German Director Wim Wenders to Make Film about Public Toilets in Tokyo [2022/07/05]
Scene from a press conference on May 11, 2022, to announce a film about high-end public toilets in Tokyo that have been renovated under “The Tokyo Toilet” project launched by The Nippon Foundation. From left, renowned architect Mr. Tadao Ando, award-winning German director Mr. Wim Wenders, and actor Mr. Koji Yakusho, who will play the lead role as a sanitation worker.
Legendary German Director Mr. Wim Wenders has agreed to make a film about high-end public toilets in Tokyo, with top Japanese actor Mr. Koji Yakusho in the lead role.
The toilets were designed by 16 internationally-renowned architects, including laureates of the Pritzker Architecture Prize (often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel”) such as Mr. Tadao Ando and Mr. Shigeru Ban, with the idea that they can be used by anyone safely and comfortably regardless of gender, age, or disability.
Under “The Tokyo Toilet” (TTT) project launched by The Nippon Foundation in 2020, a dozen toilets have been completed and are open to the public in Shibuya Ward, central Tokyo, with five more under construction.
"My first reaction was, I must admit: What? Toilets? Chotto matte, ne," Mr. Wenders said at a press conference in Tokyo on May 11, using the Japanese expression for "wait a minute" to describe his reaction when approached by TTT about the film project.
But he was soon inspired by the futuristic look of the toilets and signed on to direct the film. "For me, they turned from toilets into restrooms. That's a very nice word in English, the restroom. When I saw these places the next couple of days, I realized they were restrooms in the true sense of the word."
“A toilet is a place where everybody is the same. There’s no rich and poor, no old and young, everybody’s part of humanity,“ the Oscar-winning director of Wings of Desire and Buena Vista Social Club said, adding: "There is something very Japanese about the idea, about the whole setting. And I almost think it's a Utopian idea."
Mr. Wenders also said he is particularly happy to be working with architect Mr. Tadao Ando, who devised a circular toilet with thin slats that let in fresh air as people wash their hands. "I was so glad when I saw his toilet the other day, and saw how he worked with the light. I thought, this is a classy place."
Mr. Yakusho, known for his leading roles in films such as Shall We Dance? and Babel, will play a sanitation worker who cleans the toilets, seeing his job as a craft and a service for the people.
He said he accepted the role as soon as it was offered by the filmmaker because he wanted to work with him. "I have a feeling it's going to be a beautiful story. And I feel a story that has a toilet as the setting, with the person who works there and the people who use it, will help lead to an understanding of Japan," the actor said.
Although Japan is generally regarded as a clean country with a high standard of hygiene, its public restrooms have had an image problem―dark, dirty, smelly, and scary are just some of the descriptions.
To dispel such notions, The Nippon Foundation launched the TTT project to install 17 public toilets in Shibuya Ward, using the designs of world-famous architects to change people's perceptions of public toilets and make them accessible to everyone regardless of gender, age, or disability.
The restrooms are free of charge, wheelchair-friendly and kept immaculate by cleaning staff who work 365 days a year.
I trust they will inspire people to leave the toilets as they would hope to find them, thus extending the spirit of Japan’s omotenashi hospitality to the arena of public conveniences.
Filming is expected to begin in Japan later this year with a planned release date of 2023. I look forward to seeing how the German cinematic master visualizes this beautiful spirit of hospitality. My dream is to see the movie win an Oscar at the Academy Awards.
Mr. Tadao Ando designed a circular public restroom with a roof overhang, located near Shibuya Station. It’s nicknamed Amayadori, a Japanese term meaning to take shelter from the rain. Photo: Satoshi Nagare.