The Oldest Toilet In Japan Was Crashed Into By A Really Cool Car You Should Know About

Willtoilet Top

Look, I know why you’re here. You’re here for the same reason all of us are here: a shared love of interesting cars and really, really old toilets. So, when those two interests collide, and in this case I mean that quite literally, because the oldest toilet in Japan, located at the Tofujuki Temple in Kyoto, was smashed into when a conservation worker, a person whose job included taking care of the Oldest Toilet in Japan, accidentally backed his car into the toilet’s doors, smashing them. And the car the worker was driving? A fantastic and strange Toyota known as the Will Vi.

Willvitoilet1

The toilet in question, also known as a tōsu to the Zen monks that would have used it in the temple, dates back to somewhere in Japan’s early Muromachi period, from 1333 to 1568. This toilet is estimated to have been built between 1333 and 1392. It looks like the crash happened in October, but, you know, my ancient toilet sources are slow. Toiletrow

Just calling it a “toilet” implies singular, but it’s really not – this is really a communal toilet, with rows of evenly spaced holes, ready to accept healthy, loamy monk turds or torrents of monkly urine. In fact, this toilet had the nickname of hyakusecchinwhich means “hundred-person toilet.” Ewww. Even better, it seems that the waste, referred to by the more marketing-friendly name nightsoil, was collected and sold to the surrounding farmers, who presumably used it for fertilizer. I mean, I hope that’s what they used it for.

The setup reminds me of the communal toilets of ancient Rome; it seems the desire to not be sitting right next to a bunch of people while you take a leisurely shit is a modern affectation.

The 30-year old worker at the temple either mistook the brake pedal for the gas pedal, or reversed when he meant to drive forward; both reports are out there, and it could be a combination: wrong gear and wrong pedal when attempting to stop to correct. The good news is that nobody was hurt, and temple management believes the damaged doors can be repaired.

Will3 4view

But now let’s get to the really interesting part of all this: the car that did the smashing. As you can see from the picture, it’s a novel-looking thing. It’s a Toyota Will Vi, a car built from 2000 to 2001 that can be thought of as sort of Toyota’s belated answer to Nissan’s 1990 Pike Factory cars like the Pao or Figaro.

The name comes from an interesting marketing gambit used by a number of Japanese companies, including cosmetic makers, breweries, electronics makers, candy companies, tourism firms, furniture makers, and more, all of whom would sell products under the WiLL brand in an attempt to make them cool to young people.

Willshop

Toyota’s first WiLL offering was first shown at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show, where they called it a “playful 4-door personal vehicle,” and I can’t say I see anything inaccurate about that assessment.

Willcolor

The Will Vi was, like Nissan’s Pike cars, essentially a mass-market car with fun new clothes. In this case, the Will Vi was based on the first-gen Toyota Vitz, which was called a Yaris or Echo in some markets, and used the same 1.3-liter engine.

The body design, though, was extremely novel, with the most distinctive trait being the reverse-raked rear window, like what you’d see on an old Ford Angli or Citroën Ami.

Will Ami Anglia

The rest of the design vocabulary and aesthetic was interesting as well, reminding me a bit of how Postmodern architecture modernized and re-interpreted classic forms and design motifs, kind of like how the architect Philip Johnson playfully used a furniture design motif on a skyscraper; the stylized and exaggerated “corrugations” in the WiLL Vi doors, hood, and trunk lid remind me of this approach.

The hubcaps were supposed to remind you of sand dollars, and the interior also had some unusual references. See if you can spot what this dashboard design was supposed to evoke:

Will Int

One source says that the dashboard design and color were meant to suggest a submarine sandwich, or hoagie, and you know what, I can see it. The interior is laid out in a retro manner, too, with a split bench seat up front and a column-mounted shifter.

Cyphavs

Honestly, I love these weird things, but I also seem to be in the minority, because they didn’t really sell all that well. Two more WiLL-series cars followed, the WiLL Cypha and WiLL VS, but while the Cypha was techno-weird, the VS was just kinda boring, and it seems like the WiLL idea had become diluted and uninteresting.

So, it seems like most of the world had forgotten about these interesting cars. That is, until a plucky conservation worker smashed into a centuries-old toilet with one! Maybe this toilet-smash was just what the WiLL cars need to get some attention again! And just in time for everyone to start saving up for the 25 year anniversary, when we can import these funky toilet-smashers into America!

See, there’s a bright side to everything!

 

 

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42 Responses

        1. It’s weird this place and the old place both almost always use the same press release photos so at the end of the day I can’t really remember which one I read. There are far less typos and the articles here are so much better written though.

          It’s fun (extreme sarcasm) seeing the same 5 commenters over there go back and forth on every article though.

