Perfect Days; Aoi Sakana

Yesterday between meetings etc. I got to go see the film “Perfect Days.” 2023 film, directed by Wim Wenders, set in Tokyo. The main character, Hirayama (who works cleaning public restrooms and drives a little work van equipped with a cassette deck), loves to listen to cassette tapes of music from the 60s and 70s, mainly American or British but there was this one very haunting Japanese song by a female vocalist.

By staying to watch the music credits which I always do with films, and also by looking up later on the Internet, I was able to find the YouTube video, and then able to find a page with a side-by-side translation of the lyrics. I can read Japanese, but the great thing is this site provides not only the English translation but also the Romanized reading of the Japanese so you can enjoy the sound of the Japanese without having knowing how to read Japanese.

Truly truly I love the Internet sometimes.

Having taken a pledge, as a climate activist, not to take any more airplane flights makes things a challenge sometimes but I have always said we have to make some sacrifices, and films like this make it easier for me to reconcile my heart with the reality that I am very unlikely ever to set foot in Japan again unless there are some kind of very strange and unusual circumstances. Japan is sort of my second homeland — Even just living there briefly as a kid when our family was stationed there, and then living there for five years as an adult, it permeated the fiber of my heart and soul. For a time I was not sure if I would ever come back to the USA.

Sometimes when I watch a film set in Japan it gets my heart and brain off-kilter for a few days. Even my physical body almost feels pulled in two directions like standing with one foot on a pier and one foot on the boat.

But yesterday I was able to have all of the good things, all of the sensory memories from watching the film, but then to be able to enjoy a knowingness of being called to help bring to the parched, relentlessly utilitarian, gleefully soul-stealing culture of my birth some of the beauty and human richness I discovered by being fortunate enough to be able to spend time in Japan.

Richness, and simplicity. It’s a lavish richness and simplicity at the same time. That’s what it feels like to me.

I like that even though the film was made in 2023, a lot of the scenes looked not so different from how it looked/felt to be living there back in the early 1990s. The rundown yet so appealing low rise apartment building; the humble commuter bicycle that’s transportation to laundromat and all the neighborhood nooks: snack pub, bookstore, photo developer shop. The tree-shaded temple grounds, where the public is always welcome to come sit, eat lunch.

I just realized they were probably trying to make it look oldtimey, I’m really not thinking that there are photo developer shops on the street corner so much in Tokyo anymore. But I could be wrong. Anyway I wanted to crawl into the screen and live in that world. I could practically smell the neighborhood smells and feel the air on my skin.

Anyway! Go see the film Perfect Days. BTW one of the songs Hirayama loves to play on the cassette deck of his little work-van is Perfect Day by Lou Reed.

Also look up The Tokyo Toilet project, very cool. 17 distinctive public restrooms commissioned from designers around the world, and built in / around the Shibuya district of Tokyo. “Spectacular” might not be a word you associate with a toilet, but these public restroom facilities truly are spectacular!

And here is a link to the song lyrics:青い魚_(Aoi_Sakana)

Update, now that I listen more closely I noticed that some of the lyrics are missing and/or different, so I will look for another transcript & translation as well. OK – Here you go, this one the Japanese looks accurate*:青い魚-キミーゴ-a-k-a-qimygo/amp/

And the music video of Sachiko Kanenobu performing the gorgeous, haunting song itself:

Aoi Sakana, Sachiko Kanenobu

And I learned a new word from the film: komorebi. (This word with its definition was displayed on the screen near the end, with an image of light and shadows dancing as per the description. I thought I had taken a pic of the movie screen at that moment but I guess I forgot. So I just now did a search and found someone else’s description. This is from a film photographer’s website, Lomography.)

“Nature has a way of providing subjects for us every day, so long as we remember to notice them. One of those things is made possible by the wind, trees, and sunlight. And it has a name, komorebi.

Komorebi is a Japanese word that describes the light that peers through the spaces left by leaves and branches and the shadows they produce. The swaying of the leaves creates a delicate dance on surfaces. Usually unnoticed or even unseen…”

Komorebi scenes feature prominently in the film.

I love this because I have often been captivated by the beauty of what I call “wall art” or “shadow art” or “nature art.” Leaves and shadows flickering in the wind and sunlight, projected onto a wall. And have often posted those on my social media.

By the way, I saw the film at Cinematique Theater, the independent cinema on Beach Street in downtown Daytona Beach — and I believe the only independent cinema in any of the surrounding cities if I’m not mistaken. Support independent cinema! Cinematique is a jewel.

* Although the Japanese on the second link I posted is a faithful reflection of the song, the English is a bit choku-yaku so I took a stab at a translation:

The blue sea
And the blue fish
We used to hold them in the palm of our hand.
Now the only thing
in the palm of this hand
is the cold wind blowing through.
Grotesque flock of kids;
Tire-tracks in the road —
Only the blurry-faced moon
follows the tire-tracks left from yesterday.
You’d think the blindfolds of the chickens would have peeled off in the moonlight.
But they just keep looking up at the sky with their blindfolds still on
Just standing there
Just standing there

(No, chickens is not a typo for children. It took me a minute to try to puzzle this out, but I got the feel of likening humans to a mindless flock of chickens not paying attention (to the environmental destruction or whatever else). What we might call “sheeple” in the USA. I could be totally off, it’s just my best guess.)