Tokyo Sanitization: Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days and the Discourse of Public Cleanliness in Japan

Billboard with the tagline “one step forward please” in front of the Shibuya Crossing. Image courtesy of Audrey (Zhuohan) Jiang
Perfect Days (Wim Wenders, 2023) was commissioned to promote the image of public hygiene as part of the Toyko Toilet project. Yet, as Hao Wen argues, the film develops a reflexive critique of the discourses of urban “cleanliness” in Japan.

In December 2023, Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing, was decorated by the huge billboards of Wim Wenders’s newest feature Perfect Days (2023). Such extensive publicity is rather uncommon, especially for a movie that is neither adapted from a bestselling manga nor features a cast of pop idols and instead portrays the daily work and life of an elderly toilet cleaner in Tokyo. Nevertheless, the heightened publicity becomes clear if we consider the film’s association with “The Tokyo Toilet” (TTT) project and its various powerful stakeholders. Since August 2020, seventeen stylish public toilets designed by sixteen world-renowned architects and designers — including household names like Tadao Andō, Toyō Itō, and Kengo Kuma — have been installed across Shibuya via the Tokyo Toilet project to “proudly symbolize Japanese hospitability to the world.”1“THE TOKYO TOILET,” The Nippon Foundation, accessed January 19, 2024, https://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/what/projects/thetokyotoilet. Initiated and funded by clothing giant Uniqlo’s Kōji Yanai in 2017 and jointly operated by Shibuya Ward and the Nippon Foundation, TTT was envisioned to be an international showcase of Tokyo’s sanitation infrastructure and advanced barrier-free facilities, primarily targeting foreign tourists during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In 2020, Takuma Takasaki, a creative director from Japan’s largest advertising agency Dentsu, was designated by Yanai to promote TTT and would be the one to invite Wenders on board. While the final product — a narrative film — has largely diverged from its purely promotional premise, which will be scrutinized later, Perfect Days retains its advertising function in many respects.

To use the promotion of Perfect Days at the Shibuya Crossing as an example, on one of its billboards, the tagline reads “one step forward please” (mō ippo mae e), which is an obvious nod to a common slogan pasted on urinals in Japan asking customers to use the facilities properly. As the tagline suggests, the promotion of Perfect Days has been deliberately carried out via the discourse of cleanliness, specifically requesting individuals to see the maintenance of public hygiene as a citizen’s obligation. Moreover, in one scene, the protagonist teaches a foreign-coded woman to use a transparent toilet in Yoyogi Park, further indicating that the advertisers were also consciously fabricating a narrative of “we” (the Japanese) educating and taking care of the “outsiders” in terms of sanitation. In this way, Perfect Days — from its production and distribution to the film text itself — indicates the interplay and superimposition of Tokyo’s evolving materiality of urban sanitation, the official promotion of public hygiene, and the constitution of cleanliness as a virtue in Japan. This article will use Perfect Days as an anchor to investigate the discourse of public cleanliness in contemporary Tokyo and Japan, and will especially examine how the film simultaneously serves a reflexive critique and a reinforcement of the normative discourse.

The first section surveys the development of public sanitation infrastructure, especially the object of toilets, in Japan’s modern history to discuss the discursive emergence of “cleanliness” as a cultural virtue. The second section investigates the decline of Tokyo’s public space within the context of the city’s pre-2020 Olympics urban renovation projects and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to criticize both the use of “cleansing” in urban planning and the problematic social mindset of “cleanliness.” In the third and most important part of the article, I will conduct textual analysis to demonstrate how Perfect Days reflexively reveals the dilemma embedded within the discourse of public cleanliness and serves as a critique of Tokyo’s cleanliness politics. Ultimately, however, by introducing the idea of “messiness” into the study of Asian cities, I criticize the collusion of Perfect Days with the aestheticized notion of cleanliness and question if it is ethical to keep oneself spotless in a hostile city like Tokyo.

