Film still from Perfect Days showing main character Hirayama and his niece riding bikes over a bridge

Takuma Takasaki on Perfect Days and the art of storytelling

The chief growth officer at Dentsu in Japan talks to us about the relationship between narrative film and advertising, and his intuitive collaboration with Wim Wenders on his Oscar-nominated film Perfect Days

In 2023, prolific photographer Daidō Moriyama released a book of images celebrating an overlooked constant in the built environment: public toilets. “It may sound as though I am exaggerating, but no other photographer has used public restrooms in Japan as much as I have,” he wrote in the book’s introduction, referring to the pitstops he made over his many years spent making images around Japan.

That may be so, but he has a fictional rival in Wim Wenders’ latest film Perfect Days: Hirayama, an unassuming, slightly enigmatic protagonist, who ritually photographs Tokyo’s urban plant life in between cleaning jobs for The Tokyo Toilet.

The Tokyo Toilet is a real initiative compromising 17 public restrooms scattered around Tokyo’s Shibuya district, each one individually designed to transcend its practical function by doubling as an architectural point of interest. Among them are Kazoo Sato’s igloo-like design and Shigeru Ban’s pastel-hued glass box that turns opaque upon locking. The Tokyo Toilet was completed in time for the 2020 Olympic Games, but with the occasion partly stalled by the pandemic, these mini design marvels never quite had the celebratory launch they deserved, leaving their appreciation outside of Tokyo largely confined to specialist architecture publications.

Yet this patience has now been rewarded. In the hands of Wim Wenders – the filmmaker behind Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas – and Tokyo-based screenwriter Takuma Takasaki, who is also a decorated advertising creative director, producer and novelist, The Tokyo Toilet initiative is finally getting its moment in the sun through the lens of film. “We wanted to make four short stories,” explains Takasaki via an interpreter, Shion Ebina. Yet after approaching Wenders to direct the project, the German filmmaker suggested turning it into a feature-length film instead.

Film still from Perfect Days showing the pastel coloured glass public restroom in a Tokyo park
Film still showing Hirayama (Kōji Yakusho) at the public restroom in Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park, designed by Shigeru Ban architects