Semarang – A toilet-themed cafe where customers dine on
meatballs floating in soup-filled latrines may not be everyone’s idea of haute cuisine, but
Indonesians are flocking to become privy to the latest
Guests at the “Jamban Cafe” sit on upright toilets around a table where food is served in squat loos.
On a recent visit to the venue, in Semarang on Java island, traditional Indonesian “bakso”
– a type of meatball, bobbed in a murky soup in one toilet,
while a second contained a brightly coloured, alcohol-free
For those who found the whole experience too nauseating, there was a sick bag hanging by the entrance.
Other places, such as Taiwan
and Russia, are home to similar themed restaurants, but
Indonesia’s modest version has a key difference – it aims to
educate people about
sanitation and encourage the
increased use of toilets.
“I was disgusted at first, but I eventually ate some of the food
out of curiosity,” said customer Mukodas, a 27-year-old who,
like many Indonesians, goes by
“I think the idea is pretty interesting because if you try
to have a campaign without a gimmick like this, the
information won’t stick.”
Another customer, 15-year-old Annisa Dhea, conceded she
initially found the toilet treats “a bit unappealing” but felt
somewhat reassured after “the owner told me that the food
was clean and hygienic”.
The caf – whose name
“Jamban” means toilet in Indonesian – has been open
since April and currently only
welcomes small groups who book ahead.
Owner Budi Laksono, a public health expert who used to work for the local government,
hosts discussions with customers and shows them videos as he seeks to
encourage people to use dedicated facilities for their
Millions of Indonesians live
below the poverty line and the
country has one of the world’s highest rates of open
defecation, defecating outside
and not in a designated toilet,
a practice blamed for
This caf serves as a reminder that many people in Indonesia
still do not have toilets,” said Laksono, 52.
However he admitted that his unusual approach had sparked some controversy in the
Many critics say the caf is inappropriate and against Islamic law,” he said.