In Douglas Adams’ future dystopia novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a giant computer finally determines the answer to the meaning of life: 42. The joke was that nobody knew the question.

In April 2000, Yasuko Furuichi, exhibition coordinator at the Japan Foundation Asia Center, had her own big question: What is Asia? She posed it not to a computer but to a group of curators. Their answer: 43.

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