This column is not FFXIV-related.
#99: “A Conversation with a Monster”
Published in 2017/12/28 issue
The other day, when I was visiting France for Paris Games Week, I made up my mind to contact Hiroyuki Nishimura, the founder of “2channel”, and we had a meal together. Hiroyuki-san currently resides in Paris. We used to eat together 1-2 times a year, but about two years ago, he suddenly told me, “Oh, by the way, I’m going to France.”
“Oh, for sightseeing?” “Ah, no, I’m moving.” “Wait, why?” “There aren’t many Japanese people who can speak French, so I thought it’d be cool.” French is indeed a cool language. One of the characters in The Matrix Reloaded, Merovingian, said that there’s no better language than French for elegantly cursing at people. I’m sure there were other reasons for his decision, but he did seem serious about it.
Yoshida: Did you study French beforehand?
Hiroyuki: No, not at all. I figured it’d be faster to just live there, since I’ll have to get by somehow in order to live.
Uh, well, that’s true, but… Anyway, Hiroyuki-san is the kind of person who says what he really thinks, and puts it into practice. So, when I was on my business trip, I realized, “Oh right, Hiroyuki-san is in Paris!” and messaged him out of the blue, inviting him for a meal. He responded with his classic, “Thanks for paying!” I never say anything about paying for him, but he always replies with that.
Even though I messaged him on a Friday morning, it took him two replies to schedule it. As expected, he arrived at the restaurant on bike. Streetside rental bicycles are rapidly becoming more prominent in tourist destination cities all around the world, including Tokyo. As an aside, FFXIV’s sound director, Soken, uses those to get to work. Paris and London have rental bicycle stations everywhere too (Paris has over 1,700 stations with over 23,000 bikes), so rentals and returns are both extremely convenient. You can go sightseeing around the city without having to deal with traffic.
I smoked a cigarette as I waited for Hiroyuki-san outside the restaurant. When he arrived, I noted, “I figured you’d come by bike,” and he replied, “The cost-performance is stellar. If you register for an ID then you pay a flat rate, and the first 30 minutes are free. The timer resets whenever you transfer at a bike station, so you can go anywhere for free.” His response was so practical and efficient that I couldn’t help but laugh.
The restaurant that Square Enix Europe booked for me was a steakhouse that I always visit when I’m in Paris. The owner of the place is extraordinarily entertaining. He dresses casually, wearing a white shirt open at the chest and one-wash jeans. But at the same time, he has bracelets jangling around his wrists, so I feel an odd sense of affinity with him. It seems to be a famous restaurant, seeing as how one of the walls is plastered in photos of the owner with Hollywood stars—there’s even one with Gorbachev. Just looking at the photos is enough to strike up a conversation. It probably sounds like a high-class restaurant now, but the food doesn’t seem much more expensive than other places.
Anyway, the owner’s a fan of conversation, jokes, and women, and since I arrived early, he came out to talk to me. He apparently remembered my face, because he smiled and said, “You normally have so many people with you. What’s going on today? Is it a date?” I somehow managed to keep up the conversation in my broken English until Hiroyuki-san arrived. Since the owner was a fast talker, I was secretly hoping Hiroyuki-san would come soon so that I could judge his French proficiency.
After sitting down with Hiroyuki-san, I asked him what kind of places he usually ate at, and he immediately replied, “Uh, I hardly ever go out to eat. Everywhere’s too expensive.” That was unexpected, because I thought for sure he’d eat outside a lot. Anyway, when we got around to ordering, Hiroyuki-san spoke extremely comfortably with the staff in French, putting in our orders without a hitch. Watching him speak French really was cool… He’d moved to France without a lick of prior studying, saying, “Once I live there, I’ll be forced to learn it whether I like it or not, in order to survive,” and he did put those words into practice.
I think this all the time, but talking to Hiroyuki-san is a lot of fun, because both of us have our own logical reasoning behind our words and actions. It’s also thrilling when he mischievously challenges me with provocative questions.
“How will he react if I answer this way? Will he be amused, or disappointed?” Making such predictions as we talk is like throwing the ball as hard as you can during a game of catch. It’s great.
When I looked around, I saw the owner going around to all of the tables and making friendly conversation. He was asking customers questions, casually making himself known, and bragging about the restaurant. The owner and Hiroyuki-san don’t look anything alike, but they do have something in common: they never compare others with themselves. Most people will compare others with themselves, find common ground, and stick to those topics in order to keep a level conversation.
However, this is especially not the case for Hiroyuki-san. He reads the situation, and then purposefully changes or destroys it. If he’s interested in the topic then he’ll latch onto it; otherwise, he’ll change it himself with a barrage of questions. Instead of comparing himself with others, he’ll find where their thoughts and reasoning differ and absorb them into himself. He has an inquisitive mind. After a little while, it’ll feel like you’re being “eaten.” Sometimes I think he resembles a monster.
I don’t really compare others to myself, either. There might’ve been a period when I did, but I’ve since realized that there’s no point in doing so, and it’s annoying to sync up with people. That’s most likely the reason why I’ve been socializing less, too. I don’t like dealing with people who try to make you match their pace anymore.
The year 2017 is coming to an end, and next year I’ll be turning 45. Rather than growing older, I feel like I’m becoming more childish. Still, meeting up with the innocent Hiroyuki-san for the first time in a while and having a conversation between children was a lot of fun. That night in Paris gave me an odd sense of courage. Maybe next year, I should follow his example and just live the way I want.