Dream: “Japan is a Hugh Grant society.” Continue this story, everyone.


Good morning, Blog. It’s not like me to put dreams up on this blog (except maybe the pipe dreams, like a Japan with a law against racial discrimination 🙂 ), but I just had such a zinger that I thought I’d put it up. And give readers a chance to complete the story themselves in the Comments section, as I woke up laughing before the next person in line in the dream could take up where I left off.


Scene in the dream: The back of a bus in a long road trip, destination unknown, with a bunch of bored people including for no apparent reason (this is a dream, remember) Hugh Grant, Hollywood actor. People wanted to poke fun, so we decided to create a chain-letter style story where one person would take up the story where the last one left off. It was my dream, so I started:

“When the Hugh Grant woke up that morning, he had no idea what kind of a day he was in for.

“Hugh had lived quite a successful life, developing a character built on personal embarrassment, charm, stuttering, and all manner of endearing and self-effacing characteristics that his fans found appealing and his detractors couldn’t really fling mud at. He was a profitable character too, ingratiating himself into many situations around the world, showing himself as willing to do what it took in public to give himself a good image (as that was the very nature of his job, of course–to be an appealing character), and leaving a positive impression lingering long after he had left the building–of somebody you’d like to see more of. Even if the only lingering memory Hugh himself had of any of these situations was the fact that he had been present there. And it was very, very difficult to imagine Hugh’s other side, like of him on the toilet having long and loud bowel movements, or of having predilections for late-night trysts with ladies of the night, or of lacking the shy yet sticking-to-it character that was omnipresent wherever he went. And if he were caught with his pants down, he would offer charmingly tearful apologies in public. Awww… never mind, people would say. Good job. Mission accomplished.

“Japan was much the same if you thought about it. A society that loves to show the outside world in its shy, stuttering, self-effacing manner, that Japanese were a group of uniformly ‘shiny, happy people’ and ‘hardworking ganbarujans’ in its media, music, catchy train ringtones, video games, etc.. How whenever Japan went overseas and faced the foreign public, be it media or individual homestay host, it was the job of every Japanese to act as an ingratiating cultural representative, leaving a nice impression lingering that we were a nice friendly people living in a nice friendly place with a shy but huggable persona, something you’d like to see more of (and would even pay money to do so). Even if many memories of these lucky plucky kokutai volunteers was ultimately the fact that they had made a good impression on others, less the impression the others had made on them. No matter. It served some sort of purpose–Japan as a character was profiting nicely.

“And it covered up the elements of Japan’s dark side: the fingerprinting of foreigners at the border as suspected terrorists and criminals; the racial discrimination so endemic and systematic that it was ignored, even justified by some as a matter of culture; the long and current history of dalliances with sexual slavery; the fundamental problems of inequality and squander created by a powerful (and largely unquestioned) ruling elite, one that has long forgotten (if it ever knew) what the common person needs; the unanswered questions of why hikikomori, why ijime, why the odd dichotomy between the purported crime-free society and the constant media focus on crime (except when it was white-collar or otherwise organized crime), why the largest pay differential between men and women in the OECD, why an ardent refusal to play by international rules and accept global standards…? No matter. People liked Japan for the image it put out. Just don’t come here and try and scratch the surface by staying here too long–you’d only get confused by the public persona and the reality. And if they were caught out in the Grand Kabuki, they would offer charmingly tearful apologies in public and get back to business as usual. Good job. Mission accomplished.

“And as Hugh Grant woke up that morning in the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo, he had no idea what kind of a day he was in for. He was about to enter Hugh Grant Society himself…”


This was where I woke up, laughing, rats. So I blog this for a bit of fun. Nothing against Hugh Grant, seriously (I have no idea why he’s in this dream!), but who wants to fill in the next part of the story? Or fill in the next segment for somebody else to take up the baton?

Japan as the Hugh Grant Society. Enjoy. Debito

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