Old Wine in a New Bottle: Material History and the Discourse of Public Cleanliness in Japan

The official website of The Tokyo Toilet (TTT) makes a bold statement: “Toilets are a symbol of Japan’s world-renowned hospitality culture.”2 “The Tokyo Toilet,” The Tokyo Toilet, accessed January 19, 2024, https://tokyotoilet.jp/en/. Yet this seemingly simple proclamation raises intricate issues related to the historical development of the public sanitation system in Japan’s imperial and postwar history, as well as the emergence of “cleanliness” as a “Japanese” virtue. The promotion of public hygiene and health, as investigated by Kerry S. Shannon, has been an effective discourse since the nineteenth century for Japanese officials to manifest the country’s modern progress to the West and exercise its power in its then colonies like Korea and Taiwan.3Kerry Seiji Shannon, “Cleanliness and Civilization: Public Health and the Making of Modern Japan and Korea, 1868-1910” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2019). Especially, education on the proper use of public toilets was one of the major concerns in the development of the imperial urban sanitation system.4Shannon, “Cleanliness and Civilization,” 75. Nevertheless, as Paul Kreitman indicates, it was only since the Occupation years (1945–52) that Japan sharpened its sensitivity to the foreign gaze on the nation’s public hygiene system: this was when the country started to worry about the negative impression its conventional night soil system might have on outsiders.5Paul Kreitman, “Attacked by Excrement: The Political Ecology of Shit in Wartime and Postwar Tokyo,” Environmental History 23, no. 2 (2018): 364. As an extension, the renovation of Tokyo’s sewerage infrastructure, coordinated with the increasing installation of flush toilets in new public housing projects, was conducted before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to improve Japan’s international image.6Kreitman, “Attacked by Excrement,” 363366. More specifically, such initiatives aimed to showcase Japan’s significant economic achievements in recovering from its war defeat, as well as the nation’s civil accomplishments against its fascist past. Following the popularization of flush toilets in the 1960s, Japanese companies also started to notice the invention of the wash air toilet seat in the United States. This eventually stimulated the creation of Japanese company TOTO’s multi-functional electric toilet seat, known as the Washlet, in the 1980s.7Marta E. Szczygiel, “From Night Soil to Washlet: The Material Culture of Japanese Toilets,” Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies 16, no. 3 (2016), https://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol16/iss3/szczygiel.html. Flashing forward to the 2000s, high-tech toilets have been officially included in the Japanese government’s “Cool Japan” campaign, redefining the “Western origin” of the toilet as something uniquely and proudly representative of Japanese culture.8Szczygiel, “From Night Soil to Washlet.”

As the brief history of public sanitation reveals, even if toilets are not its most important facet, they have been exploited to demarcate Japan (empire/revived nation/tourist haven) and Japanese (imperial/national) subjects from others. Moreover, the embedded understanding of “cleanliness” and the necessary practices of keeping the public space “clean” become vital in the constitution and maintenance of the Japanese cultural image to the “outside.” As Ryoko Nishijima suggests, cleanliness, both in general and specifically about toilets, has been pursued by the Japan Tourist Bureau since 1912 as a standard of hospitality to symbolize the civilization of the nation.9Ryoko Nishijima, “Aporia of Omotenashi: Hospitality in Post-Oriental and Post-Imperial Japan” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2017), 19. Today, domestic and foreign media coverage has further fabricated the “cleanliness” of Japan into myth-like status. For instance, the recent social media hype about Japanese fans cleaning up the stadium after 2022 Qatar World Cup games has helped to reinforce “tidiness” and “cleanliness” as common public virtues shared by all Japanese people.10Andrew Keh, “Cheer, Chant, Clean: Japan Takes Out the Trash, and Others Get the Hint,” New York Times, November 27, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/27/sports/soccer/japan-fans-clean-up-world-cup.html. Regardless of whether the Japanese fans were voluntarily cleaning or not,11There were also backlashes claiming that the cleaning up was intentionally organized by a few for creating the hype. See Keh, “Cheer, Chant, Clean.” the news echoes the official discourse in constructing “cleanliness” as a unique Japanese virtue to promote the country’s image internationally.

