Engaged – Japanese driver reverses into ancient privvy

The front page of Tuesday’s UK Guardian features the sad story of Japan’s oldest toilet. A member of the Kyoto Heritage Preservation Association mistakenly reversed his car into the building’s 500-year-old bog door.

The man damaged the communal toilet inside the Tofukuji temple in Kyoto when he crashed through the doors in reverse, ending up several metres inside the inconvenient restroom. He immediately called the police after the incident on Monday morning. No one else was inside the Zen Buddhist temple (or toilet) at the time of the accident, and the driver was unhurt.

The “tosu” was built during the Muromachi period about 500 years ago, for use by trainee monks, according to the public broadcaster NHK. Its 2-metre double door and interior pillars were badly damaged. The conveniences were still in use as recently as the start of the Meiji era (1868-1912).

Engaged - Japanese driver reverses into ancient privvy | News by Thaiger
The car – a 20-year-old Toyota WiLL Vi – can be seen inside the building surrounded by what is left of the wooden doors.

Fortunately for the hapless driver, who had been visiting the ancient capital on business, experts say the damage can be repaired.

Toshio Ishikawa, director of the temple’s research institute, said he was “stunned” by the extent of the damage, but relieved that no one had been injured. “We’d like to restore it before the autumn foliage season, but it will probably take until the new year [to repair it],” he told the Kyoto Shimbun.

While the building is usually closed to visitors, the rows of toilets can be viewed through gaps in the building’s exterior.

Engaged - Japanese driver reverses into ancient privvy | News by Thaiger
The toilets – little more than circular holes cut into blocks of stone – are a far cry from the modern-day Japanese toilets that continue to fascinate foreign visitors.

While they did not feature bidet or drying functions, the temple’s toilets were at least located in a convenient place for monks who spent many hours trying to achieve Zen enlightenment – right next to the meditation hall.

Tofukuji Temple | Travel Japan (Japan National Tourism Organization)
Tofukuji Temple, Kyoto

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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