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  • Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on February 20th, 2014

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    Hi Blog.  Aaand, the inevitable has happened:  Japan’s apparently underperforming athletes (particularly its ice skaters) have invited criticism from Japan’s elite.  Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori Yoshiro, one of Japan’s biggest gaffemeisters when he served an abysmal stint as Prime Minister, decided to shoot his mouth off about champion skater Asada Mao’s propensity to choke under pressure.  But more importantly, as far as Debito.org is concerned, about how the American-Japanese skating siblings Cathy and Chris Reed’s racial background has negatively affected their performance:

    “They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

    Oh.  But wait.  They’re not naturalized.  They always had Japanese citizenship, since their mother is Japanese.  And how about Japan’s other athletes that also train if not live overseas (such as Gold Medalist Skater Hanyu Yuzuru, who now hails from Toronto)?  Oh, but he won, so that’s okay.  He’s a real pureblooded Japanese with the requisite yamato damashi.

    In fact, the existence of people like Mori are exactly the reason why Japan’s athletes choke.  As I’ve written before, they put so much pressure  and expectation on them to perform perfectly as national representatives, not as individuals trying to achieve their personal best, so if they don’t medal (or worse yet, don’t Gold), they are a national shame.  It’s a very high-stakes game for Japan’s international athletes, and this much pressure is counterproductive for Japan:  It in fact shortens their lives not only as competitors, but as human beings (see article by Mark Schreiber after the Japanese articles).

    Fortunately, this has not escaped the world media’s glance.  As CBS News put it:  “Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!”  But expect more of this, for this is how “sporting spirit” is hard-wired in Japan.  Because these types of people (especially their invisible counterparts in the media and internet) are not only unaccountable, they’re devoid of any self-awareness or empathy.  If they think they can do better, as one brash Japanese Olympic swimmer once said, why don’t they try doing it themselves?  Then she was taken off the team, never to return.  ARUDOU, Debito

    ///////////////////////////////////////
    WINTER OLYMPICS
    Tokyo 2020 chairman Mori critical of Asada, ice dancing brother and sister
    AP/Japan Today SPORTS FEB. 21, 2014, courtesy JDG, Bob, and Dosanko
    http://www.japantoday.com/category/sports/view/tokyo-2020-chairman-mori-critical-of-asada

    TOKYO —The head of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic organizing committee has criticized Japanese figure skater Mao Asada’s performance in the women’s short program at the Sochi Olympics.

    The two-time world champion finished 16th in Wednesday’s short program after falling on her opening triple axel. Asada was a silver medalist at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where she finished second to South Korea’s Yuna Kim.

    Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who became the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s chairman last month, said Asada has a habit of “always falling at the most critical time” of a competition. He blamed Asada’s short program shortcomings on her participation in the earlier team event at Sochi.

    Asada performed sensationally in the free skate on Thursday night, however. She landed her trademark triple axel and wound up with a season’s best of 142.71. That gave her a total of 198.22.

    “I thought I could do it,” Asada said through a translator. “I tried my best, and everything went according to practice.’

    While in office, Mori had a reputation for making contentious comments. And his appointment to the Tokyo 2020 committee was criticized by some analysts who believe the 76-year-old former PM is too old to hold such a position.

    Asada was selected for the inaugural team competition in the hope Japan would win a medal, but she also fell on the triple axel and Japan placed fifth.

    “We shouldn’t have taken part in the team competition,” Mori said. “The psychological damage Asada incurred must have remained,” for the short program.

    Mori was also critical of Japanese ice dancers Chris and Cathy Reed, who were born in the United States but compete for Japan.

    “They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

    ==========================================
    Also featured in USA Today, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Metro Montreal, The Japan Times, and others.  As CBS Sports put it:

    Mr. Mori wasn’t done yet, taking a shot at Japanese ice dancers Chris Reed and Cathy Reed, the children of a Japanese mother and American father who were born and raised in the U.S. but renounced American citizenship in order to compete for Japan.

    “They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”

    Hurray for the Olympic spirit! You seem like a perfectly sensible choice to head a billion-dollar effort to welcome the world to Tokyo, Mr. Mori!

