like caps and holds them in position. The stones will act as pillars with a wooden lattice, similar to the ones used in shrines, placed on top.

There’s also a crowdfunding campaign underway to move these unfortunate stones to Yumeshima in the exact same way it was done 400 years ago, by rolling them on logs.

▼ There are only a few days left in the campaign, so pitch in fast if you’re interested.

After the Expo is finished the stone will either be returned to Kizugawa or put on display somewhere in Osaka in the exact same condition they’ve always been.

It’s certainly a controversial plan, but if the ultimate goal is raising awareness, I can’t think of a better place than a public restroom. That place is going to have thousands upon thousands of people just standing around waiting for friends and family and will read any educational sign you put there just to kill the time.

Source: TV Asahi News, Twitter/@studioon_site, Twitter/@YahooNewsTopics, Campfire
Images: Campfire
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