TOKYO – Wim Wenders is making a film about high public toilets in Japan, which will have what the famous German director calls “social meaning” about people in modern cities.

“My first reaction was to admit: what? Toilets? Chotto mattene, ”he said Wednesday, using the Japanese expression for“ wait ”.

But then he began to see what the story might be about.

“For me, they have turned from toilets into toilets. This is a very beautiful word in English, toilet. When I saw these places in the next few days, I realized that these are toilets in the truest sense of the word, ”Wenders told reporters in Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district, which has a dozen public toilets.

The facilities were designed by leading architects, including Kenga Kuma and Tadao Ando, ​​with the idea that a pleasant public toilet can counter the general expectation that it should be dirty, graffiti-filled or crime-related.

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Wenders, an Oscar-winning director of “Wings of Desire” and “Buena Vista Social Club,” said that when he saw Shibuya’s bathrooms, he was moved.

“It’s a really valuable place,” Wenders said.

So the hero of his film will be a nurse who cleans toilets, seeing his work as a craft and services to people. Details of the script are still being worked out.

Kodi Yakusho, known for his role as a Japanese man in works such as “Shall We Dance” and “Babel”, said he agreed to the role as soon as it was offered because he wanted to work with Wenders.

“I feel it will be a beautiful story. And I feel that the story with the toilet as a place of action, with the person who works there, and the people who use it, will help lead to an understanding of Japan, ”Yakusho said.

The Tokyo Toilet project was originally designed to impress foreign visitors awaiting the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic forced events to take place without spectators in the stands.

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A public toilet designed by Ando, ​​round with frames for exterior walls that allow air to circulate. In real life it is cleaned without water to avoid mold or rot by men in blue overalls by Japanese fashion designer Nigo.

The project, including Wenders ’film, is supported by Fast Retailing, a company behind Uniqlo’s clothing chain, and The Nippon Foundation, which carries out humanitarian projects using proceeds from boat racing.

Wenders said his film, despite the covert staging, will explore a profound concept.

“I almost think it’s a utopian idea because the toilet is a place where everyone is the same. No rich and poor, old or young. Everyone is a part of humanity, ”he said.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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