In 1984 or 1985, my wife and I were driving around Maui with another couple in a rented car. We noticed a thrift shop in one little town and went in for a peek. There I found a yellow T-shirta very ordinary cotton T-shirtwith the name Tony Takitani printed across the chest in black letters. That was all it said. I had no idea who this "Tony Takitani" person might be or what the point of the shirt was; but judging from the name, Tony Takitani was an American of Japanese descent. That was all I could tell. Something inexplicable moved me to buy the shirt. It was as good as new and kind of handsome in its own way. Plus, it was cheap: one dollar.
Back in Tokyo, I would often wear my new T-shirt when I went out; and every time I did so, I would wonder: Who is this Tony Takitani? Where does he live? What kind of work does he do? And why did he bother having this T-shirt made? After four or five years of wondering about such things, I finally decided to try writing a story about Tony Takitani. Of course I knew nothing about the real Tony Takitani, so all I could do was imagine him for myself. Imagining things for myself is my profession, after all.
If this had happened nowadays, I probably could have found all kinds of factual information about Tony Takitani on the Internet; but for better or worse, there was no Internet in the late eighties. I set my imagination to work, and from nothing more than the sound of the name, a story was born. Come to think of it, that dollar T-shirt was an absolute bargain!
A decade later an editor friend looked up Tony Takitani for me on the Internet. That was when I learned Tony Takitani had been a Democratic member of the Hawaii state House of Representatives who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in the early eighties. Obviously, the shirt had been made for his campaign. At last it all made sense.
The real Tony Takitani, I understand, is alive and well and practicing law in Maui. I'd like to know what he thinks of the story I wrote from his name.
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