Kokubo vs. Takahashi

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.


6 thoughts on “Kokubo vs. Takahashi

  1. I absolutely agree with you:

    “They seem to be snowboarding for themselves, not their country.”

    This is exactly it! They are not there to represent their country, they are there for their egos – what arrogance! Did you see his ‘apology’? He’s like a sulky teenager…

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. Great column. I am off to Wisconsin (from Indiana) today to see my 16 y.o. high school granddaughter sing/play the lead in Meet Me in St. Louis.

  3. Thanks, Windy. And thanks for your request.:-)

    How exciting to see your granddaughter in the lead role! I watched my son onstage today during his annual school performance and he was so happy. I think he should give up baseball and join a glee club.

  4. in devil’s advocate and american rebel mode: the very nature of snowboarding (which i remember starting at stratton mt in vt growing up as a skier) is a thumb-nosing to the establishment. it had to be because they were forbidden from the slopes as their boards chopped and tore up the snow, making it difficult for the skiers to prevent faceplants. snow boarders are outlaws.

    having said that, i also understand the impetus of the snowboarders’ main sense of competition is with their own previous runs. they aren’t inherently competive with ‘other’ so much as self in the culture of snowboarding. most of them, even internationally are excellent friends.

    however, they are stoked to be recognized on the olympic level and in the olymmpic competitions after a couple of decades of being the bad boys of the slopes.

    now, having said all of the above in empathy for the small culture of snowboarders and rebels,

    I kept turning to my husband and asking why the h- kokubo doesn’t pull up his dang pants! i have also spent to much time in classrooms with teens, watching them walk around with their pants falling down. it’s annoying and i really don’t want to see their boxers.

    he might also have made his runs better in the process.

  5. The main opinion around here is, he could have done whatever he liked–all he needed to do was keep his shirt tucked in for a couple of hours. It wouldn’t have killed him to show a little respect when he was competing on the public’s dime.

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