toilet goddess


Toilet Hanako is a figure from Japanese urban legend who supposedly was a school girl that died in the bathroom. There are many variations on Hanako’s appearance, origins and the circumstances of her death, and her popularity of a figure has spread throughout Asia, but the essential tragedy of the story has given Hanako persisting popularity from the 1950s to today. Hanako’s Immortal Peach Garden is a reinterpretation of the Hanako myth, blended with another female figure popular in East Asia, the bodhisattva Guanyin. Guanyin, otherwise known as the “Goddess of Mercy,” is a figure revered highly across Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk culture for her love and compassion. In remixing the kitsch image of a young girl with the graceful figure of a Chinese deity, Hanako becomes both elevated, but also more accessible, to the viewer. The peaches is also a blend of cultural references, from the Chinese folk concept of “peaches of immortality” which are divine fruit said to bestow immortality if eaten to humans, to San Jose’s historical past as an agricultural community that included peaches as a prime crop, and the modern sublimation of digital realities into everyday reality as exemplified by the popular peach emoji. The placement of this new Hanako-Guanyin hybrid in bathroom stalls is not only a parallel to Hanako’s original narrative, but also an identification of the bathroom as a place for contemplation, rest, and peace. It is a space of refuge and aloneness, offering respite to frazzled parents from their children’s chaos, tired employees relief from the incessant grind of work, and anxious students safety from the pressures and hostility of their peers. Hanako’s presence makes explicit the bathroom’s psychological functions, and transforms the space from mundane to sacred. Similar to traditional spaces for worship, Hanako’s Immortal Peach Garden is designed to provide a means for the viewer to spiritually engage with Hanako. The QR code transcodes the spiritual spatial experience into the digital realm by linking the viewer to an online “temple,” designed in the aesthetic language of early web “fan shrines” dedicated to anime characters by fans. Visitors to Hanako’s temple can submit their prayers online, but the modern convenience of confirmation of transmission or receipt is not provided. New technology is only a mirror to the ancient, eternal simplicity of the unknown. The modularity of QR as an access point for engagement and the porcelain casting fabrication process enables Hanako’s Immortal Peach Garden to be easily replicated for expanded installation.