    ==========================================

    Here are some Japanese articles with the original quotes:

    森元首相 リード組に「五輪出場の実力はなかったが…」
    「負けると分かっていた」 講演する森元首相
    講演する、東京五輪・パラリンピック組織委員会会長の森元首相
    Photo By 共同
    http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/02/20/kiji/K20140220007629530.html
    [ 2014年2月20日 17:05 ]

    東京五輪・パラリンピック組織委員会会長の森喜朗元首相は20日、福岡市での講演で、ソチ五輪・フィギュアスケート団体について「負けると分かっていた。浅田真央選手を出して恥をかかせることはなかった」と述べた。

    また、フィギュアスケート・アイスダンスのキャシー・リード、クリス・リード組について「米国に住んでいる。(米国代表として)五輪出場の実力はなかったが、帰化させて日本選手団として出した」と語った。

    浅田が団体でトリプルアクセル(3回転半ジャンプ)を成功させれば、アイスダンスの劣勢を盛り返し、銅メダルを獲得できるとの期待が日本チームにあったとの見方を強調。「(団体戦で)転んだ心の傷が残っているから(SPで)転んではいけないとの気持ちが強く出たのだろう」との同情も示した。

    =====================

    森元首相の真央らへの発言要旨
    日刊スポーツ [2014年2月20日19時20分]
    http://www.nikkansports.com/general/news/f-gn-tp0-20140220-1260348.html

    森喜朗元首相は20日、福岡市での講演で、ソチ五輪フィギュアスケート団体について「負けると分かっていた。浅田真央選手を出して恥をかかせることはなかった」と述べた。さらに女子ショートプログラム(SP)で16位だった浅田選手を「見事にひっくり返った。あの子、大事なときには必ず転ぶ」などと評した。

    森喜朗元首相の講演でのフィギュアスケートに関する発言要旨は次の通り。

    頑張ってくれと見ていましたけど(浅田)真央ちゃん、(ショートプログラムで)見事にひっくり返りました。あの子、大事なときには必ず転ぶんですね。

    日本は団体戦に出なければよかった。アイスダンスは日本にできる人がいない。(キャシー・リード、クリス・リードの)きょうだいはアメリカに住んでいるんですよ。(米国代表として)オリンピックに出る実力がなかったから、帰化させて日本の選手団として出している。

    浅田さんが(団体戦に)出れば、3回転半をできる女性はいないから、成功すれば3位になれるかもとの淡い気持ちで出した。それで、見事にひっくり返ってしまった。

    その傷が残っていたとすれば、ものすごくかわいそうな話。負けると分かっている団体戦に、浅田さんを出して恥をかかせることはなかった。

    転んだ心の傷が残っているから、自分の本番の時には、何としても転んではいけないとの気持ちが強く出たのだと思いますね。勢いが強すぎて転んでしまいました。(共同)

    =====================

    See also http://sankei.jp.msn.com/smp/sochi2014/news/140220/soc14022019180058-s.htm

    Japan Sports Pressure and Shortened Lifespans

    (forwarding, courtesy of the author–Arudou Debito)

    This Mainichi article, based on a piece that appeared in Flash four years
    ago, is about the sad fate that seems to befall Japan’s Olympic athletes. I
    thought I’d recycle it today. Mark

    Star-studded sportsmen speed swim the Styx
    Flash, 10/31/2000
    By Mark Schreiber (translated by the author)

    Researchers have announced findings that compared with ordinary
    people, their lives are shortened by six years, asserts Kunihiko
    Kato, an assistant at Tokyo University’s department of physical
    science.

    To whom is Kato referring? Chain smokers? Heavy boozers? People
    who live in houses under high-tension power lines, or those who
    refuse to pay protection to gangsters?

    Indeed, what activity is scientifically recognized as being so
    hazardous, it threatens to send otherwise robust citizens of the
    world’s longest-lived nation to an early grave?

    The answer, reports Flash, is to earn a place on the Japanese
    Olympic team. Or perhaps even worse, to win a medal.

    Tragic examples are legion. Take Masatoshi Nekota, a member of
    the volleyball gold medalist at the 1972 Munich Olympics, who
    succumbed to cancer at age 39. Or three other outstanding athletes,
    who also died in their 39th year: 1968 Mexico City men’s gymnast and
    bronze-medal winner Takeshi Kato, a cancer victim; steeplechase
    runner (Mexico) Takeshi Endo, who died of heart failure; and broad
    jumper Hiroomi Yamada (Mexico), who suffered a fatal stroke.

    Sports glory and public acclaim failed to bring any peace of mind
    to marathon runner Kokichi Tsuburaya, who took the bronze medal at
    Tokyo in 1964. Psychologically tormented when injury forced him to
    miss the games four years later, he committed suicide. The note he
    left read, simply, “Cannot run any more.” He was 27.