Tokyo 2020: Cleansing Makes the City More Hostile

While TTT project can be seen as just another example of Japan’s cleanliness politics, which largely targets foreigners, the clean and hospitable urban image it aims to create for Shibuya and Tokyo becomes problematic when we consider the context of the city’s grand urban redevelopment before the 2020 Olympics and the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast to the progress of public sanitation facilities in Tokyo that TTT aims to show off, the city’s public sphere has shrunk further under the name of urban cleansing in the last decades. One significant example is the renovation of Miyashita Park in Shibuya (below). After it opened to the public in the 1950s, the park became a well-known shelter for homeless people in Tokyo after the economic bubble burst in the 1990s. Since the establishment of Shibuya’s new urban projects in the 2000s, the park was rented out first to Nike and then to Mitsui Fudosan for operation and redevelopment, evicting its residents in the process. While the leasing of Miyashita Park implies the decline of its publicness, as Aya Kubota acutely indicates, its privatization was ironically conducted for “improving public welfare.”12Aya Kubota, “Toshi ni okeru kōen no saikō: jirei kenkyū: hankagai Shibuya ni okeru miyashita kōen no henyō,” Nihon kenchiku gakkai keikakukei ronbunshū 86, no. 781 (2021): 1008. The redevelopment of Miyashita Park represents a typical case of urban jōka—cleansing or sanitization—in Tokyo, As Tōru Takeoka’s investigation of the prolonged sanitization of Shinjuku and Roman A. Cybriwsky’s analysis of the cleansing of the Roppongi area in the twenty-first century indicate, underprivileged social groups, including the homeless, sex workers, and immigrant laborers, are often recognized as targets of these regulations.13See Tōru Takeoka, Ikinobiru Toshi: Shinjuku Kabukichō No Shakaigaku (Tokyo: Shinyōsha, 2017), 514. & Roman Adrian Cybriwsky, Roppongi Crossing: The Demise of a Tokyo Nightclub District and the Reshaping of a Global City (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2011), 152197. In other words, the discourse of “cleanliness” necessarily entails the existence of enemies that are seen as “unclean” and requiring sanitization. At the same time, the rhetoric of improving public welfare can simultaneously provide a moral excuse for profit-oriented development plans. In the face of capitalist development and official administration, cleanliness is often used to exploit rather than serve the public.

The new Miyashita Park features upscale shopping facilities by Mitsui Fudosan. Source: https://www.miyashita-park.tokyo/press/

The unexpected outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic as a sanitation crisis further unveiled how the idea of “maintaining public cleanliness” can serve to justify hate crimes against “unclean” others. Besides the pervasive discrimination against Chinese people as “bioterrorists” for spreading the virus,14Tessa Wong, “Sinophobia: How a Virus Reveals the Many Ways China Is Feared,” BBC News, February 20, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51456056. the murder of a homeless woman in Tokyo’s bus shelter illustrates the hostility embedded within the discourse of cleanliness more symptomatically. In the early morning of November 16, 2020, the 64-year-old homeless woman, who often spent the night in the Hatagaya bus shelter in Shibuya, was purged by a man from the neighborhood with a bag of rocks.15Kazuki Yamamoto, “Shibuya homulesu satsujin: hikoku shibō,” Bunshun online, April 10, 2022, https://bunshun.jp/articles/-/53436. The assailant would often voluntarily collect garbage on the street to maintain the cleanliness of his territory.16Yamamoto, “Shibuya homulesu satsujin.” As the tragedy implies, the constitution of cleanliness as a social virtue can easily transform from hospitality to foreign guests into hostility against “foreign” matters — especially towards those who are considered threats to public hygiene. Beyond these individual cases, hostility in the name of public cleanliness has been more systematically deployed through the increasing installation of hostile architecture in Tokyo’s public space to discourage people staying long-term.17Tarō Igarashi, “Haijo aato to kabōbi toshi no tanjō: fukanyō o meguru aato to dezain,” Bijutsu techō, December 12, 2020, https://bijutsutecho.com/magazine/insight/23127. Thus, against the backdrop of the general retreat of public space and increasing hostility of the city, the continuous promotion of Tokyo as a clean and inclusive haven, as manifested by TTT, should be seen as no more than performative and even hypocritical.

