Toilets were originally built to dispose of pee and poop, but they’ve oftentimes been used to discard so much more, including toilet tissue (obviously!), clumps of tattered notebook paper, cigarette butts, and even personal problems.
In Japan’s central Gumma prefecture, for instance, unhappy wives would assemble in flocks at the Mantokuji temple to flush away all their pent-up frustration. This function was made obsolete, however, when Japan finally implemented civilized divorce laws; prior to the 20th century, only a man possessed the power to initiate a divorce. Women either learned to deal with their bleak marriages—flushing a ‘holy toilet’ at Mantokuji apparently helped—or committed suicide.
Nowadays the holy toilets at Mantojuki temple serve the interests of regular men and women seeking to permanently flush away their troubles. Temple director Tadashi Takagi explains that visitors hope to “get rid of the bad things in their life and become happy.”
The idea is to jot down unhappy thoughts and life problems on a piece of parchment that is then flushed down one of Mantojuki temple’s holy toilets. There are in fact two toilets: a white toilet for “enkiri” (cutting ties) and a black toilet for “enmusubi” (tightening ties).
If a couple seeks to strengthen a marriage, for example, they might use the black toilet to flush a list of all the things currently preventing their marriage from flourishing. Or if a visitor hopes to disavow a partner, he or she might flush the partner’s name down the white toilet.
The holy toilets at Mantojuki are geared to handle much more than just relationships gone awry, though. 69-year-old Shizue Kurokawa recently visited the temple to sever her “bind with obesity.” She said, “I’m getting fat and it’s not healthy. From now on I’d like to lose weight, be in fine form, and take care of my health.”
Businesspeople like Kiyo Suziki can also participate. He used the black toilet in the hope that it’ll improve the performance of his company: “I work for a business company and things are not going well.” He cited Japan’s deflation problem and then added, “So my prayer is that things may recover for all of us.”
If you ever visit Mantojuki temple, just remember that their toilets are for flushing away problems on a piece of paper—and not for going ‘baffwoom’!