Yakusho and one of his co-stars of the film "Perfect Days," directed by Germany's Wim Wenders, spoke at the Japan National Press Club about two weeks after the award ceremony.
They also talked about Japan's film industry, which some observers have said is lagging behind the rest of the world.
Studying how to play a public toilet cleaner
"Perfect Days" is set is in central Tokyo's Shibuya. Its plot follows the daily life of a man named Hirayama who makes a living as a public toilet cleaner, played by Yakusho.
Asked about his first impression when he was offered the role, Yakusho said he was attracted not only to the character but to the film's wider scope. He said, "I remember my image of the story expanded."
To play the role of the middle-aged toilet cleaner, Yakusho said he spent two days with actual cleaners to study what they did. He said he also visited every public toilet in Shibuya to learn about a project called The Tokyo Toilet, on which the film is based. Each of the 17 types of toilet has a different shape and requires a different cleaning method, so he needed to learn many techniques for his performance.
The movie has not been released in Japan, and Yakusho did not disclose any details related to that.
He described Hirayama as a man who notices those around him, and has compassion for a homeless man, played by Tanaka, who is invisible to other people.
Yakusho described the movie as an "art film," but said it was an approachable kind.
"The movie has no blood, no killing, no bullying — it merely follows a man who cleans toilets. But it depicts moments in which nature, society, move in way that is as lifelike as possible," he said.
Yakusho also said the film leaves room for audience members to experience their own unique feelings.
Future of Japanese film industry
Yakusho explained that the process of making "Perfect Days" was completely different from the way Japanese films are made.
He said its production started without any distribution channels or film companies lined up. He had never experienced anything like that before, but he called working with director Wenders a "dream job."
Yakusho said he believes that if Japanese directors could shoot films as freely as they please, they could showcase their strengths.
In response to a question asking whether he could muster support for Japan's apparently struggling film industry, the actor said Japan needs to look beyond its borders and make films that appeal to a global audience.
"I believe the film industry itself will not be enriched or unique unless we can work not only within Japan but also seek world-class planning and development, as well as continuous cultivation of human resources," he said.
Yakusho said fundraising was essential to achieve this.
Regarding his own future as an actor, Yakusho said he wants to contribute to the film industry on behalf of the many people who have influenced him.