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Headline

The Voice of Tokyo for over 50 Years

JAPAN’S NO.1 ENGLISH LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

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Wim Wenders To Produce a Film About Tokyo Toilets

The German filmmaker is collaborating with Koji Yakusho on a production about fancy restrooms in Japan's capital

By Lyn Tsuchiya

Something of a public art piece, the Tokyo toilets are definitely an eye-catching piece of modern infrastructure. Initiated by the Nippon Foundation, the Tokyo Toilet Project invited 17 talented architects and designers to renovate some of the city’s public restrooms to ensure safety and inclusivity. Those toilets are now set to be part of an upcoming film directed by Oscar-nominated German filmmaker Wim Wenders.

In the eyes of Wenders, the restrooms of the Tokyo Toilets Project were something of a utopian creation: the embodiment of a true place to rest. His film, he revealed, will focus on a toilet sanitation worker. It’s a dream come true, he says, to be associated with a project that has a social and urban meaning and that takes place in such as special city.

Taking on the lead role in the film is Koji Yakusho, known for his performance in Shall We Dance? as the ballroom dancing salaryman, Shohei Sugiyama. According to Wenders, the main character needed to be somebody very special, a kind, dedicated person who loves people.

“From the very first time I saw [Yakusho] on screen in Shall We Dance?, I liked him instantly. I need to like actors, I cannot work with actors that I do not like and this man I like a lot. Each of the characters he’s played, even when it was a nasty policeman, I liked him a lot. I really look forward to finding out why I like him so much,” says Wenders.

Yakusho responds with a laugh, “I will try my best to not be hated by the director.”

“We were actually discussing the main character in the dressing room. With the public restrooms as the setting of the film, and this man working 365 days, I believe it will be a lovely tale with the main character having the public restroom as his workplace and his relations with the people who utilize the restrooms. The main character will definitely be a beautiful human being. I feel like viewers of the film will come to understand what it means to be Japanese and understand what is Japan.”

Amayadori (Photo by Satoshi Nagare, provided by The Nippon Foundation)

One of the architects to participate in the Tokyo Toilets Project is Tadao Ando. He created Amayadori (pictures above), a circular public restroom with a hooded roof, located in Shibuya. The title comes from the Japanese term meaning to take shelter from the rain. Ando wanted the public restroom to bring a sense of safety, ease and inclusivity. As well as general rooms for men and ladies, there’s also one stall with the name “everyone’s toilet,” equipped with various facilities including a baby chair and diaper changing table.

“First of all, I love architecture. In another life, I certainly want to be an architect. And I slowly realized how close the work of an architect to the work of a director really is in many ways,” says Wenders, referring specifically to Ando.

Wenders showed his enthusiasm towards Ando’s works as he explained how when he travels around the world and whenever he has the chance to see something Ando built in America, or in Europe, he tries to see these places.

“I truly feel like he is a contemporary of mine,” he says. “Though we don”t meet so often, I feel a connection and I’m happy that I know him and am able to work with him. I was also so happy to see his toilet the other day. How he worked with the light, I thought it was truly a precious place.”

Wenders also recalls a special gift he received from Ando. “After our first encounter, a few weeks later, I got a little package from Osaka. I opened it up and it was something amazing. It was a stamp and I love stamps and this stamp was not my name, it was my face. Now instead of me signing my letters, I stamp them with my face. I still do. I’m a bit older than then but the stamp still looks like me.”