Why you should be following Hidetoshi Imura: The Office Cast Member Number One! Ze Best!

Image result for in japan heart surgeon
In Japan, heart surgeon, number one. Steady hand.
One day, Yakuza boss need new heart. I do operation.
But, mistake! Yakuza boss die. Yakuza very mad.
I hide in fishing boat, come to America. No English, no food, no money.
Darryl give me job. Now I have house, American car, and new woman.
Darryl save life. My big secret: I kill Yakuza boss on purpose.
I good surgeon. Ze best!

It's a mild Sunday afternoon in Southern California and I've just pulled into the parking lot of a Japanese restaurant hoping I'm not about to be catfished by a cast member of my favorite show. Hidetoshi Imura, the Japanese warehouse worker The Office fans know as Hide (Hee-day), is supposed to be inside shooting a web series and waiting for my arrival.

You see, I run this fansite, its Facebook page, and discussion group, and for months prior to this moment I've been hearing other fans say that the real Hide is the best cast member to follow on Facebook and Instagram. Why? Because he actually follows you back. And responds to DMs, and even takes the time to like your posts, comment on your profile pictures, and wishes you a happy birthday on your Facebook wall. And I've been a skeptic. Because I've been running this website for a long time. And following the cast. And I've pestered all of them with DMs, tweets and facebook messages asking to interview them for this website since I live in the Los Angeles area. Understandably, I never receive any responses.

Mindy, you beautiful elusive flower... . .

Because The Office fandom is *massive*.  Our current following is a drop in the bucket compared with NBC's official The Office following, r/DunderMifflin on Reddit, and various cast member twitter accounts each with followers in the millions. We're small potatoes. And they are busy working actors with travel schedules, book tours, film projects and real interview opportunities with the likes of Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon. I would guess they each receive hundreds of inquires like mine every week, asking to meet them and gushing about how much they're loved.

Imagine my surprise when I message Hide in the same manner I normally do, requesting an interview, and he responds telling me he's going to be filming a web series in Torrance on the following Sunday and that I can come by any time and talk with him between takes.

So here I sit in my car in a parking lot on Redondo Beach Blvd, clutching my steering wheel and trying not to get my hopes up. A lot of fans who have been enjoying Hide's social media activity online have been asking if the accounts are official. Or, if it's just some superfan pretending to be the actor who iconically spoke the line: "In Japan, Heart surgeon number one!" on camera with Craig Robinson. And who heckled Pam while she hesitated painting the mural on Dunder Mifflin's warehouse wall.

As I walk up to the door of the building, a woman exits and asks who I am. I tell her I'm Christine and that Hide said I could come by... but before I finish she says, "Oh Christine! Yes! We're expecting you, please come in! I am Hide's wife." And I immediately begin inwardly freaking out. This. is. actually. happening!

I enter the sprawling Japanese restaurant and see cameras, lighting, people rushing around with scripts in their hands, actors seated at a large Sushi bar dressed up in costume, and various others sitting in an area opposite where they're filming. Hide's wife directs me to a small table and asks me to wait. She says he's preparing for a scene at the moment and will come out to meet me when he's finished. Suddenly a man yells "All quiet on set!" and the chatter in the room comes to a halt. I quietly take my seat and watch another man snap a black and white clapperboard and shout "ACTION!"

About 3 takes and ten minutes later, the bustle in the room begins again and I look up to see Hidetoshi Imura, in the flesh, walking toward my table. He is wearing an American flag tie, a sleek black button up shirt and an enormous smile. I am instantly starstruck.

He greets me in his very strong, signature Japanese accent and I end up sputtering out some form of thanks for him actually allowing me to visit his set and meet him. He's not at all what you would expect a celebrity on set to be. He is apologetic for making me wait, he is extremely welcoming, and I never get the feeling he is trying to hurry through our meet and greet to get back to work.

We have a little trouble communicating since English is not his first language and the only Japanese I remember from being a 12 year old Air Force brat in Misawa is the basic hello, thank you and excuse me. His wife and his stunning co-star Awbrey Madison are both fluent and can help us communicate, but Hide prefers to speak for himself.

For the following interview, I will attempt to capture the essence of his words, and his responses are not *exact* quotes.

