There is a story about a school ghost named "Hanako-san"(Hanako-chan) that is familiar to most elementary school students in Japan. According to a show I saw on TV about it, variations of it exist throughout the country. In most of the stories, a young girl named Hanako hangs out in school restrooms, mysteriously opening and closing doors of the toilet stalls. If her name is called, she appears and then frightening things occur.
This tale has created so much fear among elementary school students that some students refrain from using the restroom to the point of failure. Japanese elementary school restrooms have a reputation for being poorly lighted and smelly, which may contribute to this as well.
In response, the Asahi Shinbun (May 13, 2002) reports that progress is being made to address the 5 problem points of school restrooms, which are summarized as "dirty, smelly, dark, frightening and being in disrepair".
According to the article, Izumi City in Osaka has recently revamped the facilities for the lower grades. They have put sensors to allow automatic flushing of the boy's bathroom urinals and sound effect devices to muffle noise in the girl's bathroom at the city's Midorigaoka Elementary School. They have also installed Western-style toilets with hot water washlets there. Other improvements include increasing the height of stall walls to the ceiling to prevent peeping as well as stronger lighting.
The cost of all these improvements? Over 20,000,000 yen (about $156,250.00 U.S. at 128 yen to the dollar) for a single school. They have finished improvements at 4 of the city's elementary and intermediate schools.
What about Hanako-san? She needn't worry - there are still lots of other school restrooms left in Japan that haven't been targeted for renovation.
Copyright May 2002. Billy Hammond. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited. Efforts to present information as accurately as possible have been made, however, neither A.E.L.S. (TanuTech) nor Billy Hammond will take responsibility for errors found in this article.