There is a theory that we all have a twin — that somewhere in the world, maybe even in your own country, there is someone else who looks almost exactly like you. We’ve all been told before that we look like a person someone knows, or that our mannerisms are so similar to someone else’s that it is uncanny. Even some Japanese people look or remind me of friends back home who are not even Asian. Your equal may be the same of heart and mind, not just looks.
As you sit in your air-conditioned office in Tokyo, or somewhere else in the world, working on your computer, checking emails, writing proposals and sending important instant messages, do you ever think about what your twin is doing? Have you been curious as to how tall that person is, how they dress or what age they are? Do you ever wonder if they too like chocolate, Hello Kitty or “Star Wars”? Have you considered that maybe your double lives in Japan? And that you might meet them someday? Well, I have.
In fact, I often wonder what your twin is doing. I’d even bet your doppelganger in Japan is doing the same thing you are, but in a slightly different way. In the same manner that Japan vacillates between the traditional and modern, the way it floats between swells of quietude and electronic bliss, you and your clone do too.
As you check your cell phone for today’s weather forecast, for example, your double could be somewhere in Shikoku, in a traditional Japanese-style country house opening the shoji screen doors to look outside and assess the day.
At the time you squeeze onto the morning rush-hour train, nudging bodies toward the back of the car, your second self is walking a mountain path. The early-morning incandescent light spills down the mountainside while slithering salamanders and mountain crabs disappear from the trail into the shadows of safety.
You spill out of the train at your station just as your counterpart arrives at a field on the other side of the hill. It’s 8 a.m., the chime rings. As you check your email, an agronomist is checking his rice paddy for weeds, pests, a change in the weather. He fixes one thing, works through another and delays yet others until time permits.
Some colleagues have gathered around the water tank at work, chit-chatting about last weekend, the latest news, what John said. Neighbors in the rice paddies are gossiping about their new grandchild, a neighbor’s passing or an impending family wedding.
You’re late to your lunch meeting. You hop on a bicycle and as you speed down the sidewalk, the ringing bell of your deadly treadly echoes the tinkling of a Buddhist go-eika bell at a temple. Your iPod croons whilst the spiritual you chants sutras in the hall of the Buddha.
An incense stick held over the flame of a candle bursts into a single flame — eureka! You have an idea. This new brainstorm will help your project move forward to a swifter conclusion. Win-win.
Your smartphone dings — an instant message has arrived. It’s a cute cat video sent by your wife. Your analogous other is sharing his rice ball with a stray cat who hunts for mice in the rice fields. A bit of the yin, a bit of the yang.
You make a list of things to pick up at the grocery on your way home from work. No rain, sun or soil is needed. Your simulacrum is given some fresh produce from his neighbor.
Back at the office, you finish your proposal, which flows like calligraphy on mulberry parchment paper. A rice paddy in Shikoku ripens to the golden hue of twilight. Harvest time is near, the ensō circle of enlightenment.
Weeks later, you check your email and open an attachment asking for the digital signature of approval on your proposal. The Japan Post mailman, on his motorbike with the red box on the back, tootles up to a farmer’s house and asks him to sign for the receipt of some documents.
After work you pump iron at the gym; the farmer moves sacks of rice. You join some colleagues from work and sing karaoke late into the night while frogs belt out amphibian songs in a rice paddy in Shikoku.
The next morning, you check your cell phone for the day’s weather forecast. Not a cloud in the sky. You squeeze onto the morning rush-hour train, close your eyes to shut out the crowd while, simultaneously, the farmer prays to the fox spirit at an Inari shrine.
Just as you arrive at work, the 8 a.m. chime sounds. Your phone rings.
It’s a call from an agriculturalist in Shikoku who has heard about your proposal for growing rice on Tokyo rooftops.
You’ve met your twin: the power of you squared.
Japan Lite appears in print on the fourth Monday Community Page of the month. Comments: email@example.com