Flying cars, a charge for plastic bags, no more Shinzo Abe … when Japan reopens to international arrivals, we should steel ourselves for it to look altogether like another country. And nowhere more so than on the streets of Tokyo, where you’ll be able to look into public toilet stalls, a development Forbes has hailed as “a stroke of genius” despite it seeming like a textbook example of chindogu (unmistakably Japanese inventions that are “not exactly useful, but somehow not altogether useless”, in the words of website chindogu.com). Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban – best known for using paper tubes to provide shelter for those displaced by disasters both natural and man-made – the see-through loos have been installed at two sites in Shibuya district as part of The Tokyo Toilet project, which aims to up the outhouse ante with support from the Shibuya City government and the Shibuya Tourism Association. The reason for the transparency is clear: it allows would-be wazzers to consider the hygiene of the WC while ensuring that no one is hiding in wait (a genuinely terrifying prospect). If the coast is deemed clear and clean, then those inclined towards adventurous ablutions can enter and find sweet relief, trusting that the sheer stall becomes opaque as soon as the door is locked. Because, of course, this is Japan and no matter how hi-tech the toilet, spending a penny – or more – is personal. This is the country, after all, that added a running-water soundtrack to its lavatories to mask noises that might naturally occur when nature calls. But would you be brave enough to try the transparent toilet? According to CNN Travel, part of the “thrill” of using these bathrooms “is that once inside, you can’t tell if the glass is frosted or not”. That the stalls are separated by mirrored walls only adds “to the weird feeling of being on display”. We’re not sure “thrilling” is the word we’d use. As anyone who’s ever used a public toilet can attest, locking the door is essential – even more so in this instance – but that seemingly simple endeavour can transform into a trying task when trying to locate the latch. Even trusting that it is secured can cause perspiration. “During our visit,” wrote CNN Travel, “one person presumably did indeed forget to lock it, stirring laughter among those outside.” We’re sure not everyone was laughing. Then there is the question of “digital trust” and placing our confidence in a mechanism that doesn’t confirm whether it’s actually working. (And if this writer’s experience with so-called smart glass is anything to go by, it doesn’t always live up to its name.) Ban’s bathrooms might look lovely on Instagram, all lit up like lanterns at night, but we’ll stick to standard issue stalls when it comes to taking a leak, thank you! Besides, there’s more to The Tokyo Toilet project than see-through latrine walls. “Toilets are a symbol of Japan’s world-renowned hospitality culture,” proclaims the initiative’s website, which is why it has asked 16 artists and architects to revamp public restrooms at 17 sites across Shibuya. Among those involved are design heavyweights Tadao Ando, Kengo Kuma and Sou Fujimoto, each of whom has created an aesthetically impressive installation, all complete with Toto’s ubiquitous electronic bidets. Seven facilities have reopened for … err … business, with the rest expected to be ready in 2021, by which time international travel to Japan might once again be possible. Tokyo toilet tour, anyone? Petition pushes Indonesia to consider digital nomad visas for Bali With the coronavirus upending everything, including international travel and how and where we work, countries around the world have started to offer visas for remote workers in an effort to attract long-term visitors and bolster faltering economies. Barbados and Estonia were among the early adopters , but it seems the dropshippers, entrepreneurs and influencers are also keen to work from the beaches of Indonesia. According to a recent Lonely Planet article, an online petition started by a Bali-based social media marketer asking for a digital nomad visa for the Island of the Gods has gained “enough traction to be accepted for review by the Ministry of State Secretariat”. “The main focus is pushing the petition to reach 10,000 signatures,” said Olúmidé Gbenro, who started the campaign. “Social chatter tends to move the needle more than anything in Indonesia.” Whether that needle is moved far enough remains to be seen. But if it is, expect Bali to be overtaken by laptop-toting millennials and zoomers “living their best lives” and peddling the latest trends on social media. Oh … wait. Thailand celebrates beloved hippo’s special day September 8 was a big day in Thailand, not because it marked an auspicious date but because it was the 55th birthday of the nation’s oldest, and best loved, hippo. That’s right, the Bangkok Post reported that Mae Mali – a star attraction at Bangkok’s Dusit Zoo before it was closed down and she was moved to Khao Kheo Open Zoo, in Chonburi province – celebrated her anniversary in style, with a cake made from fruit and vegetables. She was serenaded by visitors to the zoo and officials and, despite her advancing years, “remains in excellent health”. Hip, hippo, hooray!