    “Just at Japan Steel Corporation, where I was employed, seven
    former olympians have already passed away,” marathon silver medalist
    Kenji Kimihara (Mexico) tells Flash. “Overall, I’d say about 30 or
    so have died.”

    Kimihara, now 60, is particularly saddened when recalling those
    who perished by their own hand. In addition to fellow marathoner
    Tsuburaya, these include swimmer Ryoko Urakami and 80 meter hurdler
    Ikuko Yoda.

    “Everyone showed them respect, but they felt stigmatized by the
    title “olympic team member” attached to everything they did
    subsequently,” sighs Kimihara. “I suppose it just became too much of
    a burden.”

    But while mental pressures took a toll on Japan’s olympians, the
    sheer physical abuse can’t be disregarded either.

    “After driving myself so hard during my teens, I wanted to just
    go back to being a normal person,” recalls Mexico City weight lifting
    silver medalist Masaru Ouchi, now 57. “But I’m a physical wreck.
    When I reached my forties, I felt like I was already sixty.”

    Tokyo University’s Kato is convinced scientific data contradicts
    the general image of olympians and professional athletes as superb
    physical specimens. “Intense activity causes stress to build up, and
    excessive secretion of Corticotropin releasing hormone result in
    lowered immunity. Resistance to disease declines. There’s a greater
    likelihood of developing cancer.”

    “Exercise causes oxygen consumption to increase, generating a
    toxic substance called free radicals that are harmful to the body,”
    Kato adds.

    One side effect of too much activity may be osteoporosis. Citing
    data on 13 female long-distance runners, Kato notes that the average
    bone density of eight was 90 percent or below the normal values, and
    four had bone density levels equivalent to women in their seventies.

    “We believe this was caused by the intense training, which
    lowered the volume of fat in their bodies, causing loss of calcium
    because they did not secrete sufficient female hormones.”

    “Upholding Japan’s national honor was a heavy burden for those
    olympic athletes in the past,” says Kimihara. “When today’s athletes
    feel pressured, I’d like to see them channel their stress into
    constructive outlets.”

    With so many depressing stories, Flash wonders, will “Q chan”
    — petite and personable Sydney marathon winner Naoko Takahashi —
    be all right?

    FORWARDED ARTICLE ENDS

    29 Responses to “Former PM and Tokyo 2020 Chair Mori bashes his Olympic athletes, including “naturalized citizens” Chris and Cathy Reed”

    1. Johnny T Says:

      Mori is an imbecile.

    2. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Japan’s high-profile athletes lose and they’re a national shame.
      If they win, suddenly 120 million other Japanese think themselves winners too.

    3. Baudrillard Says:

      Perhaps The Divine Mori’s only self awareness is his nostalgia for an illusory, simpler past, where he didnt have to think before speaking. In other words, he could shooot his mouth off and still be respected automatically. Probably back in the good old days of the 60s and 70s.

      But what do you expect from a man “”heart of a flea and the brain of a shark”. One Japanese analyst said scathingly: “He has no policies, no principles, no courage or guts.”

      http://www.thefreelibrary.com/%60Heart+of+a+flea,+brain+of+a+shark‘.-a061834090

      “Mori played rugby at Tokyo’s prestigious Waseda University and is still an active sportsman.”

      Asked how he was going to tackle his new job (AS PM), Mori said: “It’s the same as rugby. One player cannot be the star.”

      Which is quite ironic considering the pressure he is putting on individual team members to be precisely that.

      @ Debito, you said “If they think they can do better, as one brash Japanese Olympic swimmer once said, why don’t they try doing it themselves? Then she was taken off the team, never to return.”

      Who was that?

      If so, it proves that Japanese “culture” values respect and stoic silence more than outspoken individuals with great talent, i.e. mediocre team players, and that would back up Mori’s stated preference for team players who dont stand out (and which in politics lead all to often to a procrastinating, rudderless ship with the wolrd’s highest uncertainty avoidance (ie.unwilling to make decisions)- something which the Hoftsede Center has also commented on.

      http://geert-hofstede.com/japan.html

      – She was a women’s swimmer I think in the 2004 Olympics who was widely promoted (she had one of those cute snaggleteeth and was very photogenic) and then underperformed. I can’t remember her name right now (here’s a list of participants), and I’m about to go on the road so can’t research further.

