Most people would rather their bladder burst than walk into a public toilet to do their business, let alone to clean it, but the members of Tokyo social club Benjyo Soujer do it for free, with their bare hands, as a therapeutic hobby.
On Sunday mornings, a group of 35 adults and children gather at public lavatories around Tokyo, to clean them. They are members of Benjyo Soujer, a social club founded on Facebook, and their main mission is to clean themselves by cleaning cubicles. They start by mixing their own cocktails of cleaning agents, then huddle into the toilets spraying and scrubbing everything from the urinals and toilet bowls to the facility’s walls and floor. By the time they’re done, the place is as clean as the day it first opened its doors, maybe cleaner.
The 35 members of the unique group don’t think of themselves as volunteers helping the local administration keep public restrooms sanitary, instead saying they do the work for themselves as a sort of spirit cleansing ritual similar to the ones practiced by Buddhist monks to find peace of heart. For some, it’s also also a fun way to blow off steam before the coming week.
45-year-old Masayuki Magome, who founded Benjyo Soujer in 2011, told the Associated Press that the group’s weekly toilet cleaning activities have had a very positive effect on its members, even the children. They have become liberated from the common misconception that toilets are something to make fun of and now see their work as a way to bond with other members of society and clean their souls.
One of the mottoes of the group is ‘clean thyself by cleaning cubicles’, and for this to be even more effective, the rules encourage members to use their bare hands. ”Basically, excrement is something that comes out of our body, so we adults don’t really think of it as dirty. So without really thinking, we clean them with our bare hands, and because the children see us doing that, they don’t really think of toilets as dirty either. That is one of our philosophies,” Magome says.