      1. Oh, shit I didn’t even see the earlier comment, I’m sorry. Somehow I thought this just happened; I edited the story accordingly. I found out about it via some social media feeds just today!

  1. I remember the Toyota PR types pushing this thing at the L.A. Auto Show one year (at least during the “press days.” Could have been either 1999 or 2000, I don’t really recall. It was a kind of pre-Scion, I guess.

    What I DO remember was a website they set up to provide info: www dot whatswill dot com. (I’m sure the link has long since died)….

    No one I knew then saw the possible confusion of “what’s will” with “what swill.” Except me.

    1. I feel like I remember at least one mag hypothesizing some of the WiLL cars could come here as Toyota fleshed out Project Genesis with the Echo/MR2/Celica, and then Matrix. Which in a way Toyota did kind of do when they pivoted to Scion, just using other models from the lineup to bring over.

  2. We have two Cyphas (one that still actually runs and another that is slowly rotting away in a side yard) on Saba. Weird little things, but I do admire their strangeness.

  3. Memory lane warning.

    They were still collecting night soil in late ‘70s Nagasaki at least. There were several large cisterns for it in the the massive vegetable garden at the bottom of our neighborhood which was near the very top of Kazegashirayama*. Our obenjo was a porcelain trough with a 10”(?) hole with a long (we were on the 2nd story) tube down to the holding tank. I idly wondered what the Shimogamas below thought of the Gaijin shit rattling down this tube in their wall. Multiple times a year the ‘honey trucks’ would park at the bottom of the path to our area and run what seemed like hundreds of feet of blue ribbed tube up to the various little alleys off the path to suck everyone’s waste. It was well-organized and efficient, and you only got occasional whiffs of effluent, but the tubes flexing & pulsing was a bit off-putting the first couple times I walked home alongside them.

    *’Windy Gods Mountain-love that name

  4. I just love old crap, so naturally i clicked on this one.

    Wasn’t the stupid rear window first seen on a late fifties Ford Fairlaine or something? (too lazy too Google it today…) and then copied on to the early sixties small european cars?

    – Also the Will thing might have inspired Patrick Le Clement and his guys at Renault for the rather crazy looking 2002 Megane II:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/28/2005_Renault_M%C3%A9gane_%28X84%29_Estival_5-door_hatchback_%282015-06-08%29.jpg/1280px-2005_Renault_M%C3%A9gane_%28X84%29_Estival_5-door_hatchback_%282015-06-08%29.jpg

  5. I thought that it was virtually impossible to keep a 20 year old car on the road in Japan because the taxes start increasing so that it’s cheaper just to keep buying new cars – hence the 10 year old Japanese cars that end up in Australia (and eventually North America).

    With all the amazing JDM choices, why someone would choose to keep that 20 year old car boggles the mind.

    1. Cars 13 years old and up pay an extra 10% on the annual registration fee vs ones 12 years and younger, but that’s really not that big of a deal if you have a car you like and want to keep (certainly way cheaper than buying a new car, anyway).

      The bigger issue is the strict safety inspections, but, just keep your car maintained and you won’t be surprised with a huge bill when that comes around.

  6. That row of toilets reminds me of the barracks I was housed in at Ft. Bragg in ’91, but add a facing row. Nothing like watching your senior NCO pinch off a loaf right in front of you….

    1. From my all-time favorite WWII memoir . . .

      (A German national’s introduction to the latrine at his new Canadian internment camp.)

      ” … the [washing] shed turned out to be as bare as the [living shed]. It did, however, have a mind-boggling installation mounted [and] nothing Rube Goldberg ever thought of could have been funnier or more effective. An immense cast-iron pipe, about four feet in diameter, ran the entire length of the platform. Every three feet or so, a foot-wide hole had been drilled into the pipe, clearly intended to fit a medium-sized posterior — about a dozen holes in all. There were chest-high wooden slats separating these “nests”, but no closure, front or rear. Flushing had the simplicity of genius. Every ten seconds or so, a burst of water reaching almost, but never quite, to seating level swept through the pipe, starting at one end and rushing to the other. If you looked up at the platform, you could see a dozen perchers side by side; first the guy on the extreme left would bob up quickly, and then his neighbor, and so on right down the line, by which time the first sitter would be ready to bob again. It threw an entirely new light on the principles of toilet training and “motion with motion” became part of our lives. The full potential of the scene did not dawn on us that first night, but later on, if you had nothing better to amuse you, you could always hang out and watch the “late” bobbers. Who invented this astonishing installation, or who had used it before us, was never revealed.”

      Mark Lynton, “Accidental Journey — A Cambridge Internee’s Memoir of World War II”

      1. There’s a pub not far from where I live still has Victorian constant flush trough shitters in it. I’ve always been tempted to try the flaming paper boat prank, but I don’t want to get barred cos it’s a very fine pub.

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