Kitano Meets Obama

The evening edition of the Asahi is reporting on President Obama's first visit to Japan since assuming office. As part of his short visit, Obama made a major policy speech at Suntory Hall. Putting aside the content, one thing that was interesting was that Obama's staff strategically invited people of different kinds of importance, something significant enough that the Asahi had to report on it.. There was the mayor of Nagasaki, a city that suffered from the atomic bomb; the mayor of an Okinawan city, which is suffering from American bases; and even the parents of Yokota Megumi, the Japanese girl who was kidnapped by North Korean agents. There was also the mayor of Obama City, which has done its best to promote its accidental relation to the president. All these invites can attract their own little articles - and thus favorable publicity - here and there in the Japanese media. But essential in Japan, and especially in the Japanese media, are tarento, the fuel that makes the entertainment system run. And so a number of personalities were invited, including Puffy, Jero, and Motoki Masahiro, the star of Departures (Okuribito). 

I also saw Kitano Takeshi on the list, the subject of my first book. I wonder why Takeshi got invited. Is Obama a fan of his films? Did Obama read my book (perhaps because we were at the same college at the same time?). Probably not. Someone on the staff likely just figured Takeshi is an important international figure who might generate some buzz.

And they were right. Of course the Asahi had to quote him on his reactions:

    I'd give him 50 points [out of 100]. It's what I expected. . . . Compared to a Japanese prime minister, the show was good, something you'd figure from the leader of an entertainment nation. If I were him, I would have done an opening with a medley of American songs, but, well, he did quite well considering how busy he is.

If that was supposed to be the opening, I personally would have liked to have seen an ending where Obama broke out in a tap dance. In an homage to Zatoichi, of course.

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