Rethinking The Subjects and Objects of Public Cleanliness Via Perfect Days

Within certain limitations, Perfect Days makes visible the dilemmas and tensions embedded within the discourse of public cleanliness in contemporary Japan. Perfect Days centers on the everyday life of the elderly Hirayama (Kōji Yakusho), who lives in an old apartment near the Tokyo Skytree and works for TTT as a toilet cleaner. The film documents Hirayama’s routine in meticulous detail: waking up early and driving to his workplace in Shibuya, cleaning up several of the designer public toilets across the city, eating lunch in a park, cleaning up toilets again, visiting the public bath after work, drinking at an izakaya in Asakusa, returning home and taking care of his plants, reading books before bed. This depiction of even the most trivial pockets of Hirayama’s mundane life leads film critic Mark Schilling to even describe the film as “Zen-like” and “poetically suggestive and evocatively playful over the prosaically explanatory.”18Mark Schilling, “Wim Wenders’ ‘Perfect Days’ Finds Beauty in Small Pleasures,” The Japan Times, January 4, 2024, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2024/01/04/film/perfect-days/. While Schilling’s eloquent sentiments resonate with me, I propose taking a step back to focus on the particular subject matter presented in Perfect Days before rushing to assess its aesthetic value. The film’s exploration of the daily operations of a public toilet facility, particularly through the perspective of a laborer, sheds light on a viewpoint often overlooked in grand urban planning schemes. However, the film’s connection to Shibuya’s urban renovation scheme, as mentioned earlier in this article, suggests that this “alternative” perspective could potentially be co-opted to endorse an official agenda. Therefore, a closer analysis of Hirayama’s status as a laborer and the specifics of how he performs his job is necessary for us to comprehend how the discourse of public cleanliness is negotiated in Perfect Days, especially in light of the contrasting perspectives of laborers (the film’s virtual subject) and urban planners (the film’s actual affiliation).

Perfect Days intervenes in the discourse of public cleanliness from several perspectives. The film’s meticulous and repetitive depiction of Hirayama’s daily toilet cleaning — preparing equipment, placing a floor sign, collecting trash, wiping the toilet and mopping floors — helps to foreground public sanitation as a specific type of labor with a standard operating procedure and carried out by particular professions, rather than an essential virtue shared by Japanese nationals. Instead of idealizing the profession, Perfect Days is frank about the dilemma of the toilet cleaners being treated as a less respectable occupation economically and socially. Hirayama’s sister, who appears later in the film, has a patronizing attitude towards his “poor” living conditions and underprivileged social status. Moreover, the film delineates the particular positionality of a toilet cleaner in the city by emphasizing Hirayama’s loose bond with a homeless man (Min Tanaka) living near the public toilet, who is portrayed in the film as an urban “ghost” who can only be seen by the protagonist. Rather than being a phantom of the surreal, the “ghostliness” of the man emphasizes the marginalized position of both characters standing on the edge of the metropolis, both hardly “visible” within the normative gaze. In contrast to the stylish TTT architecture, which receives maintenance and sanitization three times a day, the drifter’s tattered clothes and unkept appearance serve as a timely critique of Tokyo’s clean image and the cultural and economic agendas behind it.

