A building believed to house the oldest toilet in Japan faced its biggest threat in centuries on Monday when a conservation worker accidentally reversed his car into it, according to local officials.
Koudou Uno, a spokesman for the Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto, said the doors of the approximately 600-year-old wooden communal toilet were damaged in the incident.
A photo of the aftermath showed splintered pieces of wood strewn across the floor of the building in the former ancient capital, where the toilet was built at the temple in the first half of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), according to Uno.
“The toilet is a historical artifact, so naturally, we were very sad when it was damaged,” he said.
The “hyakusecchin” – or “hundred-person toilet” – got its nickname because more than 100 trainee monks used it up until the start of the Meiji era around 1868, Uno added. But it could actually only be used by up to 40 people at a time – each side of the privy is lined with around 20 holes.
The toilet, which has been closed to the public for over a century, was named an important cultural property by the Japanese government in 1902. According to Uno, it’s the oldest latrine left standing at a Zen Buddhist temple in Japan.
Uno said temple management were discussing the best way to restore the damaged doors, which measured 2.4 meters tall and 2.8 meters wide.
“We were thankful that nobody was injured and that we can repair the doors of the toilet – there is some happiness in this misfortune,” Uno said.