People | 20 QUESTIONS

20 Questions: The best answers of 2019

Craig Mod
Craig Mod

How should people answer the “Where are you from” question? Asking where someone “is really from” can be hurtful. I don’t think this is really understood in Japan. I love to flip the equation, to ask “Where in Japan were you born?” to people who are clearly non-Japanese, but who seem to have been living here for a long time. Living in Japan as non-native, it’s probably the first time they’ve ever been asked that question. It never ceases to delight. In a homogenous society, being considered an insider — even if it’s performative and from a place of knowing, almost like a wink — can be a tiny gift of being made to feel not The Other, if only for a second. — Craig Mod, writer, July 27

Tatsuhiko 'Ryu' Akashi | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Tatsuhiko ‘Ryu’ Akashi | YOSHIAKI MIURA

Has toy-making lost its artisanal quality to the digital era? Until 20 years ago people said the same thing about the design industry. I think toy-making is similar. The difference between digital and handmade products is disappearing. — Tatsuhiko “Ryu” Akashi, CEO of Medicom Toy, Feb. 10

Chef Hideo Furusawa
Chef Hideo Furusawa

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a chef? Be crazy in a good way. — Hideo Furusawa, chef, May 12

TREVOR BRADY
Corey Mah | TREVOR BRADY

Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake: What would they be like as video game characters? Rei Kawakubo would attack with bolts of black boiled polyester. Issey Miyake would use pleated fabric to slap his enemies multiple times. And Yohji Yamamoto would toss fabric into the air that would engulf and seal enemies in oversized black wool gabardine pillowcases. Rei would win because of her intellect and strength. — Corey Mah, English instructor, Feb. 24

Robert Hamilton
Robert Hamilton

What is the way forward for the kimono? Since the ’90s, young people have been increasingly wearing yukata (light kimono) at summer festivals because they are elegant and unintimidating. Kimono are also elegant and beautiful, but we need to work a bit harder at presenting them as unintimidating. — Robert Hamilton, kimono designer, Nov. 24

Yuki Hirose
Yuki Hirose

What is the most unique aspect of the Japanese language? Japanese is one of the languages where the most important information appears last (i.e., the verb). Such languages keep psycholinguists busy. — Yuki Hirose, professor of psycholinguistics, Sept. 29

Rebekah Wilson-Lye
Rebekah Wilson-Lye

Any tips for preventing or curing a hangover? Don’t mix fermented beverages with distilled spirits. And always have food while drinking. For hangovers, I swear by sweetened Earl Grey tea, Marmite on toasted sourdough bread and a chaser of OS1 (an electrolyte replacement drink). — Rebekah Wilson-Lye, Japan Craft Sake marketing manager, May 26

Maurice Eric Zacher Issei fujiwara
Maurice Eric Zacher Issei fujiwara

What should every designer read? I was always told I should read “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki and one of the many books about wabi-sabi. I did that and it was interesting, but I would recommend “Elective Affinities” by Goethe or “War and Peace” by Tolstoy. Sometimes you should step out of your bubble. — Maurice Eric Zacher, Japanolologist and product designer, Sept. 22

Yuta Kato Deri
Yuta Kato Deri

If you had a genie that could grant you a wish, what would it be? Make my eye an actual camera so when I blink the shutter snaps. Yuta Kato, photographer, Aug. 25

Steve Sakanashi
Steve Sakanashi

What was the most creative pitch you’ve ever heard from a student? To eliminate spring allergies in Tokyo by developing pollen-absorbing cement. She was 17 years old. — Steve Sakanashi, entrepreneur, Sept. 8

Kenro Taura
Kenro Taura

What does real climate crisis leadership look like? I think everyone should be a leader because real democracy and public involvement are needed to construct a decarbonized economy and society. — Kenro Taura, environmentalist, July 13

Masana Izawa
Masana Izawa

Can you explain the fundoshisō philosophy? It’s a fundamental idea: “To eat is to take life, but it’s also our right. To poop is a responsibility we need to be aware of. To poop outdoors is a way of giving back life.” The world could be a better place if humans did away with their arrogance. — Masana Izawa, Fundoshi “poop soil master,” June 30

David Wang | YU SHIMAWAKI
David Wang | YU SHIMAWAKI

Who is your Japan hero? “Iron Chef” Chen Kenichi. He showed it was possible to successfully present a foreign culture to the Japanese mainstream while being authentic, but also putting his own unique and personal touch on it. — David Wang, Pinkoi business developer, June 23

Vaughan Allison | SATORU TADA
Vaughan Allison | SATORU TADA

What should a kissaten first-timer order? “Blend.” That’s the face of the kissaten, and that’s the answer the master will expect. After a couple visits, ask for the ura (secret) menu! — Vaughan Allison, Music promoter, fashion lecturer, editor, April 14

Hiroki Ogasawara
Hiroki Ogasawara

What would you tell a student who just told you they used Wikipedia as a source? Wash your face with miso soup and then make a better one than you’ve just tasted on your own face. — Hiroki Ogasawara, sociology professor, March 24

Declan Somers
Declan Somers

Do have any words of wisdom for younger generations? A good starting point is to Google the “kindergarten credo.” It starts with share everything and play fair. — Declan Somers, director of nonprofit Seibo Japan, March 10

Maho Kato
Maho Kato

Do you think it’s true that only the wealthy can really enjoy natural or organic living? I think it’s a matter of how you allot your time and money, and the choices you make. Maho Kato, jewelry designer and artist, Jan. 27

Aki Fujita Taguchi | YOSUKE TAGUCHI
Aki Fujita Taguchi | YOSUKE TAGUCHI

What is your opinion of Instagram filters? Well … honestly, it’s really hard to find a hidden gem there. … I can’t find any point to posting family, political, food or selfie stuff on social media. I’m only interested in art. — Aki Fujita Taguchi, music photographer, Jan. 12

Mieko Watanabe
Mieko Watanabe

Japan is known for its tiny plots of land. What’s the most restrictive condition you’ve worked with? One is that the Japanese worship the southern building orientation. One time my former boss did something different by designing big apartment windows facing north. Then the owner of an adjacent plot demanded those windows be removed, since they would look into his future units facing south. Disagreements ensued and delays occurred. — Mieko Watanabe, architect, Oct. 26

C.C. Haydel | TSUYOSHI TAGAWA
C.C. Haydel | TSUYOSHI TAGAWA

Any memorable reactions from first-time diners? One person asked me if I’d made a deal with devil, and one cried tears of joy after having the bread pudding. — C.C. Haydel, restaurant owner/chef, Nov. 10

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