Here in Japan – and elsewhere, it seems – much has been made of Japanese Olympic snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo’s fashion sense. Kokubo was born in a country where up until a few years ago, teachers routinely measured high school uniform skirt lengths with rulers, and where my son is punished for forgetting his school hat. Uniforms are important in Japan. Appearance is important. Kokubo wore his Olympic team uniform with style and aplomb, according to some, and with disrespect, according to others.
I have seen Kokubo and his teammates on TV. They don’t take off their goggles when interviewed by the press. They seem to be snowboarding for themselves, not their country. Kokubo comes across as insincere. Which might be forgivable if they were the world’s top snowboarders, but they’re not. They didn’t earn medals in any of their events. Maybe I’m turning into an old lady here, but I feel that as a representative of his nation, Kokubo might have tucked his shirt in and pulled up his pants.
In contrast, figure skater Daisuke Takahashi comes across as well-mannered and humble. His skating was full of passion, artistry and skill. I was moved to tears by his performance. And while he earned an Olympic medal among the world’s best, he never came across as arrogant or entitled. A veteran of media interviews, he spoke respectfully to the press. Some foreigners here in Japan applaud Kokubo’s bravado, but it is Takahashi who will emerge as a hero of the Japanese Olympic team.