Thursday, May 8, 2014

Japan Trip XXII: Shigesato Itoi

Our last day in Japan was primarily spent at the office of Hobonichi, the company owned by Shigesato Itoi and the namesake of this blog. (Hobonichi means "Almost Daily.")

As the creator of Earthbound, he's definitely a hero of mine, so it was an amazing experience to meet him in person and see where he works.

The thing about heroes (and the reason I try to limit my hero worship) is that you tend to project yourself onto that hero a lot, assuming that he thinks as you do to some degree. Or, perhaps because you spend time trying to emulate them, you put a lot of stake into the idea that you're emulating them "correctly."

Either way, when you finally meet that person very often you're disappointed, as the person you built up in your mind does not match the person before you. It can be a very sobering experience, yet a valuable one: every person you learn to be human is a another step toward the realization that we are all human. Unique, fallible, gross humans.

Perhaps it's because I learned this lesson long ago that my expectations of Itoi turned out to be rather spot on.

Shigesato Itoi is sort of a professionally profound human being. He has an outlook on life that I admire and try to emulate: a sense of humor about the world that transcends the barriers of language and attempts to speak to everyone with a level of sincerity that's very rare.

I learned a lot by simply watching his mannerisms during the interview.

One thing I've always tried to cultivate is a sense of understanding when I listen to someone speak. I listen quietly (usually), nod at appropriate times, and simply absorb what a person is saying for a while, even once they're done speaking. It's important for me to process a conversation before I speak, and I generally regret any time I make a hasty remark.

As a result, I suppose, I'm considered a good listener. I appreciate having such a reputation.

I could see something of that in Itoi's mannerisms, as he seemed to absorb both the tone and energy of the thing Reid and Jeff were saying to him, and then he absorbed the actually words they said as Naoko and Lindsay translated for him.

It's thoroughly weird to feel like I've found a sort of father figure, whose personality I've absorbed through his work as effectively as I've absorbed my biological father's personality through observation and genetics. (Mostly genetics, I think. My dad was rarely home during my formative years, much like Ness's dad in Earthbound.)

For the actual content of the interview you'll have to wait until the Earthbound, USA documentary comes out. Suffice to say, though, that I'll never forget my time in that room, where a hero of mine met my every expectation.

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