At First Flush

What should we expect from narratives about civic infrastructure?

The Tokyo Toilet Jared Nangle

  • Perfect Days, directed by Wim Wenders, was given a limited North American release in February.

The best film of the past year is a feel-good Japanese drama that dignifies the abject and revels in fugitive joys. I first saw Wim Wenders’s Perfect Days at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, where lead actor Kōji Yakusho won an award for his performance as Hirayama, a professional cleaner employed by the Tokyo Toilet. A real-life public restroom initiative that has contracted the talents of such design stars as Tadao Ando, Kengo Kuma, and the fashion impresario NIGO® (whose name appears trademarked in all promotional materials for some reason), the Tokyo Toilet made international headlines in 2020 for several gorgeous, opacity-shifting latrines courtesy of Shigeru Ban. Concentrated in the wealthy Shibuya ward, these high-concept loos are simply too nice to vandalize—or even, it would seem in the film, to wreck with a particularly explosive dump—making Hirayama’s job surprisingly pleasant. Tranquility pervades his perfect days like eau de toilette, ca…

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