How did you get your start as an actor?

My actor friend had told me I should go to Los Angeles because there were too few Japanese actors in Hollywood. My first job was as an extra, a background role, on the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

What was it like auditioning for The Office?

They were looking for a new warehouse worker, a big Hispanic or Black guy. I was very scared, my heart was beating so fast because I didn't look like anyone else there. And when it was time to audition, I couldn't even say the whole line. 

Who was your favorite warehouse worker?

Darryl! Craig Robinson is still my friend. I like Glenn a lot too.

Are you still in touch with any other cast members?

Yes, they are all very nice and always say hi to me. 

Who do you have the fondest memories of on set?

B.J. Novak was always very nice to me. He was the one who told me I didn't have to worry about messing up the lines because it made the scenes funnier. He always told me I was good.

What are you up to these days?

This! (He laughs and gestures at the set around him, where they are filming Bear Tours, a workplace webseries eerily similar to The Office)

Do you have anything you'd like to say to The Office fans who love you?

I love you guys!

Here's a short video we streamed live from the set:

The room around us is starting to bustle again and although Hide doesn't seem to be in any hurry to end our meeting, I get the feeling I am holding up the set and decide to thank him and prepare to exit. He asks me to wait a moment and brings over a small blue gift bag. I am in shock. The gift, after all, was meeting him. This gesture of kindness is simply, well.... ze best. 

Image may contain: food

This is a very good Japanese candy, and this is another, have you ever tried Hi-Chew? It's good! And this is something to remember Bear Tours. He pulls out a small door stop with a bear's head carved into it. I am beyond touched. Tears feel like they might spill out of me. I thank him profusely and ask if we can quickly take a few photos together. He beams at me and we snap a couple quick pics, with our thumbs out to honor his beloved The Office character and then gives me a quick hug. 

I collect my things and thank him and his wife and the people on set around us for letting me be part of their afternoon. But before I can leave, Hide asks me if I want his jacket and gestures over to a nearby chair. I look over and my jaw drops at the sight of an actual real-life Dunder Mifflin jacket directly from the set of The Office. It is even embroidered with "Season Six" on the left sleeve.

Image result for burn this place to the ground office

No, I couldn't possibly, I tell him. It's too much, this is all too much, you are too kind. He laughs and says he wants me to have it and then reaches for it. He pulls some wadded tissue and candy wrappers from the pockets, apologizes for the "smell," I burst into (probably kind of insane) laughter and then he hands it to me. And somehow, while feeling completely speechless and awestruck by his generosity and charm, I stammer out a request that he sign it if it isn't too much trouble. Of course, he says and before I know it, I am clutching a legit piece of the show I love so much I've made it a part of my daily life for 7 years, signed by an actual cast member that I'm standing in front of. I can't help it, I hug him again. And he laughs and beams at me, thanking me for coming to visit him. 

By far, my most prized The Office possession

I realize at this point that they've begun getting the set ready for the next shots and I have stayed way longer than is probably polite so I begin to leave again, thanking them all, and to my surprise Hide follows me outside alone. As I walk to my car, he asks how long I've lived in Los Angeles and if I like it here, and if I ever eat Japanese food because this restaurant is very good and he says I should come back and try it sometime. I am completely dumbfounded by his hospitality and kindness. We chat outside my car for a few minutes, he hugs me one more time and even holds my door open as I climb into my car. I thank him again from the bottom of my heart for the most delightful experience a fan could ever hope for. And as I pull out of the lot, I notice he's still there on the asphalt behind me, waving and grinning as I drive away. I can't even. 

There's no way I could ever properly thank him. There aren't enough words in either of our native languages to express the gratitude I feel for not only his extremely amazing gifts, but his general demeanor, charm and warmth. While Hollywood gets a bad rap for it's narcissism and self-serving nature, there are many, many gems among working actors, and Hidetoshi Imura is the brightest and most incandescent of them all. 

Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Bear Tours YouTube Channel for more Hide. His character is as lovable as Michael Scott, the writing and shooting is as mundanely hilarious as The Office, and the overall tone is as charming as Hidetoshi Imura himself. Here's the first episode to get you started:

Please also follow him on >>> Facebook and >>> Instagram, you won't regret it :)