    4. Jeffrey Says:

      The swimmer in question is Chiba Suzu, who participated in the 1996 olympics but was left off the 2000 team for her perceived bad attitude towards the olympics. (In a live interview with Kume Hiroshi, she said her main goal at the olympics was to have fun, not get medals to please the medal crazy Japanese public. She also told Kume to try competitive swimming himself if he wanted a medal so much)

      For these comments, she was left off the 2000 team despite producing qualifying results in trial events. She sued the JOC through the IOC for discrimination and won, but was never seen in competitive swimming again.

      I guess you could call her an attractive athlete, which is why her comments got more attention than others.

      – That’s her! 1996?! My, the years have gotten behind me!

    5. Olaf Says:

      Mori himself is the disgrace.

    6. j_jobseeker Says:

      @Andrew In Saitama:
      Exactly!

      The media coverage of Asada’s short program was callous to the point of being infuriating. On one show I counted over 20 times in 1 minute they replayed over and over again her fall while the commentators all spoke shell shocked permeating a mood as if someone had died. Even on one morning program the title of the corner: “What (the hell) happened, Mao!” (どうした真央) laid bare what happens when you dash a nation’s hope.

      And let’s not forget Mori. Has anyone noticed that in PM Abe’s reign, no one ever loses their job nor is Abe forced to take responsibility for the gaffs of people in his administration (Mori recently, Taro Aso last year) and those he appoints (anyone involved with NHK including its new head)? During the DPJ’s short time as the head of the government, no one could say anything without it being turned into a major firestorm with the media exacerbating the situation until the then Opposition Party LDP could mount a call for the resignation of whomever was the PM at the time. Now, there’s nothing. I didn’t see anything said about Mori’s comment on television and my father-in-law could only find one small blurb in one newspaper. This obvious collusion of the media and the LDP is a sure sign that something is rotting in Nagatacho. The news is not only failing at what it should be doing, but is towing the line of an ever emboldened right-wing. The more I think it can’t get worse, things somehow manage to do so….

    7. Baudrillard Says:

      “In a live interview with Kume Hiroshi, she said her main goal at the olympics was to have fun, not get medals to please the medal crazy Japanese public. “”

      Actually sensible, considering Olympic athletes are supposed to be amateurs, not paid.

      Someone posted about the high mortality (stress?) of athletes, and following the link they provided I got to wonder how someone in Japan could work a 12 hour day at Japan Steel Corp or wherever and then train.

      It would be interesting if there was a correlation between rising working hours/cost of living and the number of medals received per country, tho doubt its provable either way.

    8. Enginerd Says:

      I do not really care for professional sports events, so I have a few questions for those more knowledgeable:

      How does the “general” public in japan deal with such things ? I mean the reaction to success or “failure” in international sports. Obviously I’m more interested in what happens when there’s a defeat, because it’s easy to cheer and everythings’ fine and dandy when you’re winning, but how you handle it when you’re down is where the more honest psychology comes out. Of course the politicos, media and functionaries have their own interest in this, but is that view shared by the man on the street (medals as a measure for national self-worth, for example) or do they care differently, more empathetic. For example even if you don’t win you can at least get a positive “ganbaru”-spin from a story?

      (Also it would be interesting to compare and contrast this to how your own homecountries deal with sports competition ? I lived in a communist european country and back then we took Olympia etc pretty seriously (probably because of some weird “must show superiority of our glorious system over decadent west… by means of running fast and throwing things further!”, and the fact that sports make for a nice distraction when there’s otherwise not much good news). We had a massive public sports program with great funding (well, that and doping), victories were celebrated, but I can’t remember that contestants were ever so publicly dressed down for not winning. Oh, I don’t doubt that there was immense pressure behind the scenes, but it made no sense to air the complaints out in the open, so a failure was more likely swept under the rug and simply not talked about. If we blamed someone at all, it was not so much our individual athletes, but also external circumstances. And of course we didn’t have 24h entertainment/news media who amplify that problem for their own purposes.)

      Also, if can you expand on this, am I right in assuming that there are different standarts for different sports categories, to put the reactions in context ?

