Football: Japanese clubs flush away loo blues as licensing regulations kick in

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan may be a long way from winning the World Cup but its J-League clubs are leading the way in making the half-time lavatory break less of a sanitary ordeal for squeamish fans.

Not for the faint-hearted, bathroom visits at a football stadium were once the ultimate test of grit and perseverance as hardy fans braved a bacterial blitzkrieg from grubby toilets.

But Japanese football clubs have been told to clean up their act, or face having their licences revoked - and many have begun fitting gleaming, hi-tech "smart loos" that offer guests all the creature comforts of home.

"A lot of families go to watch J-League games so you often get mums taking their kids to the toilet," a J-League spokesperson told AFP on Monday. "Clean toilets are one of the conditions for clubs to renew their licences so they are striving to make facilities more comfortable."

Clubs who fail to meet the standards could, in theory, face a ban but they're taking no chances, with old hole-in-the-floor style toilets once common throughout Japan being ripped up and replaced by "robo-loos" now used by almost every household in Japan.

A stadium must provide at least five western-style toilets per thousands fans under the regulations.

Shizuoka-based club Jubilo Iwata has scored high for kitting out their restrooms exclusively with the futuristic lids and their frighteningly accurate bidet jets, according to a survey conducted by the Nikkan Sports newspaper.

Plugged into the mains electricity, at their most basic, the seats warm up and spray water for rinsing, but optional extras include motion sensors, variable jet strengths and powerful deodorisers.

Celebrities such as Madonna and Will Smith have raved about the smart loos, which have become a huge seller among visiting tourists, particularly the Chinese.