People | 20 QUESTIONS

20 Questions: The best answers of 2018

by Staff Writers and Contributing Writers

What Japanese phrase do you like the most? Taoyaka,” meaning “graceful.” It’s ambiguous and sounds kind of strange, but I like the image it conjures in my mind — a beautiful, graceful woman. — Junko Naito, fashion public relations, Oct. 13

Life in Japan is a giant simulation game: What are your top three unlocked achievements? 1. Self sponsoring my visa. 2. Mastering the art of idle chit-chat. 3. Not crying while looking for an exit in Shinjuku Station. — Hawken King, designer-programmer of Dadako, April 28

If you could only paint in one color, what would it be? Black, absolutely. Black is an infinite color and the foundation of sumi-e (ink painting). — Masanobu Ota, yuzen dye artist, April 21

What do you think about while standing on the train?

Sosuke Kitamura
Sosuke Kitamura | TSUMUGI KITAMURA

I sometimes imagine placing Edo Period wigs on people’s heads and group them into categories like samurai, merchants and town girls. It’s amusing to think their features were passed on by their ancestors’ DNA. — Sosuke Kitamura, calligrapher, Jan. 27

What’s the biggest faux pas you can make as a photographer? Thinking you’re the bees knees. — Nico Perez, photographer and visual artist, July 28

You accompanied Ryuichi Sakamoto to Rarotonga for the filming of “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.” How did that happen and what do you remember about it?

Peter Barakan
Peter Barakan

I was working for (Sakamoto’s) management at the time. One night we were drinking at the poolside bar of the only hotel on the island, when David Bowie nonchalantly came down for a drink and had the barman play his cassette of old R&B. — Peter Barakan, broadcaster / DJ, Sept. 29

If you were to write an autobiography, what would you title it? “I Rage-quit too.” Because I still do on games. Considering my career so far, most people think I never lose in online racing games, but to be frank I do and I get angry like everybody else when I lose a race. And sometimes I rage-quit too! — Jann Mardenborough, racing driver, March 10

What was your most shocking experience at work?

Hidemitsu Shimizu
Hidemitsu Shimizu

When making a learning material CD, I had to rap a math study book to looped drum beats, like, “Yo yo, the square of the side opposite the right angle is, yo, equal to the sum of … yeah. Pythagorean theorem in da house!” — Hidemitsu Shimizu, narrator, voice actor, Nov. 10

You’ve featured dogs, bears, even a beaver in your artwork; what’s wrong with cats? I love cats, but they are played out in the image world. Too commercial. They’re also hard to draw in profile, whereas dogs are just a few French curves and you’re done. Canines communicate that stunned, clueless look better than cats, too. I like that about dogs. They drool. — Rob Judges, artist, April 4

Do you have a favorite movie quote? “With great power comes great responsibility,” from “Spider-Man.” — Tulio Andrade, cultural attache at the Brazilian Embassy, June 23

We all want to know — what would happen to Kanto if Mount Fuji actually erupted? An eruption that caused significant ash fall would disrupt transport networks, so we should make sure we have emergency supplies in our homes and be prepared to follow official advice. Keep calm and carry on! — Iona McIntosh, volcanologist, May 12

You have a magic lamp, but only one wish left. What would you wish for? To keep my family and friends in the next life.” — Max Goshko-Dankov, artist, Nov. 24

What do you have too many of?

Yayoi Motohashi
Yayoi Motohashi

Things in general, especially clothes and books. My room is like a middle-aged person’s flabby body. — Yayoi Motohashi, head of the Office of Communications and International Affairs at The National Art Center, Tokyo, June 9

If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be? I’d go for curry (my favorite food) with Prince Shotoku (574-622), the famous statesman of the Asuka Period (552-645). According to legend, he could listen to 10 people speaking simultaneously and understand what each was saying. That’s pretty amazing. — Chikayoshi Satomi, designer of the apparel brand Punk Drunkers, July 21

What is the mark of a quintessentially “Japanese” building? If we are talking about both contemporary and traditional architecture, something that ties it all together is the idea of lightness. Not just in a material sense, but more so in the building’s presence. Buildings that float about without being imposing or egotistical. Good architecture is there to be read, or left ignored. Kind of polite, I guess. — Patrick Wheare, architect, Oct. 27

What’s your favorite Japanese word?

Juliet Knapp
Juliet Knapp

Shibui,” an aesthetic of subtlety and beauty, because it took a friend a few hours to explain all the different meanings without the help of a phone. — Juliet Knapp, art management, Feb. 10

Can you tell us something unusual about yourself that few people know? I was a little obsessed with painting when I was 3 or 4 years old, but most of my pictures turned out to be very sensual nudes of women! — Ayako Minase, singer-songwriter, Dec. 29

You get to decide the next KitKat flavor. What is it? Hot Cheetos collab, where the wafers in KitKats would be replaced with Hot Cheetos flakes, then a sweet chocolate exterior. Perfect blend of sweet and spicy. — Hank Rao, founder of Japan Crate, July 7

Do you collect anything? International coins, beer bottle caps and, unusually, Japanese toilet signs. — Patrick Behuhuma, business development analyst at DMM.Africa, Sept. 2

What’s the biggest flop you’ve had at work?

Kosuke Kurotaki
Kosuke Kurotaki | COURTESY OF MARUYAMACHO NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION

Optimists don’t notice flops. — Kosuke Kurotaki, owner and bartender of Wokini, Sept. 8