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How Afghanistan got me a heap of Kinkeshi figures
I first came to Japan as a university student on a short-term exchange. I didn’t have much with me other than my desire to absorb all I could. One day I flipped on the television and my jaw dropped. On the screen were my favorite childhood toys in their own cartoon. I had never known that M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were part of some larger body of work – or that they did not originate in Japan.
When my studies concluded and I returned home, I quickly grabbed my prized toys off the shelf. Including all the doubles and multiple shades, I had amassed about 400 of them, though 100 came from my brother – I had traded my entire baseball card collection (excluding the Ryne Sandberg cards) to him for them. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I started to notice Japanese writing on many of them. As a child, these were just meaningless designs to me, and now it was as if I was solving my own Da Vinci Code before that movie even existed.
Eventually I moved permanently(?) to Japan. This time, the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures came with. I began working for the Afghan government, most often I was at their embassy in Tokyo. One of my duties was running their now defunct original Twitter account. Of all the Twitter accounts of embassies in Japan, it was the 2nd most followed and attained a modicum of popularity. Seeking to gain Japanese investment in the country, I wanted to promote an image that distanced the country from war, terrorism, and other negative thoughts. I used a friendly demeanor, humor and pop culture references to achieve this.
When Afghanistan announced a new investment law, I promoted it on Twitter and gave a few ideas for how to invest in the nation. One of those ideas was to build a factory to make kinkeshi (the original Japanese version of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, to simplify things). The tweet blew up and was not only featured in Japanese media, it was forwarded to the creators of Kinniku Man. One of them, Mr. Shimada, reached out. After some friendly banter, he sent me as a gift the box set of kinkeshi figures and DVDs. In return, I sent him a handmade Afghan carpet.
I realize that many of the readers of this site also have this box. So, in a sense this is not the most amazing thing to receive. It is no salmon kneeling Geronimo M.U.S.C.L.E. figure. It is, however, so meaningful to me that my activities led to the creator of my most-cherished childhood toy’s characters to extend kindness to me. The adult me smiled and while I am not Marty McFly, I feel that I saw the childhood me smile as well.
Thanks again Jason!
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