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Cannes Lions 2024 – The Story Behind Koji Yanai’s Oscar-Nominated Film

How Koji Yanai and Takuma Takasaki created the Oscar-Nomatinated Film, Perfect Days.

Perfect Days” is an Oscar-nominated and award-winning movie created by Koji Yanai, the senior executive officer of Fast Retailing Group, and Takuma Takasaki, the ECD of Dentsu. The movie was based on The Tokyo Toilet Project, a public bathroom revitalization project created to improve Tokyo’s public facilities. In Monday afternoon’s session at the Cannes Lions Festival, “Don’t Work from the Goal: Expanding the Creative Potential”, Koji Yanai, and Takuma Takasaki, break down the origin of “Perfect Days” and the Tokyo Toilet Project

Koji Yanai’s initial idea for Present Days was completely different from the final product. In 2016, Yanai recollects how he was deeply impacted by “We’re the Superhumans”, Channel 4’s commercial promoting the 2016 Paralympic Games. Around the same time, Yanai recollects having a conversation with Shingo Kuneida, the most successful wheelchair tennis player in the world. Yanai was told that Tokyo is not a very accessible city. This is where Yanai’s idea for the Tokyo Toilet Project started, however, it didn’t end there. 

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After this conversation, Koji felt motivated to create something special for the disabled community. Since many services and luxuries are not accessible to those with disabilities, Yanai wanted to create something that only the disabled community could use. However, Koji’s father, Tadashi Yanai, the Founder and CEO of Uniqlo, gave him wisdom that completely changed the project’s direction. “Specialness is nice to have, but what’s more important is being made for all.” The idea of making something for all is at the very heart of what Uniqlo does.

This comment changed Yanai’s mind and his plans. Yanai now planned to create something that everyone could use. Yanai explains why he decided to focus on public bathrooms specifically. “Sometimes, I cannot sleep at night, I have to skip a lunch or a dinner, but there are no days when we don’t go to the toilet.”

Now that he was settled on a direction, Yanai had to figure out how he would create an innovative public bathroom. He discovered 7 things that are wrong with the public bathroom. “Almost all public toilets have the same issues, Dark, Dirty, smelly, scary, women avoid them, not friendly for the disabled, not friendly for the children and sometimes hard to locate.” To make his vision a reality, Yanai invited great minds from many different professions to help design the bathrooms – creative directors, professors, architects, and product designers were all invited to design an innovative public bathroom. 

Yanai’s the biggest challenge in The Tokyo Toilet Project. “Can we sustain this with the highest level of cleanliness?”

That’s when Yanai contacted Takuma Takasaki, the ECD of Dentsu. Takasaki convinced Yanai to create a film based on the Tokyo Toilet project. They sought to create a stylized movie honouring the project’s cleaning crew. With the help of film director Wim Wenders and actor Koji Yakusho, the film won numerous awards, including the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or and an Oscar nomination. 

The critical response around “Perfect Days” reveals an important truth for advertisers. Yanai and Takasaki did not create “Perfect Days” for marketing or commercial reasons. However, the film was overwhelmingly impactful in promoting The Tokyo Toilet Project. This project is overwhelming evidence that great art is the best promotion. 

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