Besides the film’s critical reflection on the superficial public cleanliness represented by TTT, Perfect Days also provides a less human-centric and development-oriented revision of urban sanitation via its object-oriented approach. By object-oriented approach, I am specifically referring to sequences, mostly in the first half of the movie, where the interaction between Hirayama and objects such as toilets and plants are meticulously depicted. While these sequences complement the depiction of Hirayama’s daily routine, they also purposefully extend beyond mere narrative function. Unlike most parts of the movie where Hirayama’s face is prominently featured to convey the taciturn man’s mental activities and emotions, these sequences focus on Hirayama’s physical movements, particularly the close-up of his hands as they directly interact with the objects. This shift in perspective from the man’s psychological state to a more objective view might redirect our focus from Hirayama’s individual life to the broader sanitation network of (and beyond) the city where the protagonist is situated.

On the one hand, Hirayama’s interaction with the toilets contains the potential to disrupt the national and ethnological constitution of cleanliness as “Japanese” without entirely neglecting the techniques for such discourse to be specifically configured in Japan. Hirayama’s technique when interacting with the Washlet — inspecting its water spray function and handling the seat — demystifies “Japanese high-tech” by revealing the broader technical network that allows the technical object to function. In other words, such an exhaustive depiction of human-machine interaction, according to machine theory, helps to replace the ethno-oriented and human-centric imaginary of the Washlet as an integral part of social becoming in the Japanese context.19Michael Fisch, An Anthropology of the Machine: Tokyo’s Commuter Train Network (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2018), 1–10. On the other hand, Hirayama’s interaction with the plants offers audiences a post-human perspective to contemplate public cleanliness through the lens of urban ecology. The scene where Hirayama carefully picks up new sprouts from the soil in a park and repots them at home indicates that the protagonist, who diligently adheres to the strict working schedule of his company, also remains attentive to the alternative temporality of the plants which exist alongside human society. Shifting the focus from Hirayama’s paid job to voluntary work enables a reimagination of Tokyo not only as a space for humans (as exhibited by TTT’s hospitality for tourism) but also as an ecological system of biological heterogeneity. Viewed through the lens of urban ecology, Hirayama’s dedication to caring for and living with the plants further suggests the potential for bottom-up actions that people can affirmatively take on a daily basis to maintain the balance of the local ecosystem and transcend profit-seeking and official image-building agendas.20Here, I use the word ‘affirmative’ to echo what Rosi Braidotti suggests as the insistence on an affirmative relational ethics, which is a “value that can support the task of telling the difference between profit-minded, entropic flows of self-interest and generous, empowering flows of solidarity.” See Rosi Braidotti, Posthuman Feminism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2022), 9. In these two scenes, the inwardly enclosed and xenophobic notion of public cleanliness, as seen in the examples presented in the previous sections, are reimagined through an open and ethical engagement with non-human others.

While the interaction between Hirayama and the objects surrounding him holds significant potential, it must be carefully distinguished from for-profit greenwashing and political agendas. As an official promotional project, Perfect Days serves as a reminder of this complex process of contestation and negotiation. Nevertheless, through its object-oriented approach, Perfect Days helps to restore the materiality of public cleanliness and makes visible how certain structural problems are being concealed (exemplified by TTT’s aestheticization of the toilets) and further transferred by the urban planners to the workers and citizens in actual practices. In one scene, Hirayama picks up trash stuck in-between the wood blocks that are installed on the toilet wall when performing his duties. The toilet, designed by Kengo Kuma, incorporates wood for both its exterior and interior to seamlessly blend into the surrounding forest environment of the park (below).21“Nabeshima Shoto Park,” The Tokyo Toilet, accessed January 19, 2024, https://tokyotoilet.jp/en/nabesima_park/. Although designed with an ecological ethics in mind, the numerous wood blocks on the wall fall victim to littering, increasing the toilet cleaners’ workload. Even if the scene was not scripted to criticize the design directly, the problem reveals itself via the materiality of the architecture in the simple image of human-object interaction during toilet cleaning. In contrast to the city planners’ intention to use TTT to raise citizens’ awareness of maintaining Tokyo’s public cleanliness,22Kōji Yanai and Takuma Takasaki, “Eiga ga dekiru made,” Switch, 2023, 67. the material condition of TTT itself suggests that problems might have already been installed within urban design. In other words, the object-oriented approach enables us to see how responsibility might have been transferred to the citizens as a kind of moral virtue and social obligation via the discourse of public cleanliness.

