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Perfect Days

“Next time is next time. Now is now.” Hiyarama (Koji Yakusho)

Few of us could claim ever to have a perfect day, so how about a film that shows those days for a middle-aged man who cleans state-of-the-art toilets in Tokyo? In the Oscar-nominated Perfect Days, acclaimed German director Wim Wenders gives us the minimalist story of Hiyarama, who meticulously, almost religiously, performs his daily cleaning duties for The Tokyo Toilet.

Not only is Hiyarama a high priest of clean, but the toilets are handsome examples of how the lowliest of life’s functions can be part of the world’s beauty. They become a central motif showing

that this humble man, peaceful and happy in his dignified labor and love of nature, has found happiness in the littlest parts of the universe such as a shoot about to become a tree, playing shadow tag with a stranger, or beginning each day by smiling at the light filtering through branches high above him.

Another important motif is the considerable cache of cassette tapes, from which he opens the day with The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun. Lou Reed’s Perfect Day may suggest Hiyarama is aspirational as well as immersive in the present. When he mellows out with Nina Simone all is made well. The tapes serve to comment on the narrative and connect him with a culture to which youths have already connected. As my introductory quote reveals, he lives in the moment (“Now is now.”)

Lucky for us all, Wenders employs his understanding of Japanese “komorebi,” the light and shadows shimmering through tree leaves. Yet it is not just nature that keeps this unassuming cleaner happy—his niece has an unconditional love for him while his wealthy sister turns up her nose at his humble life.

Although most of the film shows him repeating his simple routines, Wenders rewards our patience by introducing the human dimensions to his life, small as they might be, probably the most gratifying part of the simple man’s happy-go-lucky days.

It becomes clear that Wenders and co-writer Takuma Takasaki want us to see as our protagonist does a happiness the smallest parts of life can bring.

Enjoy the final sequence that, like the poetry this small film is, says it all with as little as a tear and a smile.

Perfect Days

Director: Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas; Wings of Desire)

Screenplay: Wenders, Takuma Takasaki (Honokaa boi)

Cast: Koji Yakusho (Father of the Milky Way Railroad)

Run Time: 2h 4m

Rating: PG


John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take (recently listed by Feedspot as two of the ten best NPR movie podcasts) out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando