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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: February 2024

The Perfect Ending

Christine Dauchez


  • Based on experiences and observations of The Tokyo Toilet, a public toilet renovation project founded by Koji Yanai.
  • The film follows the main character’s daily routine as a public toilet cleaner and highlights the simple rhythm of his life balanced with the attention to his work and craft.   
The Perfect Ending
© Marco Bottigelli via Getty Images

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What is the perfect ending to an imperfect life? This is the question I’ve been pondering since watching Wim Wenders’ latest film Perfect Days. Shortly after the pandemic, Wenders was invited to observe The Tokyo Toilet, an innovative urban renewal project spearheaded by Koji Yanai, board director and senior executive officer of the Fast Retailing Group, the parent company of the lifewear brand Uniqlo. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and  Koji Yakusho won the Best Actor Award for his lead role as the main character Hirayama, a Tokyo toilet cleaner.  

On its surface, the film is a meditative replay of Hirayama’s daily routine: waking in the morning to the street cleaner briskly sweeping away the remnants of the previous day; popping a classic rock cassette tape and a can of iced coffee as he heads off to work; zipping across the city to work in his van and to the bathhouse and bar on his bicycle; attentively cleaning the state of the art toilets; pausing to eat lunch and photograph trees in the park; then drifting off to sleep while reading used paperback classics. Unexpected encounters along the way give us brief glimpses of Hirayama’s story. The film ends with a close up of Hirayama with tears in his eyes driving his van.

I saw the film at the end of a busy work day at the Angelika in downtown NYC and must confess I dozed off a couple of times, lulled by the simple rhythm of Hirayama’s life. The Japanese word komorebi and the English definition, sunlight filtering through tree leaves, appear in the credits and helped me decode the film’s deeper meaning. Hirayama’s photos of the light through the trees, like the lyrics of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, capture those fleeting moments of pure bliss, free from the cares of the world:

Just a perfect day
Problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
It's such fun.

Perfect Days also celebrates the Japanese spirit of omotenashi, service that comes from the heart, as Hirayama nurtures his seedlings, maintains the public toilets and cares for the community. Omotenashi was the catch phrase of the Tokyo bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. It was also exhibited after the Japanese win over the Germans at the Qatar World Cup last year, when Japanese fans stayed to help pick up garbage in the stadium and the Japanese team not only cleaned up their locker room but also left behind origami cranes and a thank you note in Japanese and Arabic.

Let us start this new year by shifting away from an annual cycle of resetting resolutions to a daily practice of gratitude, joy and kindness. Wishing you the simple pleasures of a perfect day and many happy returns.