      I mean, there’s sports like Judo etc where it seems to me Japan believes like it is entitled by birthright to winning them. Obviously out of some sort of national origin story (ha, see what good that does to the English in regard to soccer!), so that every defeat, even the slightest misstep, is made out to be a great calamity and shame – and then all the ugly aspects come out (which is what makes it so interesting to me).That would seem to me like a rather empty mindset, because how can you really “enjoy” a win if it’s just what you’re expected to do, it would suck all of the fun and surprise out of a competition. I mean, what little reward and celebration comes out of winning Judo (a pat on the back, if at all, because we’re japanese therefore we simply ought to win this) versus the much greater consequences of defeat in lambasting and humiliation. Looks like the scales are seriously out of balance here, so you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

      Are there any other sports like this, where Japan cramps up a little too much ? Again, I don’t follow sports so I don’t have a good handle on this, but can I assume (for example) that Volleyball or Figureskating are kinda similar – I’m just judging by the amount of media attention that is given to them (vs other sports) as a measure of how much Japan “cares” on how well they do in a particular competition (with the added amount of (negative) pressure we talked about). I assume they fall under the category of “we were/are good at them, so we (ought to) take them seriously” ?
      And for the people here that were around for the 2002 World Cup, how was the mood back then ? I mean on the one hand being a host country does ramp up expectations but on the other hand they must’ve known Japan is not a soccer world power so there shouldn’t be too much delusional pressure.

      Seems to me like the best sport you can do is something that is yet sufficiently small and “niche” enough (like I don’t know, curling or something), so a win is actually a welcome surprise to be celebrated (instead of expected), and a loss is no great tragedy because it still flies under the radar of general scrutiny. Of course, if you get too good again and overspecialize in that category, you gonna bump up attention and then comes the pressure system again…

    9. Baudrillard Says:

      THE J HUNGER GAMES-Enginerd made some excellent points I was about to write about. The comparison to Communist obsession with sports is quite clear and striking, again Pot Japan resembling Kettle China as well.

      But as Enginerd points out, ” And of course we didn’t have 24h entertainment/news media who amplify that problem for their own purposes.)”

      Japan is a postmodern nightmare in this respect, as the media is indeed the message/massage. Kind of ironic that communist control states had less media instruments of control than 21st century Japan (or arguably, western countries)-but maybe thats why a lot of them lost power. And the J media is definitely biased toward the LDP, the “natural” party of J government (no doubt due to a 50 year patronage system).

      The other postmodern aspect is of course The Spectacle, The Theatre, which presents any revolution or meaninglful change in media hypnotized societies.

      “That would seem to me like a rather empty mindset, because how can you really “enjoy” a win if it’s just what you’re expected to do, it would suck all of the fun and surprise out of a competition. I mean, what little reward and celebration comes out of winning Judo (a pat on the back, if at all, because we’re japanese therefore we simply ought to win this) versus the much greater consequences of defeat in lambasting and humiliation”

      I intend to post separately about KILLJOY JAPAN, no dancing no laughing allowed. Act majime except where warau mo houben. But as you have so sucintly pointed out, where is the joy or the fun in competing?

      And isnt the avoidance of lambasting (shaming, not Western Guilt) and humiliation a Japanese national tradition? This is the country, according to Hofstede, with the highest Uncertainty Avoidance in the world.

      I bet a lot of Japanese talent wont participate in the Olympics for fear of standing out and having to take responsibility, and who can blame them if they become “herbivores” instead?

      In the west, if the media gives you a hard time, you can slam the media. Dish out as good as you get. In Japan it seems you cant even speak out as then you ll be seen to have a “bad attitude”- just shut uo, gaman, be stoic and uncomplaining, win for NIppon, and then die early.

      A somewhat Kamikaze expectation.

      Finally, regarding Chiba Suzu, surely the reason to compete IS fun. As amateurs, can it really be about the money?

      I then noticed a parallel with how Japan attracts NJs to work in Japan for peanuts. Its not for the money, its for The Japan Experience”

      The sad reality is, both are examples of unpaid exploitation of people’s talents and dreams.

    10. Baudrillard Says:

      HA~ “They have this pre-war mentality of kamikaze pilots, that you should work hard until you die.” I found this after I made the Kamikaze comparison

      In Chiba’s case, it has more to do with the opaque nature of Japanese decision-making, common to many realms in her country, from politics to business. “This revealed the old-fashioned, feudalistic nature of sports in Japan,” says Gentaro Taniguchi, a prominent sports journalist in Tokyo. “The federation tells athletes what to do, and the athletes cannot refuse. They have this pre-war mentality of kamikaze pilots, that you should work hard until you die.”

      http://www.cnn.org/ASIANOW/time/magazine/2000/0814/japan.swimmer.html

    11. Baudrillard Says:

      Chiba Suzu was purged. Appendix to the link I just posted, note the date- 2000. The year the revisionist right made its comeback. So although this article optimistically concludes:”If Chiba’s rebellion does eventually embarrass Japan into reforming the way it picks its Olympians, then she may have more impact than a gold medal ever could.”

