Save me a seat!: A visit to the Mr. Toilet House

22 Nov

Mr. toilet house

Mr. Toilet House

When I told people I was going to a museum about toilets, the reactions I received most were either excitement or a puzzled look, followed by “A what!?!”.  Surprisingly, some of my peers had already heard about the infamous Mr. Toilet House here in Suwon and one even had his picture up on the wall. (They must like foreigner pictures because my friend and I were also asked to have our pic taken) Now I admit, when I first heard about the Mr. Toilet House I had the normal reaction I have when presented with some wonderful oddity or novel idea that seems too bizarre to be a real thing and yet… is. My eyes get very big and I can feel a sort of half-smile forming as my expression changes. I have found South Korea to be full of peculiar and amazing things just like that and it’s one of the reasons I love it so much!  However, when I got to the museum I realized it wasn’t just something to giggle and tell your friends back home about.  It had a reason and a purpose.

The building that is now the Mr. Toilet House or Suwon Toilet Museum was once the home of Sim Jae-duck (심재둑) a former two-time mayor of Suwon city and the founder of The World Toilet Association. Many people might laugh at that title and to be honest, so did I, but once you visit the museum you realize that it’s not just some novel attraction.

Sim Jae-duck’s life work, was just as much about improving Korea as it was about improving the lives of people all over the world. The legend goes that he was born in a toilet stall at his Grandmother’s house. Some claim that this is the reason he made it his personal mission to improve the public facilities in both Korea and the developing world.

Sim Jae-duck and the main toilet

Main toilet and cardboard stand up of Sim Jae-duck

Inside the museum there are a few exhibits about toilet culture. Something I didn’t really know existed, although now it seems so obvious. The main centerpiece to the house is a toilet in the middle of the first floor that is top of the line. When you walk into the bathroom you immediately note it’s size. It is  pretty big for a bathroom with no shower or tub. You will also hear  classical music which is triggered via a sensor when you enter the room, and there is a large glass window at one end of the bathroom which can be “fogged” with the push of a button. The museum staff informed us that this was the actual toilet used by Sim Jae-duck, and that when he was in there he would either read a newspaper or drink some tea. Ok TMI, seriously!

Mr. Toilet House

Video game screenshot

There are also some touch screen games and videos, which were for me,  the most important part. They showed Mr. Sim and his colleagues at the The World Toilet Association, helping people all over the world improve something that most of us take for granted. Their work has helped to prevent disease and other problems in places like Africa and other parts of Asia.


Ironically, the only toilet you could actually use was not found inside the building but in the back.  It had a conveyor belt toilet which I assume is for saving water in countries where it is scarce. Check out the video I made:

Here is what it looked like from the outside. See anyone?

It's Joe!


and the surrounding area was really nice with all the fall colors:

Mr. Toilet House


The museum has plans to extend the museum in to a toilet-themed park which will include rest areas in the shape of different toilets and will include the museum as it’s centerpiece.

Still, not every country or place  where western toilets aren’t the norm are necessarily impoverished. Sometimes it’s just a cultural thing. If you come from a place where western style toilets are the norm your first encounter with a squat toilet (aka squatter) can be confusing and difficult. It might sound funny to read about, but I doubt few people look back on their first time with any kind of fondness.

My first was in Casablanca, Morocco, and I remember it very very clearly. I was 14 years old and it was in the biggest Mosque in the country and I was told the second biggest in the world. The mosque itself was beautiful with a clear stream of water running through the main prayer area and other areas designated specifically for hand washing and gathering. The mosque, built in the 90′s, was relatively new and obviously very expensive (Italian marble anyone?). The tiles, artwork and grandeur of the place was like nothing my young eyes had ever seen, but when it came time for personal business  - what you had was literally a hole in the ground with a big roach next to you for moral support. Nice!

So was it just that the keepers of the mosque didn’t care so much about what is considered a more modern toilet? They spared no expense on everything else. Or was it just that this was the culture of the society I had found myself in?

What are some of your more interesting bathroom experiences when traveling abroad or even in your own country? The good, the bad and the ugly I wanna know!

For more info about the museum or to find out how to get there yourself click on the links below:

Address: 440-310 경기도 수원시 장안구 이목동 186-3 (186-3 Imok-Dong, Jangan-gu, Suwon, Korea 440-310)

 March-October: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

November-February: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Closed Monday

The admission is free but I  gave a donation and received a free Toilet House mousepad. SCORE!




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6 Responses to “Save me a seat!: A visit to the Mr. Toilet House”

  1. Steve the QiRanger November 22, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Yeah, a great little find. We went there last February to film it! A whole lot of fun!

    Keep exploring!

    • admin November 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      Hey Steve,
      Do you live in Suwon too?

  2. Loren November 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    I’m keen for that mousepad.

    • admin November 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

      It’s a beauty, lemme tell ya!

  3. richissime February 18, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Only a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw outstanding design.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Our favourite travel blog posts - December 2, 2011

    [...] Save me a seat!: A visit to the Mr. Toilet House – a post from Chana of The Orange Backpack. We were excited to blog about Mr Toilet’s House a while back, when we were investigating some of the world’s wackiest hotels – and now we’ve found someone who has even managed to visit it! The hotel is now used as a toilet museum, and Chana describes the exhibits and games on offer – and even shows some photos from inside! This is definitely a must-read for anyone who likes to do something quirky on their travels. [...]

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