Zen and the Art of Toilet Cleaning: Finding Happiness in Routine

Explore the film ‘Perfect Days’ and its portrayal of a man named Hirayama who finds contentment and fulfillment in the simplicity of his daily routine as a toilet cleaner in Tokyo. Discover how routine can bring happiness and explore the profound messages of the film.

Finding Happiness in Routine

In Tokyo, there is a man named Hirayama who leads a simple and content life. He works as a toilet cleaner, finding solace and satisfaction in his routine. While society often values spontaneity and novelty, Hirayama finds comfort in the familiarity of his daily tasks. The film “Perfect Days,” directed by Wim Wenders, explores the idea that routine can bring happiness and fulfillment.

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( Credit to: Empireonline )

Hirayama, played by Kōji Yakusho, is a gentle and solitary individual in his 60s. He resides in a modest yet impeccably maintained apartment in Tokyo’s Oshiage neighborhood. Each morning, he wakes up at dawn, folds his futon mat, trims his mustache, and tends to his plants. He then heads outside, where a vending machine provides him with a cup of coffee. Hirayama hops into his small van and drives to work, where he transforms into a lavatorial Ghostbuster, equipped with a jumpsuit and cleaning tools.

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( Credit to: Empireonline )

Hirayama takes great care in cleaning the toilets, treating them as if they were priceless works of art like the Mona Lisa. Despite his dedication, he remains invisible to the patrons who use the facilities. He patiently waits and smiles as they scuttle in and out. Hirayama takes pride in his work, finding joy in the process. At the end of the day, he returns home, unfolds his futon mat, and happily repeats the same routine the next day. Although these toilets are unique and artistic, as part of the Tokyo Toilet project, Hirayama’s satisfaction comes from the act of maintaining order and cleanliness.

Contentment in Simplicity

Is Hirayama truly content? It appears so. He speaks only when necessary, often relying on gestures rather than words. He keeps to himself and seems to want for nothing. However, his life takes an unexpected turn, disrupting his equilibrium and causing a slight shift in his rhythm. Perfect Days does not rely on dramatic events but rather focuses on the subtle changes and emotional growth of Hirayama. As the audience learns more about him, portrayed masterfully by Kōji Yakusho, his performance reveals layers of nuance and complexity. Even when he expresses himself more openly, a mixture of emotions flicker across his face, creating a deeply moving experience that is difficult to pinpoint. The film as a whole operates in a similar manner, seemingly understated yet carrying profound messages that slowly seep into the viewer’s consciousness.

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( Credit to: Empireonline )

The film explores the significance of rhythms in our lives and how we adapt when they change. There is a distinct Buddhist quality to the story, with Hirayama cherishing every sapling and valuing trees as much as humans. He stops to admire the sunlight as it filters through the branches, capturing the moment with his film camera. Hirayama remains resolutely analogue, listening to music on cassette tapes from the 1970s as he travels. While the world around him has transformed, he has maintained his own pace and routine. Even during his free time, he adheres to familiar rituals, visiting the same public baths, the same bar, and the same bookshop. Hirayama lives in the present moment, even if he seems out of sync with the modern world. He finds solace and immersion in his work, using it as a form of retreat.

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( Credit to: Empireonline )

A Meditative Portrait

The film itself embraces this meditative approach, mirroring the calmness and serenity of its protagonist. Cinematographer Franz Lustig captures Hirayama’s actions discreetly yet affectionately. The film is a loving portrait, profound in its tranquility, but also sprinkled with moments of humor. Hirayama’s young and unpredictable colleague, Takashi, adds a touch of chaos to his otherwise composed life. However, it is the overall sense of calmness that lingers, a rarity in contemporary cinema and in our everyday lives. “Perfect Days” is a modest film that embraces its unhurried pace and simply exists. It may not revolutionize your world, but it has the potential to nourish and enrich your soul. It exemplifies the Zen philosophy of finding tranquility and contentment even in the mundane tasks of life, such as toilet cleaning. So, yes, Zen and the art of toilet cleaning is a concept worth believing in.

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Written by Reddit Manga

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