      In fact the opposite has happened. It was The End of a potential New Beginning.

      Mori and Abe are very much for the “Divine Wind” of Kamikaze. Therefore in retrospect Chiba Suzu was politically purged, as a backlash to the individualistic trend that the Oyaji right started to reverse from 2000 onwards.

    12. scarecrow Says:

      Did you notice the “させて” after “帰化” in Mori’s quote? If I am not mistaken, and I could be, doesn’t that carry a particular nuance? Something like: Though they are not good enough for (the U.S. team in) the Olympics, we let them naturalize and sent them out as members of Japanese team.

      Anyway, I agree very much with your article. Mori’s comments regarding Asada Mao and the Reeds are just plain vile. The man has no business being involved with the 2020 Olympics.

    13. Bill Says:

      @Enginerd

      >How does the “general” public in japan deal with such things ?

      I’m not sure whether this is the ‘general public’, but I’ve read that some people (and also some of my other half’s colleagues) have reacted in a particular way. When your star performer loses and the nation is in deep shock, you make yourself feel better by laughing at someone else’s misfortune. After the women’s figure skating competition was over, you’d think people would either be sad that Asada Mao didn’t medal or happy that she kinda redeemed herself with one of her best ever performances in the free program. But no, some were happy and gloating over the fact that Kim Yuna missed out on the gold medal. I find this all so very sad and immature. Surely Asada’s second performance was enough to lift everyone’s spirit (which is what I felt from watching the TV)? No. Some people had to focus their attention on what happened to Kim…. to the point that there was no discussion as to why Asada’s best ever performance scored a lot less than the gold-medallist’s. I find this aspect to be very interesting.

      I also find that the media here shows absolutely no interest in a particular type of sports…until a Japanese does well. On the top of my head, I can think of women’s curling and fencing at the last two summer Olympics.

    14. Jim Di Griz Says:

      I have been thinking, where are Chris and Cathy Reed? Why aren’t they speaking out on this, saying ‘we ARE Japanese’, and doing something to fight discrimination against ‘haafu’?

    15. j_jobseeker Says:

      Interesting piece in the Japan Times today regarding Asada Mao.

      http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2014/02/23/more-sports/maos-stubborness-destroyed-medal-chances/

      I’m putting this here because on this morning’s TV Asahi program “News Bird” they had a commentator whip out the ol’point breakdown of her Free Program, trying very much to point out how Mao’s very technical program resulted in a higher technical score….provided she lands those difficult jumps of course. (Yes, I know, “No risk, no reward.” But let’s also remember that one can live and die by your own sword as well.) The commentator didn’t bother to point out how low Asada’s artistic score was compared to the Gold and Silver medalists. Those are what I call “easy” points; points that cover you when you falter in the technical.
      Much exaggerated fawning has been done over her Free Program to the point of calling it a “legendary four minutes” followed by an ever so gentle push toward maybe trying again in four years. That certainly is up to her, but considering how the media and former PM Mori were circulating over her “dead” performance in the Short Program, we’re seeing again the first signs of pressure being piled upon her. I found corner on News Bird really ridiculous because it actually posed the question: “How did she overcome her (disappointed) feelings?” Uh…she’s a world class athlete, that’s how.

      But as the Japan Times piece points out, skating without any pressure is truly liberating. The other relevant point the article also brings into focus is what may be a mass media/cultural pressure for her to keep her trademark jump in her program, just like Ando Miki kept trying to land a Quadruple Spin much to her own detriment. It suggests moving abroad and working with a coach to perhaps shake up her routine, but there seems to be an unwillingness on her part to let the Triple Axel go. Inflexibility. An inability to adapt. Sounds like a lot of what’s going on in Japan, all clearly played out in the face and performance of a young woman with a love for figure skating and the weight of a nation on her shoulders.

    16. Baudrillard Says:

      “we let them naturalize”- in other words, We real Japanese control your rights- you are here by our permission and any Japanese can use the snitch site if you do something we dont like- and it is a great honor to represent Japan (for no other reward but that).

      @ Jim, why arent Chris and Cathy speaking out? They probably are afraid of being purged like Chiba Suzu- and she was more of a “real” Japanese too (though she lived abroad.

