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Saturday, June 7, 2008

JAPAN LITE

A new kind of ambassador


I recently woke up to my cat staring me down. "Hello, kitty," I said.

This seemed to upset her as she gave an impatient meow while pacing up and down my stomach. "Did you hear?" she said. "Hello Kitty has just been named goodwill tourism ambassador to China and Hong Kong for the Visit Japan campaign!"

My cat has been watching NHK news again.

"Hello Kitty has everything: beauty, money, tomcats. You can have everything if you're beautiful."

Now, looking at my cat, you wouldn't think she would have anything to worry about in the beauty department. But still, she looks up to these role models and is influenced by our popular media. Like the Barbie doll and that impossible bust.

"But Hello Kitty is a short-haired cat. She doesn't have a long beautiful fur coat like you do," I pointed out.

"She doesn't shed either," said my cat, absentmindedly starting to groom herself. Resting on her hip and lifting the hind leg in the air to groom it, she said, "Can you believe Hello Kitty has over 50,000 character goods?!"

"Oh, calm down. They're not really good. They're just called goods." Grammar is not Kitty-chan's forte.

"And by the way, I saw your addition to the shopping list. I am not going to buy you a red ribbon for your ear."

"Hello Kitty is even making men's goods now," my cat informed me, as she moved on to licking her front paws.

"Oh?" I said.

"I'm thinking about plucking my whiskers," she said. "Hello Kitty only has six whiskers, three on each side, in perfect rows. It's a nice look, don't you think?"

"But you need all your whiskers. They help you when you are navigating and prowling around at night. Hello Kitty's whiskers aren't functional. They're makeup. Hello Kitty can't even go out at night."

"She can't?" said my cat, stopping what she was doing, which was biting herself between her toes. Was this perhaps some new manicure treatment for more beautiful paws?

"There is a big difference between you and Hello Kitty. You are a real kitty. Haven't you ever wondered why Hello Kitty has no children? She's not allowed to. Because people are always embarrassed by their children. What would Sanrio her employer do, for example, if Hello Kitty's first-born kitten grew up and became a gangster with one cut ear?

"If she had a litter of, say, five kittens, the odds are that one would end up smoking, one would drop out of school and another would get pregnant at 6 months old. The paparazzi don't miss a thing. Any unflattering news would be all over the bottom of kitty litter boxes throughout Japan. And the Visit Japan campaign would falter.

My cat's eyes seemed to narrow a bit while she considered this.

"You, on the other hand, can do as you please. You can sneak around hunting fish at the port and hang out with that tomcat friend of yours with the stubby tail and the tattooed ear.

"Not only that, but you know what I found out the other day? Our island's Buddhist priest doesn't even know who Hello Kitty is."

"Really?" Her ears perked up as she thought about the kind old priest.

"Yes, he's probably the only one in the world. Even his wife couldn't believe it. You, on the other hand, he asks about all the time."

She lay down quietly on my stomach, still looking at me. "You have nothing to worry about, little kitty," I assured her, stroking her behind her ears.

She tucked her paws underneath her body and squinted until her eyes were almost closed. A clearly audible purr started. "Yeah, you're right," she said. "I wasn't really worried anyway."

And we both went back to sleep.



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