Beyond Cleanliness and Toward the Politics of Messiness
Interior of the Nabeshima Shoto Park toilet designed by Kengo Kuma. Source: https://tokyotoilet.jp/en/nabesima_park/

Although Perfect Days helps to reveal the dilemma embedded within the discourse of public cleanliness and serves as a timely critique of TTT’s promotional agendas, it still largely adheres to the perspective which sees cleanliness as a moral standard, in some ways reinforcing the discursive convention of “cleanliness” in the Japanese context. Hirayama’s depiction is the most problematic. Modeled after characters from the films of Wenders’s favorite Japanese filmmaker, Ozu Yasujirō, he is passive, introverted, and non-engaging in social matters. At the end of the day, Hirayama is depicted as an extremely “clean” individual who is both physically healthy and morally spotless. Hirayama’s stoic lifestyle is proof: daily baths, drinking in moderation, reading classic literature, speaking only if necessary, never cursing at others, and being financially sound. Such an idealized character occupies a safe position within official discourse that sees cleanliness as moral. In contrast, Hirayama’s younger colleague (Emoto Tokio) is presented as both physically untidy and irresponsible during work, which reinforces the cleanliness–morality nexus.

This tendency becomes evident in the film’s contrast between the old, quiet, and humane Oshiage neighborhood where Hirayama lives and the modern, noisy, and indifferent ward of Shibuya where the protagonist works. Instead of recognizing the heterogeneity of each space and confronting Tokyo as a city that is already too complicated to grasp from a vantage point, this simple binarism challenges Shibuya’s superficial cleanliness politics by asserting the shitamachi (old town) as a haven of morality. While Perfect Days is not necessarily mysophobic, it is alarming that a film about toilet-cleaning has deliberately chosen to omit shots of actual excrement — in fact, the toilets Hirayama maintains are comparably clean. Such deliberate concealment echoes how Hirayama also never dares to smear the real “shits” of society on himself: in one of the most emblematic scenes, Hirayama witnesses the ghostly homeless man — whom only he can see but chooses not to talk to — vanishing into the crowd of the busy Shibuya streets. Despite serving society, Hirayama ultimately refrains from engaging with the public beyond his designated tasks, mirroring the low level of involvement in public and especially political affairs in contemporary Japanese society.

To challenge the notion of public cleanliness as a moral and social virtue, this article ends with a speculative call for an alternative politics based on its antithesis. In Messy Urbanism, Manish Chalana and Jeffrey Hou argue that the tension between order/disorder contained within the urban condition of “messiness” might indicate an “alternative structure and hierarchy as well as agency and actions that are often subjugated by the dominant.”23Jeffery Hou and Manish Chalana, “Untangling the ‘Messy’ Asian City,” in Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia, ed. Jeffery Hou and Manish Chalana (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016), 4. Building on their insights, I would like to argue that embracing the constructive conception of “messiness” can serve as a catalyst for people’s engagement in public affairs within urban life. If the governance of homeless people through the regulation of public space demonstrates an attempt to contain messiness in physical form, then Perfect Days vividly showcases the common tendency, and probably also the limitations, of self-regulation against the messiness of urban life, not only in Japan but also in neoliberal societies in general. The last scene, a long take close-up of Hirayama’s face which evocatively portrays the man trying to contain his emotions after various dramatic occurrences had disrupted his peaceful and self-complacent life, indicates a moment in which the protagonist attempts to digest life’s messiness as an individual in order to return to his everyday life. It is crucial that Wenders leaves the ending open because it allows us space to imagine how emotions can no longer be contained within the “self”, and thus potentially provides both Hirayama and those watching the film with an opportunity to start engaging in the shit and dirt of the messy urban society.


Hao Wen is this year’s graduate student essay prize winner for the Urbanism, Geography, Architecture Scholarly Interest Group of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. 