      The nail that sticks out still gets hammered down. Yawn.

    17. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ J_jobseeker #15

      ‘It suggests moving abroad and working with a coach to perhaps shake up her routine, but there seems to be an unwillingness on her part to let the Triple Axel go. Inflexibility. An inability to adapt. Sounds like a lot of what’s going on in Japan, all clearly played out in the face and performance of a young woman with a love for figure skating and the weight of a nation on her shoulders.’

      I agree. A perfect analogy for why Japan just had 2 ‘lost decades’; find a winning formula, never change it. Never.

    18. john k Says:

      “…That certainly is up to her, but considering how the media and former PM Mori were circulating over her “dead” performance in the Short Program, …”

      Considering the very disingenuous comments made by such relics, I don’t see why (well I do know why, but..) they don’t retort by saying…”why do these politicians interfere with things that have nothing to do with reviving the economy. If they have all the answers as they appear to claim, why can’t they fix the economy, surely it is more simple than my 4 min performance?”

      Shoe on other foot….silence those dinosaurs.

    19. Karjh12 Says:

      So there is Ian Thorpe, the best Olympic swimmer of his time now dealing with depression.At least the media here ,after the initial report,have
      been gracious enough to back off completely.

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/ian-thorpe-faces-a-tough-battle-with-depression-his-father-says/story-e6frg6nf-1226817814670

    20. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      Enginerd,

      There are probably not all that many sports fans in Japan.
      Just that whenever there is an international event, suddenly everyone is a fan of the Japanese representatives.

      Prior to Japan getting a berth in the 2008(?) Olympics for handball I’m pretty sure not all that many people even knew handball was an Olympic sport, or that Japan had a team.
      Equally, there was little awareness of womens’ soccer until Nadeshiko won a major event, and then they were on TV on a daily basis.

      In addition, the average person seems to think Japan scores more wins than it actually does, thanks largely to TV replaying wins over and over for days (I still remember 1992 and Kyoko Miyazaki’s win was just short of headline news for three days)

      Losses, if not too many hopes have been pinned on the athlete, tend to get rationalised away – “we’re smaller than ‘the foreigners’”, “the rules have been changed to disadvantage the Japanese”, “our team had to travel so far”, “the food isn’t suitable for Japanese digestive systems”, etc.

      All the more reason I want to throw away the TV during the Olympics.

      Oh I think there are plenty of sports fans in Japan. I just think the goal of competitive sports (especially international competitions) is not quite as “sporting” as one might expect…

    21. Loverilakkuma Says:

      I just remember what Seiko Hashimoto, a former Olympic skater/cyclist, said about Japanese athletes. As the head of national athlete delegation, she said, “I just wanted to make the athletes relaxed and feel comfortable so that they could enjoy their performance to the bottom of their heart.” Japan didn’t do well in speed-skating, either. Good thing is, unlike Mori, she didn’t criticize the athletes for underperforming. Maybe she knows Japanese skaters are not gonna win the podium this time, or her skating and cycling experience under the pressure of Hinomaru flag symbol might have convinced her that pressurizing athletes for medal competition would be counter-productive to their performance.

    22. j_jobseeker Says:

      Ha ha! At a press conference for international journalists in Japan, Mao got asked about Mori’s comment about her. Her answer was well thought out and gracious yet also clearly expressed what she was feeling deep inside which engendered laughs from the reporters there. Oh Japanese media, you’re so ineffective. The foreign press had to ask what you couldn’t (or is that “shouldn’t”???).

    23. Baudrillard Says:

      Japan as classic postmodern media victims-”In addition, the average person seems to think Japan scores more wins than it actually does, thanks largely to TV replaying wins over and over for days”

      The appointment of The Divine Dinosaur Mori and all this pressure is part of the new J nationalism. A tool in Abe’s anti Chinese propaganda campaign, aand bread and circuses.

      The Lost Decade and The Land That Time Forgot, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Olympics (err, Earth. Sorry, couldnt resist).

    24. Baudrillard Says:

      Japan only had a free(ish) press due to western influence. “Oh Japanese media, you’re so ineffective. The foreign press had to ask what you couldn’t (or is that “shouldn’t”???).

      It is only by virtue of being in the western camp and gaiatsu that allows even foreign journalists to ask the questions that matter, though in English.

