Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The big news this week on Japanese TV is about how the Japanese Olympic delegation barred their star Olympic snowboarder, Kazuhiro Kokubo, from attending the opening ceremonies in Vancouver. The reason? The way he wore his uniform was inappropriate for an Olympic athlete representing Japan. The Japanese congress even got in on this and had a debate about whether the boy should be allowed to compete at all!

Oh dear. The boy is 21. Personally I don't like his style but it doesn't mean he isn't a good snowboarder. But he is supposed to be representing Japan to the rest of the world and to wear dreadlocks, have two piercings in his nose, let his tie hang loose and have his shirttail out while dragging his pants around his hips... This is a no-no in Japanese eyes... And when questioned about his appearance the boy gave a rather undiplomatic "Ah, ****~" (In Japanese of course, which comes out quite mildly as swear words go...)

Goodness. Don't tell me Mr. Kokubo sprouted those dreadlocks overnight or didn't have his nose pierced from awhile back. He's been going to college looking like this. But a uniform is a uniform and wearing the uniform in such a fashion is a slap in the face to all the people who are supporting him (and his fan club disbanded because of all this too!)

When Takumi was in high school he had to wear a uniform. And he wore it in about the same way that Mr. Kokubo wears his! Low pants, (I had to cut strings off of the fraying pants cuffs), shirttail out and loose tie, (as well as ripped jacket, torn bag, smashed leather shoes, etc. etc......) Takumi and I both hated that uniform. Yeah, it was a slap in my face too! What kind of mother raises a child that looks like this!

In Japan there is an English test that is sponsored by the government (I guess) and that jr. high and high school kids are encouraged/required to take. There are many levels and the kids must apply, go to a designated testing area, take a paper test and then a few weeks later take an interview test. For my kids this wasn't a big deal. Takumi passed the paper test easily. A few weeks later he went for the interview and since it was given on a Sunday (and not at the school) Takumi did NOT wear his uniform... Low pants, a sweat shirt, sneakers... And when the interview results came back he HADN'T passed! Hey, that's a surprise! Takumi's spoken English and comprehension was much better than most kids his age so what happened. On the result card there was a memo that he had marks taken off for ATTITUDE. Hmm. Takumi's not ornery. He makes a good first impression. What did you do, son, to lose ATTITUDE points? Nothing that he could think of...

When talking with a teacher friend about Takumi's results, she asked if he had worn his uniform that day. Oh no, it wasn't a school day.

"Tanya, students get points taken off if they aren't in uniform. They have to look like students. Tell Takumi to wear his uniform and look good at the re-test."

I passed the information on to Takumi who thought the whole system ridiculous.

"How does what I wear have any connection with how much I speak or understand English?"

"I don't know, but I suggest you play by "their" rules if you want to pass "their" test."

At the re-test a week or so later, Takumi went dressed in his uniform and he passed his test with no marks off for ATTITUDE.

Japan places great value on looking alike and at least on the outside playing the roles properly. I do hope that Mr. Kokubo does well in the snowboarding event just so that he won't give people more opportunity to criticize.

Here's my son impersonating a gang member and a "good boy".

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