I sit at a table, drinking with an old friend with whom I share a lot, and not just bar tabs. We have both gulped away most of our adult lives in Japan.
Long enough to remember not only the bursting of the economic bubble but also the earnest bubble-pumping of the ’70s and ’80s.
A time when the economy was doing loop-de-loops like some high-flying trapeze act. And you could look into people’s eyes and see actual hope, instead of the reflections from their smartphones.
Ah, those were the days! We drink to them!
And then my buddy reveals his plan to bring them back.
But first he treats me to another round. Both of beer and economic analysis.
“Awakening the echoes is the latest trend,” he tells me with a belch. “Look at the new LDP administration.”
I note how he arches his eyebrows with the word “new.”
“It’s frankensteining up the old economic remains of governments past — more public spending and a weaker yen. Nothing like some pork to feed the folks at home and then lower export prices to bait consumers abroad.”
“They’re banking on what has worked before now working again,” I tell him, arching my own eyebrows on the word “banking.”
“Exactly,” he says. “Although what they really need are just more attractive Japanese products, like in the glory years.”
So here it comes. He’s going to argue for the rebirth of some Japanese industry. What will it be? Better TVs? Better cameras? Better Washlets? What?
“None of those,” he says. “What this economy needs is the rebirth of a hero. And a big one. And who is bigger than . . .” Now he arches not only his brows but his entire hairline.
“. . . Godzilla.”
I am too surprised to even spit beer.
“Think about it a second,” he suggests.
So I do and then I spit beer.
He lifts his hands. “Big rubber monsters are what this country was built on. Can’t you recall when we were kids and we’d get those movies with Godzilla always fighting some chump monster of the month?
“Yes, and poorly dubbed too, with the actors all speaking English like their lips were broken.”
“Who cared? Godzilla was the symbol of Japan on the rise, roaring up from the waves to wreak havoc on any and all opposition. Nothing could stop him. Even if he got killed, he would still return for another film. And now Japan needs Godzilla to rise once again! To bring the economy back!”
I figure to stop this silliness in its monster-sized tracks.
“There’s a new Godzilla movie due out in 2014, I believe.”
“No, no, no! I don’t mean some slick American clone, all done up in 3D and packed with CG. I mean the real thing. A big floppy monster with googly eyes!”
“A guy in a suit?”
“Yes, but a slimy symbol of the real thing. Godzilla! Risen from the depths! Big and green and ornery and looking to raise hell! And that’s exactly what Japan needs. Not pork barrel politics or other economic slights of hands. It needs a Godzilla-style attitude!”
I can’t decide if he’s had too much to drink or not yet enough.
And then he raises both hands like claws, opens his mouth wide and roars into the bar.
OK. Too much.
He roars again, somewhat softer.
“I can’t go full throttle with this. Godzilla’s roar is copyrighted, you know.”
All I know is he should tone it down.
“Listen,” he says, “can you imagine Godzilla with his spiny tail between his legs?”
A question that would make anyone pause.
“You can’t, can you? That’s because Godzilla is not the kind of monster to back down. It’s not in his DNA. Likewise, Japan needs to roar at the economic competition. Yet it keeps acting more like Rex from “Toy Story.” Wringing his tiny T-Rex hands and hoping this plan or that plan will somehow work. Instead it needs to stand tall and roar! Take trade talks, for example. Here’s what Japan should say to those!”
And he raises his hands and roars again!
Eyes dart our way as I try to shush him.
“Bring ‘em on, Baby! Bring ‘em on!”
“So,” I tell him when he calms, “You’re saying some new Godzilla films would revive Japan’s economy?”
Maybe the idea’s not that far-fetched at that. After all, Godzilla has always carried some anti-nuclear symbolism. He is strong enough, I suppose, to hoist some economic imagery as well.
“If it’s not too late. What they should have done was mold the Skytree as Godzilla. Now that would have sent a message!”
Ah, yes, but what kind of message? A metaphor for might? Or nuttiness?
“The message that Japan stands tall!”
I think we have hit our limit.
“Oh buy another round! It’s one true way we little guys can help the economy, right?”
And so we continue. Awakening the echoes, one glass at a time.
Photo by Ian Myles.