Perfect Days and The Tokyo Toilet project see Shibuya’s public restrooms awash with visitors.

If you haven’t seen Perfect Days yet, you need to put it at the top of your must-watch movie list. This beautiful film follows the story of a toilet cleaner in Tokyo who finds happiness in the small things despite his social status, reminding us that a humble life lived with kindness, resilience and integrity is just as rich and valuable as that of a high-flying executive.

Perfect Days is one of those rare movies that lingers in your heart and mind long after watching it.

Since its December 2023 release in Japan, the movie has gone on to become a worldwide hit, receiving an Oscar nomination for Best International Feature Film and earning lead actor Koji Yakusho the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his quiet yet powerful performance.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the movie, however, is how it was made, with Koji Yanai, Group Senior Executive Officer at Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing — founded by his father Tadashi Yanai, the current president —  inviting acclaimed German director Wim Wenders to make a short documentary about a project he’d taken on: Shibuya’s Tokyo Toilet.

This project saw the redesign of public toilets in 17 locations within Shibuya by 16 creative professionals from around the world, who transformed them into architectural masterpieces on the landscape. Though Yanai was initially hoping Wenders might make a short film about the toilets, after viewing them, the director felt there was more to say, opting to make a feature film instead.

It’s hard to believe that from these humble beginnings an Oscar-nominated movie was born, but the toilets truly are that inspiring, so much so that the film is now prompting tourists from around the world to visit Shibuya specifically for the toilets.

This video shows just how beautiful the toilets are, with one of the creators, acclaimed architect Tadao Ando, speaking about their wider importance.

According to a spokesperson for the Shibuya Ward Tourism Association, Shibuya doesn’t actually have many tourist sites, so the Tokyo Toilet project has helped to fill a void, attracting visitors from around the world. Hot on the heels of the success of Perfect Days, those visitor numbers have increased, with many tourists now taking part in so-called “Tokyo Toilet Tours“.

Ride-share company NearMe operates The Tokyo Toilet Shuttle Tour, taking visitors on either the West Course, covering eight locations, or the East Course, covering nine. The two-to-three-hour tours can be booked via prior reservation and are priced at 4,950 yen (US$31.91) each, with pick-up and drop-off taking place at the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu 5F Main Entrance.

One recent media report in Japan showed a British couple who’d taken part in the tour visiting one of the toilets, where they took photos and expressed their delight at the facilities, remarking that it’s something they don’t see back home. Japanese viewers, however, were surprised to hear that the city’s toilets had become a tourist attraction, leaving comments like:

“I had no idea a tour like this existed.”
“I guess we’re a toilet nation?”
“Our country has finally become proud of its toilets.”
“I didn’t realise Shibuya has so few tourist sites.”
“Our toilets are clean but our politicians are dirty.”
“I hope people spare a thought for the cleaners and thank them!”

It’s often the case that people don’t appreciate what they have in their own backyard, so it’s not surprising that overseas visitors marvel at the public toilets that locals take for granted. Thanks to the success of Perfect Days, there’s now even more to appreciate than just the toilets, as we spare a thought for those who clean and maintain them.

The popularity of the Tokyo Toilet project now appears to be inspiring other wards in the city to spruce up their own public facilities, with We Topia in Ikebukuro recently becoming a ‘wee utopia’ tourist destination. It’s nice to see Tokyo lean into its strengths, because it certainly knows what it’s doing when it comes to creating memorable public toilets!

Source: Tokyo Toilet, The Tokyo Toilet Shuttle Tour via Jin
Featured image: Tokyo Toilet
Insert images: Press Release
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