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Perhaps there comes a day in many a man’s life when he squints and says to himself something like this: 「まずいなぁ、もう少し度の強いメガネがあったら良かった。この距離だと、あの方が女装している北野武さんなのか、ミス・インターナショナルなのか、分からないや」(“Mazui nā, mō sukoshi do no tsuyoi megane ga attara yokatta. Kono kyori da to, ano kata ga jyosō shiteiru Kitano Takeshi-san nanoka, Misu Intānashonaru nanoka, wakaranai ya,” “Yikes, if only I had stronger eyeglasses. At this distance I can’t tell whether that’s Takeshi Kitano in drag or a Miss International beauty queen”).

I’m nestled in the corner of a Nippon Television studio next to the sort of 自販機 (jihanki, vending machines) you see clustered throughout Tokyo. It’s early in the afternoon before a variety program’s 収録 (shūroku, filming), so I’m reviewing a stack of Japanese カンペ (kanpe, cue cards) and trying to find additional 突っ込み所 (tsukkomidokoro, places for zingers).

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