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Saturday, April 12, 2008

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

Playin' the look-alike game


It's a game my wife plays whenever she's bored.

"Look." She elbows me at an airport waiting lounge, where we have been parked forever, just like our flight. "That girl across the way . . . Doesn't she look like Paris Hilton?"

So I look. Wouldn't you?

In a slumping row of five weary travelers, sit two girls.

One weighs 120 kg. If obesity is a lifestyle choice, this girl has made a firm commitment. She sits on the end of the row and the others seem to balance her out. I imagine if one person stood, the balance would be destroyed, the girl's seat would slam to the floor, and the other three travelers would shoot into the ceiling like spears. No, this girl is not a Hilton, unless my wife somehow meant a hotel.

The other girl has spiked green hair and a ring in her nose, a nose like a tomahawk.

"Oh right. And my foot resembles the Virgin Mary."

This remark draws my wife's attention and two comments. First, "No it doesn't." Second, "But she would certainly weep if she had to smell it." So I say:

"That girl with the spiked hair doesn't look like Paris Hilton whatsoever. You are out of your mind . . . again."

She argues back that if you look at the right angle, and wait until the girl pulls at her lip and gawks stupidly across the lounge, then the resemblance is striking.

I tell myself I am not going to get caught up in this. For my wife is always insisting somebody looks like somebody else, somebody famous. And I end up arguing back that they do not and find myself unable to stop watching said person until I can prove to my wife that she is wrong. As if that were possible.

"You can't see the similarity because you have no artistic sense," she tells me. "It's a Japanese specialty. Having to do maybe with our precision with kanji or something. We just know shapes and form."

"Yes, you have the magic eye for comparisons. Like the time you thought our neighbor's son resembled Robert De Niro."

"But he did!"

"He was 6 years old."

"He looked like a little Robert De Niro."

We have been married 27 years and I can only guess how much time we've spent discussing her visions of who resembles whom. So now is the moment for my revenge, with my list of unbelievable-but-true, look-alikes from Japanese society:

Figure skater Mao Asada and the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz . . .

Yes, Asada is much, much cuter, but somehow her nose and cheeks recall images of Oz's Margaret Hamilton, graceful on a broomstick, not skates. Paint Asada green and the resemblance would be even stronger, I'm sure.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and comedian Joe E. Brown . . .

Joe E. Brown was a comic from the '50s and '60s . . . and, before that, the '30s and '40s. He was in a whole slew of films, such as "Some Like it Hot," "Alibi Ike" and more. Fukuda is his dead ringer. Especially when he faces the camera and doesn't smile. And as a politician, he'd be perfect for a remake of "Alibi Ike." Someone get on the phone with Hollywood right now.

Pop singer Kumi Koda and Smurfette . . .

Here all we need do is dye Koda's body blue. She already has the blond hair, also dyed. And presto! The two are one and the same! Well, for a perfect resemblance Smurfette would need implants, easy to add if you're animated. Otherwise both are one-dimensional and could be twins.

Former sumo wrestler Musashimaru and Saigo Takamori . . .

For those who do not follow sumo, Musashimaru was a Grand Champion from Samoa who retired in 2003. If you want to see his face, climb the hill at the entrance to Ueno Park and find the statue of Saigo Takamori. That could very well be Musashimaru standing there, and not the Meiji Era statesman. The statue is much more massive than the real Saigo, but perhaps undersized for Musashimaru.

Baseball player Ichiro Suzuki and the raptors from Jurassic Park.

OK, Ichiro is not about to eat you and I doubt a raptor could hit a curve. But there is something oddly reptilian about the Seattle Mariners superstar. He has an Ichirosaurus-type face and a raptor-like focus on opposing pitchers that seems dangerous if not vicious. If you put Ichiro and a raptor in a room and you gave Ichiro a bat, I wouldn't bet on the raptor.

As for me, my wife says I look like a cross between Ringo Starr and Woody Allen, which means I look like nothing of the sort. As for her . . .

"As for me, I look like myself."

And there you have it. This time . . . maybe for the first time . . . I think she's got it right.



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