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Perfect Days

Master Mind, 2023


Wim Wenders / Wim Wenders and Takuma Takasaki

Reading Time:

5 minutes

Perfect DaysWarmth And Wonder
00:00 / 05:33

📷 : Used with Permission, Christian Niemann (, Twitter/Instagram: @justbychris)

Perfect Days


Image of movie's tea brew

Movies and TV shows with heart, positive vibes, and warm messages


Image of movie's tea brew

Movies and TV shows with low-key characters

Chris Chaisson


A frequent topic amongst news outlets and culture critics is the seemingly endless rise in depression, particularly amongst adolescents. There are several theories on why (e.g.. social media pressures, financial struggles, loneliness, etc.), and they’re probably all at least a little bit correct. The sheer number of hypotheses might pinpoint the cause: life has gotten too complicated, and those who can simplify it often remain the happiest. I harken back to an episode of the ‘90s sitcom Frasier, where Frasier creates a long and detailed bucket list after seeing a false obituary of himself in the local paper. His dad cautions him against trying to accomplish all these random, herculean tasks, saying, “You know, I think what you discovered this week is that something's missing from your life. And before you start to fill it up with everything but the kitchen sink, I think you ought to just ask yourself, "what do I really want? What is really going to make me happy... now?" Wim Wenders ponders this notion in his latest film, Perfect Days.

Set in Tokyo, Perfect Days covers the daily routine of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho, Babel), a very kind but somewhat aloof man who cleans public toilets for a living. Hirayama sleeps on the floor of his home and wakes up every day to the sound of a neighbor sweeping the sidewalk. When doing his work, he patiently waits for bathroom attendees and even lets them in when the bathroom is technically closed. Nothing seems to bother him about his job or the behaviors of others, who often shuffle past him as if he is not there. On his breaks, he takes time to stare at the greenery around the parks and public areas he is in, direct people who get lost, or comfort children looking for their parents. His assistant Takashi (Tokio Emoto, Outrage), much younger than him, is less committed to and enthused about the job, but maintains a good rapport with his cleaning partner nonetheless. While Hirayama’s existence seems lonely and mundane, he takes constant joy in the simplicity of his daily agenda.

As the film follows its protagonist through every single scene, it is easy for the audience to at first feel like something is missing. Often, the conflict in our favorite yarns is produced from frenzied, anxiety-inducing run-ins with villains, bullies, or nature. Perfect Days carries a calmness and quirkiness throughout, where the antagonist becomes less an actual person and more a desire for complexity. Hirayama’s routine slowly exorcises this need from the viewer, and we see the positives of enjoying what we have without looking for something more.

The characters around Hirayama serve as the audience’s subconscious, providing a contrast to his content nature. He has several interactions with people who are busy, anxious, or too complex for their own good. For instance, Takashi opines about his social life early on in the movie and later ditches work with no heads up. A mother in the park scowls at Hirayama for comforting her son after they get separated. Some of the bathroom attendees avoid eye contact and treat him as though he is a bother, or worse, invisible.

The biggest contrast is provided by Hirayama’s pre-teen niece, Niko, who runs away from home and visits him. Few things illustrate a lack of happiness like running away from home as an adolescent. Her desire to visit him not only shows her affection for him but also her recognition of how he differs from her mother. Niko’s frequent tendency to pull out her smartphone to take pictures and perform Google searches sharply contrasts with Hirayama’s use of his phone for nothing but phone calls. At one point, Niko mentions Spotify, which he has never heard of, and he confuses it for a brick-and-mortar store, much to her delight. Ultimately, when Niko’s mother tracks her down, she reunites with Hirayama and carries on a conversation with him that very much highlights their differences. Though the love is clearly there, she cannot fathom the thought of him being pleased with his modest lifestyle.

While these interactions call attention to the anomaly of living such a simple life, they also reveal people’s willingness to connect with Hirayama where he’s at. For instance, one bathroom attendee, whom he never actually meets, leaves a game of tic tac toe behind for someone to join in. Hirayama finds the game and makes a new move every day, enthused by the interaction. Just the same, he attends a restaurant every day where the staff knows him by name and greets him with a glass of water “for his hard work.” Though not directly called out, these moments are clearly bright spots in his day, an experience many regulars at restaurants can relate to. 

All in all, Perfect Days and its protagonist urge us to be content with and appreciative of what we have and what’s positive in our lives, whether that be friends, family, or an enjoyable view. Whether or not cleaning toilets brings Hirayama joy, the interactions his job allows him to have with others, and the calming environment it places him in, ultimately lead to the happiness that many others cannot achieve in much more lucrative professions. His enduring spirit can be a lesson to us all: figure out what really makes you happy, shut out everything else, and enjoy both the clarity and simplicity of your life.

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