      Thus, people like Mori, Abe etc, I get the feeling English fluency is in fact despised by the J Right as it empowers its citizens, allowing them to travel overseas without fear and gives the women the strange idea that they might have equal rights, etc.

      Not so different from China, or arguably worse in this respect-loads of Chinese students overseas getting all kinds of western education… (oh, the irony).

    25. Jim di Griz Says:

      Anybody else see this?
      J-gov talks about needing 200,000 immigrants per-year again.
      Netizens go mental.

      http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20140224-00000152-jij-pol

    26. john k Says:

      #B24

      “..Thus, people like Mori, Abe etc, I get the feeling English fluency is in fact despised by the J Right…”

      I would argue the opposite. Since if Abe et al, can communicate in English, what better way than to “put down” such criticisms of themselves and their “unique” country to the journalists’ in their own mother tongue?

    27. Henry G Says:

      “I also find that the media here shows absolutely no interest in a particular type of sports…until a Japanese does well.” Bill says, above…

      That’s exactly what happened when the Nadeshikos won the women’s football World Cup; there was no coverage at all till they got to the quarter finals. Then suddenly, with the scent of possible international success and recognition in the air, the whole of Japan and the Japanese media were overnight women’s football fanatics.

      – I think this is true of anywhere. Once you have a home-team winner to root for, people generally get behind her or him or them. So let’s not single out Japan here. What we are focusing on in this blog post is not the cheers for an unexpected win, but the pressure placed upon athletes for an expected win…

    28. Baudrillard Says:

      @ John K, I was talking not about the Elite using English to be The Japan That can Say NO in English, but rather they dislike the cultural freedoms and “non Japanese”ideas that fluency in English gives to anyone with a brain in Japan, especially women.

      Having said that, the female manager of a certain guesthouse in Shinagawa once said to me, quote “If we speak English to well we will be the slaves of America!”.

      I am starting to think teaching English in Japan is in fact culturally impossible, due to all the cultural hurdles that are thrown up. I don’t encounter these self defeating attitudes in China (ha!).

      Its ironic considering how heavily learning Japanese language is linked to also learning (and accepting) Japanese culture. It is encoded, hard wired into the language, the expressions. Its arguably hard for a woman to swear or be impolite in Japanese, she usually has to resort to veiled sarcasm or clever indirectness. Direct speaking women in Japan are not too popular in Japan (with the men).

      @ Jim, J-gov talks about needing 200,000 immigrants per-year again.
      Netizens go mental.”

      Blah Blah Blah. Swings and Roundabouts. But if I may recall an example from the micro again, its rather like innumerable pointless negotiations I have had with Japanese businesspeople over the years, e.g.

      Club owner: “Please hold an event at my club on a Monday night and bring 100 people again”
      Me: Sure, lets charge 2000 yen entry.
      Owner”:No, that is too much and frighten my regular clientele away.
      Me: but there is no clientele here on a Monday night.
      Owner: True, but 2000 yen is too much. It will frighten my regular clientele away.
      Me: No deal.
      Club owner: “No, please hold an event at my club on a Monday night and bring 100 people again”

      (repeat ad nauseum, or until the westerner surrenders out of exhaustion or exasperation, or pity!).

      Whats the connection here? A desire to have one’s cake and eat it. Which in 20 years I have seen permeating all layers of society.

      Japan cannot reconcile what it wants (no immigration) with what it needs (immigration). Similarly, if enough (or just a few noisy ones) people complain, laws like giving a local vote to immigrants will be shelved.

      Thus nothing is decided. Inertia the only result, the rot deepens, but hey, everyone on this website already knows this.

    29. Enginerd Says:

      I have another question, for you who are more tuned into the local sports culture, how does this (negative) reaction compare to domestic japanese events (baseball league, soccer, sumo etc.) ? I mean, on the one hand athletes don’t necessarily have the weight of the whole country on their shoulders in an international competition, but on the other hand I can imagine that also removes any pretense of having to play nice with the sportspeoples psyche (since it’s a wholly internal affair and only japanese cultural rules apply). Do you have more stories to illustrate this, to make the point that this behavior is systemic ?

      And in a related matter to this, to contextualize the special case of the comments about the Reed skaters, do you think there’s anything noteworthy about the treatment of foreign players in domestic competitions (for example imports in soccer etc.) in particular, like scapegoating etc ?

      – I have dealt with some of these questions (particularly those in the last paragraph) in previous Debito.org blog entries tagged “Sports”. But let’s have others who know more about the subject comment too.

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