Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

An Oscar nomination for a film about a Japanese toilet cleaner may surprise some but for those who have seen Perfect Days it’s understandable.

Kôji Yakusho stars as Hirayama in Perfect Days.*

Thanks to the performance of its star, Kôji Yakusho, it’s art house film making at its very best.

Which means Perfect Days isn’t for those in search of an action-packed adventure film. But it is a delight for those who are interested in a gentle, character-based ‘meaning of life’ style movie.

Kôji Yakusho (Hirayama).*

Yakusho plays Hirayama, a middle-aged man who cleans toilets in Tokyo.

Initially we follow his daily routine of waking at dawn (thanks to his neighbour sweeping the footpath), tidying his small living area, cleaning his teeth, tending to his plants with a spray bottle, trimming an already neat moustache, donning his blue Tokyo Toilet cleaning uniform and buying a canned coffee from the vending machine outside his house.

He then looks to the sky and smiles, hops in his van puts on his impressive collection of classic rock and R&B cassettes which includes Lou Reed, Van Morrison Patti Smith, Otis Redding and the Kinks and drives against the Tokyo traffic to work. At work he scrubs, mops and cleans every inch of the toilets he cleans.

Kôji Yakusho (Hirayama).*


Lunch is spent in the park taking black and white photos of the trees. After work he cycles to his local Japanese bath house and then eats at his favourite informal restaurant or has noddles at home.

His days off are spent exploring his local book shop buying books written by such authors as William Faulkner and Patricia Highsmith, picking up the photos he has taken during the week, doing his laundry and visiting a bar run by Mama (Sayuri Ishikawa).

Kôji Yakusho (Hirayama) and Arisa Nakano (Niko).*

His daily routine first gets thrown a curveball when flaky and chatty co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto) bugs him for quick cash to impress a hipster girlfriend Aya (Aoi Yamada) Then his niece Niko (Arisa Nakano) unexpectedly appears on his doorstep.  Her appearance and the arrival of his estranged sister Keiko (Yumi Aso) in a chauffeur driven car provide some insight into Hirayama’s background.

Despite all these interruptions Hirayama’s devotion to his work and seeming contentment with his life shine through as illustrated by the final scene of Perfect Days. The look on Hirayama’s face in this shot and an emotional hug between sister and brother are unforgettable moments of the movie.

Kôji Yakusho (Hirayama).*


Perfect Days came about after authorities asked German film director Wim Wenders to make a documentary about the Tokyo Toilet project. This project sees the city’s public toilets redesigned as something akin to modern-art instalments.

Instead of the documentary Wenders, in conjunction with fellow writer Takuma Takasaki, created the fictional Perfect Days. It was a wise decision as was casting Yakusho as Hirayama.

Tokio Emoto (Takashi), Kôji Yakusho (Hirayama) and Aoi Yamada (Aya).*

A man of few words we still know what Hirayama is thinking through Yakusho’s body language. Never has a smile, nod of the head or shoulder shrug said so much.  It’s a brilliant performance and one which understandably saw Yakusho win the Best Actor award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Watching his performance is worth the cost of a ticket alone but then there’s the added benefit of reflecting on how we live our lives and seeing some pretty cool and, it should be said, very clean Tokyo toilets!

Perfect Days officially opens in cinemas around Australia on March 28.

*Photo credit: ©2023-Master Mind Ltd



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