Neat Japanese Inventions: Bathroom Changing Boards (for Women)

A typical changing board in a Japanese public bathroom

A typical changing board in a Japanese public bathroom

So imagine you’re in Tokyo, you just bought a new dress, and you’re dying to try it on. Or you foolishly decided to wear tights under your skirt during the summer and are looking for a discrete place to shed the extra layer. Most people turn to the bathroom. That’s a pretty normal reaction.

The problem with the bathroom is, well, it’s a bathroom. Ignoring the fact there isn’t a lot of floor space (especially if the toilets look like this, where you are basically just peeing into the floor), the scarce floor space you CAN find is covered with pee, possibly blood, and all sorts of nasty things you don’t to touch.

Squat toilet in TaiwanDo you want to put your feet down anywhere near that? No. Ew. That’s what I thought.

But of course, this is Japan. Any problem you can possible think of, they’ve already thought of, researched, and designed a product to solve it. I present the bathroom changing stool:

Changing stool Japanese toilet stall and bathroomWhen you first enter the stall, it looks kind of like a vertical scale. Actually, I thought it was a scale (and thought “how nice, they have a scale in the private stall so no one can see your weight”); when I realized it was a changing board, I was even more impressed.

The concept is simple. Girls like to change clothes. Something might have ripped, maybe you want to slip on a new dress you bought, or peel off a couple layers. However, when you change, you have to remove your shoes (have you even tried to take off jeans while wearing shoes? It’s hard). And once you take your shoes off, you have to stick your socks or bare feet on the dirty, often wet or stained floor. Take a look at the picture above. This was a bathroom out in Sendai, the floor was nasty.

The changing board solves this problem:

Changing stool Japanese toilet stall and bathroomSometimes the “changing boards チェンジングボード ” comes with instructions, sometimes it doesn’t. In any case, all you need to know is that you pull the board down, take off your shoes, step on the board, change your clothes, put your shoes back on, and fold the board back. The changing board takes up almost no room and is a real “life saver.”

In my 8 months in Tokyo, I’ve seen these boards close to 20 times.

A sign on the bathroom that shows there is a changing board inside

A sign on the bathroom that shows there is a changing board inside

Sometimes they are at rest-stops, sometimes out in the middle of the Sendai countryside near a temple, in a high-rise fashion mall in Shibuya, or in a train station. The signs are all different, but are pretty self explanatory:

Changing stool Japanese toilet stall and bathroomI can’t tell if these are a recent invention (and that’s why there aren’t a lot of them), or they just haven’t “taken off” for whatever reason. I personally love them. I’ve only used them once; most of the time when I have to change, a changing board is nowhere to be found. More than anything, I like the idea of them.

And I love that Japan tries to solve my problems before I think of them.

(PS, when I showed these pictures to my fiance he was surprised. He hasn’t seen any changing boards in men’s restrooms – and neither have I, for obvious reasons. Do these boards also exist in men’s restrooms? Or is it just something for women?)

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About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

6 Comments on Neat Japanese Inventions: Bathroom Changing Boards (for Women)

  1. Anonymous // 26 March, 2014 at 7:12 pm //

    OH SO THAT’S WHAT THAT THING IS!! I was always wondering what its purpose was, always at loss for an answer. Thank you! Haha.

    • After living in Japan for like 3 years, I’m going back through old photos and being like “WAIT. I UNDERSTAND NOW. I GET IT.” To all those old “WTF” pictures I took.

  2. I think Men don’t need such boards because even if they might change clothes they will mostly change their shirts (at least thats what I experienced).
    But I hope there will coming more Boards! I think I would use them pretty much xD”

    • I would use these all the time (if there were more). When I go shopping, I always want to change into my NEW purchase. It’s fun!

  3. Maybe it’s somehow related to diaper changing? Did you usually see those boards in the same bathrooms that are used by women with little children?

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