Notes

Notes
1 “THE TOKYO TOILET,” The Nippon Foundation, accessed January 19, 2024, https://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/what/projects/thetokyotoilet.
2 “The Tokyo Toilet,” The Tokyo Toilet, accessed January 19, 2024, https://tokyotoilet.jp/en/.
3 Kerry Seiji Shannon, “Cleanliness and Civilization: Public Health and the Making of Modern Japan and Korea, 1868-1910” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2019).
4 Shannon, “Cleanliness and Civilization,” 75.
5 Paul Kreitman, “Attacked by Excrement: The Political Ecology of Shit in Wartime and Postwar Tokyo,” Environmental History 23, no. 2 (2018): 364.
6 Kreitman, “Attacked by Excrement,” 363366.
7 Marta E. Szczygiel, “From Night Soil to Washlet: The Material Culture of Japanese Toilets,” Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies 16, no. 3 (2016), https://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol16/iss3/szczygiel.html.
8 Szczygiel, “From Night Soil to Washlet.”
9 Ryoko Nishijima, “Aporia of Omotenashi: Hospitality in Post-Oriental and Post-Imperial Japan” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2017), 19.
10 Andrew Keh, “Cheer, Chant, Clean: Japan Takes Out the Trash, and Others Get the Hint,” New York Times, November 27, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/27/sports/soccer/japan-fans-clean-up-world-cup.html.
11 There were also backlashes claiming that the cleaning up was intentionally organized by a few for creating the hype. See Keh, “Cheer, Chant, Clean.”
12 Aya Kubota, “Toshi ni okeru kōen no saikō: jirei kenkyū: hankagai Shibuya ni okeru miyashita kōen no henyō,” Nihon kenchiku gakkai keikakukei ronbunshū 86, no. 781 (2021): 1008.
13 See Tōru Takeoka, Ikinobiru Toshi: Shinjuku Kabukichō No Shakaigaku (Tokyo: Shinyōsha, 2017), 514. & Roman Adrian Cybriwsky, Roppongi Crossing: The Demise of a Tokyo Nightclub District and the Reshaping of a Global City (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2011), 152197.
14 Tessa Wong, “Sinophobia: How a Virus Reveals the Many Ways China Is Feared,” BBC News, February 20, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51456056.
15 Kazuki Yamamoto, “Shibuya homulesu satsujin: hikoku shibō,” Bunshun online, April 10, 2022, https://bunshun.jp/articles/-/53436.
16 Yamamoto, “Shibuya homulesu satsujin.”
17 Tarō Igarashi, “Haijo aato to kabōbi toshi no tanjō: fukanyō o meguru aato to dezain,” Bijutsu techō, December 12, 2020, https://bijutsutecho.com/magazine/insight/23127.
18 Mark Schilling, “Wim Wenders’ ‘Perfect Days’ Finds Beauty in Small Pleasures,” The Japan Times, January 4, 2024, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2024/01/04/film/perfect-days/.
19 Michael Fisch, An Anthropology of the Machine: Tokyo’s Commuter Train Network (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2018), 1–10.
20 Here, I use the word ‘affirmative’ to echo what Rosi Braidotti suggests as the insistence on an affirmative relational ethics, which is a “value that can support the task of telling the difference between profit-minded, entropic flows of self-interest and generous, empowering flows of solidarity.” See Rosi Braidotti, Posthuman Feminism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2022), 9.
21 “Nabeshima Shoto Park,” The Tokyo Toilet, accessed January 19, 2024, https://tokyotoilet.jp/en/nabesima_park/.
22 Kōji Yanai and Takuma Takasaki, “Eiga ga dekiru made,” Switch, 2023, 67.
23 Jeffery Hou and Manish Chalana, “Untangling the ‘Messy’ Asian City,” in Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia, ed. Jeffery Hou and Manish Chalana (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016), 4.
Wen, Hao. "Tokyo Sanitization: Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days and the Discourse of Public Cleanliness in Japan." Mediapolis: A Journal of Cities and Culture 9, no.1 (April 2024).
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