Mr. Toilet House (Ugh)

Trip Start Dec 02, 2011
Trip End Dec 02, 2012

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Gyeonggi,
Saturday, November 10, 2012

This weekend one of my friends suggested we visit the Haewoojae, or Mr Toilet House (해우제), in Suwon. The museum was dedicated to the head of the World Toilet Association, Shim Jae-Deok aka Mr. Toilet. Mr. Shim claimed to have been (or was accused of having been?) born in a bathroom, which led to unflattering childhood nicknames and a fascination with toilets. Apparently there was an old Korean saying "the farther the toilet the better" (that may explain why so many toilets are outside of the restaurants they serve), which Mr. Shim defied via his work as part of the toilet culture movement. Lest you dismiss him as a mere eccentric, he was also a successful politician and served as mayor of Suwon.

Although I'm usually intrigued by quirky museums of all kinds, two of my least favorite things in the world are poo and poo-based humor. Still, some of my friends were really excited about it, so I decided I might as well go.

The museum was surprisingly small, and the focus was really more on the life of "Mr. Toilet" than on the toilets themselves. Admission was free and there were English explanations of most exhibits, so that was nice. Also, the grounds had quite a collection of defecation-themed sculptures. So if that's what you're into, you'll probably get a kick out of it. At least my friends seemed to enjoy it. I actually was fairly entertained by the exhibits of Korean toilets throughout the centuries (starting in 5BC). Unfortunately all of those explanations were in Korean only, but I took pictures to translate some of the more non-obvious contraptions.

So all-in-all, while I appreciate the devotion Mr Toilet had to his passion, I wouldn't recommend a visit to the house unless you really, really, love poo. That's mainly because there are so few exhibits, and the house is not in a very convenient location. However, if you had an extra hour or two in Suwon, found the idea of sculptures of poo exciting, and the weather was nice enough to enjoy the sculpture garden, you might as well hop a cab over to the House since it's free.

Because the Mr Toilet House was so small, it took maybe an hour to see, and that was only because we spent a lot of time taking pictures of the sculptures. Once we were all toileted-out, we took the train to Suwon station to grab some lunch "downtown". We took a vote on lunch and something marked "world buffet" on the Suwon tourist map won. As with many tourist maps, what looked to be about 5 blocks from the station on the map turned out to be a 20-30 minute walk. I'm not sure we even actually found the place we were looking for, but we did find an Ashely Buffet on an upper floor of a high-rise outlet mall. The food was okay, and inexpensive for a buffet, but the restaurant had a great view of the Suwon fortress. Someday I'll have to find time to actually check-out Suwon's number one tourist attraction, but today was just poo.

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