One Critically Acclaimed Film Has Inspired a Yearning for Better Public Restrooms

Call it the "Perfect Days" effect

Public restroom in Tokyo
A new public toilet site designed by Marc Newson located under a highway flyover on January 26, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan.
Christopher Jue/Getty Images

Filmmaker Wim Wenders has often chosen unlikely subjects for his movies, from lovelorn angels to choreographer Pina Bausch. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that his latest film, the drama Perfect Days, went a similar route, focusing on the life of a man who cleans public restrooms in Tokyo. The result was a success with audiences and critics alike, and was nominated for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Academy Awards.

It’s worth pointing out here that the restrooms featured in the film are a far cry from what you might encounter in a comparable U.S. city. In a new article for Curbed, architecture critic Justin Davidson wrote that Wenders’s film “has fired me up with a new object of desire: public bathrooms as clean and beautiful as those in the Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo.” Those bathrooms have a very specific origin, as Davidson explains: they’re the result of an initiative known as the Tokyo Toilet project.

“Public toilets in Shibuya like you’ve never seen,” the project’s website declares. “Toilets are a symbol of Japan’s world-renowned hospitality culture.” The initiative created a number of architecturally distinct spaces that are designed for, well, relieving yourself. As Davidson points out in his article, the film’s handling of this infrastructure makes the lack of something comparable in New York City — Bryant Park excepted — sting that much more.

“Meet Me in the Bathroom” Doc Chronicles the End of an Era for the Music Industry
Directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace on how they brought Lizzy Goodman’s tale of early-aughts NYC rock to the big screen

This week, the Criterion Collection announced that it would release a physical edition of Perfect Days later this year. Among the special features is an interview with the Tokyo Toilet project’s founder Koji Yanai. It might not be a visit to a beautifully-designed public bathroom, but it may well be the next best thing.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.