THINGS I CAN ONLY SKATE AROUND TALKING ABOUT...
(Well, I can talk about this, I just can't name names, post pictures, or give a certain link.)
Remember that Japanese pen-pal story I posted a couple of years ago? Unless you're an old school reader, probably not, and I had to remove the bulk of it.
(Narrator: "Previously, on Lost.")
Basically, I submitted an ad to a Japanese pen-pal magazine in 1995 and the first response I got was from a rather attractive 19-year old girl in Machida-shi in the southwest of Tokyo who attended Obirin College and who had many sophisticated interests including kendo, Andy Warhol, yoga, playing piano, and mid-20th century photography. Unfortunately, "Kasumi" (not her real name) stopped writing to me after just two letters because she couldn't understand most of what I wrote, and I also suspect that I came across as being far too much of an anime fanboy (well, some people still think I am, but I was more of one back then than I am now, at least, since anime as a specific "interest/hobby" was still new to me and I hadn't yet "burned out" on the popular stuff), with my second letter to her being in a giant envelope that I illustrated with shots of Chun-Li and Guile from the Street Fighter II movie (the good anime one, that, if anyone from Sony Pictures reads this, is still sorely in need of a proper bilingual, uncut DVD release, with the original music intact, in North America).
I tried getting in touch with "Kasumi" two more times between 1996 and 1998, but the first time, I received no reply, and, the second time, I got my envelope back marked with a stamped message that read, when I translated it, "No longer at this address" (or something to that effect). In the summer of 1998, when I went over to London, I visited the Tate Gallery (the old building in Pimlico that's now Tate Britain when the Tate Modern moved over to an old power plant on the South Bank) to see the Warhols, taking "Kasumi" with me in my pocket in the form of her photo. At some point during my visit, I accidentally lost her photo, but, of all the places in the world to lose her photo, the Tate seemed to be the most appropriate, because I was symbolically leaving "Kasumi" with Andy Warhol, an artist whom she greatly admired.
Fast-forward to 2004. I was curious as to what happened to "Kasumi", so I Googled her. I found a couple of people with her name, but the most interesting of them was this model I found listed in a Japanese fashion and advertising model directory. At first, I'm sure it was just a model with a coincidental name, but, looking closely at the photo, the eyes and face looked quite similar to the photo that "Kasumi" sent me, and, more strikingly, this model had the same birthday (with no year mentioned).
Being someone who is always on the lookout for fodder that I can post about, I thought the coincidence was strong enough that it would make for an interesting entry, so I wrote an entry in this blog telling essentially the same story as that which I have just written, only I used "Kasumi"'s real name and I posted her photo and I included her name with her family name in kanji and her given name in hiragana intentionally hoping that she's someone who does "vanity searches" on Google and would find her way to my blog. Within a day, my gambit paid off. As soon as I got on the Internet, I checked my Sitemeter and noticed that someone from Japan using the Goo search engine, so I checked my G-mail, and, yup, "Kasumi" had written me and model and pen-pal were one and the same. She briefly apologized that she stopped writing me because she just didn't know enough English back then, but she asked me to remove her photo for "image rights" issues, and I thought I should probably remove all identifying details too. I never heard from her personally again, though I checked the domain she was writing from, and she was actually a DJ with some kind of electronic band. (I've been a little more careful mentioning people I've know since that incident.)
Here's the new part of the story.
On election day in January, I walked around a wintry Nepean for a couple of hours, and, when I got home, I felt like looking up information on her again, because I hadn't heard anything new from her for a while. I couldn't find the model directory I found before, but I did find "Kasumi" mentioned on another page, but one with no photos and no information I did not know already. Worse, the page said that, professionally, "Kasumi" used only her personal name, not her family name, so looking for other information on her was really like looking for a needle in a haystack since her actual personal name (re: the name that is not "Kasumi") is a fairly common girl's name. It seemed like a dead end... until I noticed that there was one good piece of information I had either never seen before or had never really taken note of before. Her modelling agency.
This is where my amazing Kiyone "detective first class"
It just gets better. From her page at the modelling agency was a link to her official site, with a dedicated URL and all. I mean, I have a website too (technically several), but it's a freebie Blogger thing that only exists because I go out of my way to make it a reality, and it's only ever updated during those brief respites from procrastination. I'm not really, at this present time, someone who can really be considered a commodity1. (I can't even seem to get a job at McDonald's fer crissake!) I certainly am not someone who is anywhere near important enough to have an "official site", a professional webpage with a dedicated domain name that an agency, which is footing the bill, would be using to promote me, and where the design and content of the page would be handled by paid web technicians and publicity writers. God, I suck.
But, my former penpal is such an "important person" who is a commodity simply for being beautiful. And I respect her for that. There's no resentment whatsoever. (A lot of the preceding paragraph is self-deprecation for comedic effect and nothing more.) I can't link to the site because I respect her wishes and don't want to identify her, but it's got a cover page (with a graphic where I think they're trying to make "Kasumi" look like a Japanese Audrey Hepburn) and an information page, and a gallery of her pictures, and a profile page that lists an impressive amount of companies that used her in television and print advertising (in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China), with corporate clients including TDK, Compaq, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, Nestlé, Kirin beer, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and, my favourite, Sony, for the Playstation 2. It even says which game she did a commercial for, but I don't want to name it, since I think I found the exact ad she's in on YouTube.com (and she's the star, not some anonymous person in the background).
And the best part of all? She has a blog, and one she updates almost daily, at least when she's not jetting somewhere exotic and glamourous to do a commercial or photography shoot. And, reading it (sometimes in raw Japanese, though usually using AltaVista Babelfish machine translation), I can see that we do have some things in common. We both have a propensity for posting self-pics (though hers are a lot more pleasant to look at than mine... though I do like the overall composition in some of mine, where I put more thought into the arrangement and framing than it might appear at first). We've both been to Paris. We both talk about movies and art and things we've bought. One weirder one is that we both have gardens of some sort with "chinese lantern" plants (Physalis alkekengi a.k.a. "ground cherry"... here's a good photo from some random Flickr member of what I'm talking about; it's a heart-shaped pod with a tomato-like fruit inside). She also has a tabby cat that looks remarkably like Ember, only thinner.
Not that I'm saying that she's a lot like me. She likes to wear a kimono (which technically shouldn't be pluralized with an "s"), and she also poses a lot in wedding dresses for bridal magazines and catalogues (whereas, if I did that, it would be... gay). I just like finding coincidences, though, like Mr. Eko says, (I) "Do not confuse coincidence with fate".
I'm happy that I found "Kasumi"'s blog, as, of all the people I have ever come into personal contact with in one way or another, even if that personal contact wasn't long, she seems to have, by far, the most interesting life, one that's worth reading about.
And, since I'm not identifying "Kasumi", I can mention one slightly amusing thing: she turns 30 next month, yet her official model age is only 26. I suppose she'll claim that she was lying about her age when she briefly wrote me, but, considering that she was already in college in 1995, that's rather... unlikely.
1 If I really stretch, I suppose I'm a tiny bit of a commodity in that this blog is one of thousands that Umbria Listens mines for entries about consumer products or services which it then aggregates into a collective overall "consensus" plurality blogosphere opinion which it uses for informal market research information that it then sells to major corporate clients. But, in that case, the commodity is the words I have written. The writer is irrelevant. As someone who is pro-corporation and pro-wanting-to-tell-corporations-things-I-want-them-to-make, I don't mind that Umbria Listens does this, but I don't get a damn penny for my efforts here.