The high school girl in Japan is as iconic an image of Japanese popular culture as the ninja, Mt Fuji and Hello Kitty.

For whatever pop psychology reason you want to imagine, the teenage girl in a uniform, particularly those that echo the naval uniforms of Europe in the 19th century, is a constant in Japan’s mainstream (and not so mainstream) culture. More interestingly, the fighting high school girl is a uniquely popular phenomenon in Japan – case in point, the iconic characters of Sukeban Deka and Sailor Moon.

1989 High School Sumo Kanazawa Tournament
1989 High School Sumo Kanazawa Tournament

In promotion of the 101st High School Sumo Kanazawa Tournament, to be held on Sunday, May 21, 2017, a video called “Sumo Girls Eighty Two Techniques” was released. The Japan pop culture site, SoraNews24, provides details on these 82 techniques.

Most people, however, are likely more interested in the visuals.

 

Sumo Girls 2

Sumo Girls 1

Track and Field: USA Championships
Alysia Montaño competing at the 2014 USA Outdoor Championships

Athletes are always pushing the boundaries – doing and accomplishing things that most others would not try or even think of doing.

When Alysia Montaño was considering whether to compete in her fourth straight USA Outdoor championship in 2014, she made a decision to do so – a daring decision considering she was 8 months pregnant!

This link, which shows a list of athletes who competed in the Olympics while pregnant, is filled with names of people who were 5-months pregnant or less. I wrote about the famed Flying Dutchwoman, Fanny Blankers-Koen, who was three-months pregnant when she won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics. Today, it is more and more common to hear about athletes competing while pregnant.

But Montaño race at 8 months was eyepopping. She was not out to win the 800 meter competition at the USA Outdoor Championship. In fact, she completed her race 35 seconds off her personal best. Her objective, as she related in this CNN interview, was to show the world what it looks like for a pregnant woman to be working, even as late as 8 months.

I recognized it was unlikely for people to see a pregnant woman running, in general. I wanted people to recognize that fitness and pregnancy is a really good thing, and this is what it looks like being a professional woman, whether my profession happens to be a professional athlete, or a businesswoman who has to go in an office and work 9 to 5. This is what it looks like for me as a professional athlete and wanted people to see that.

Of course, everyone wonders, is it safe? And Montaño has explained in many interviews that she did consult with her doctors, who not only said it was safe, it is a very good idea for women who are pregnant to exercise. Montaño explained that the immediate concern in running is not to fall. But like walking down the street, when a pregnant woman’s center of gravity is different from when she is not pregnant, she has to always remember to keep the posture upright. Montaño concentrated on doing so during the race.

In Montaño’s interview with ABC News, Senior Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained that “pregnancy is not a disease,” and “we have to remember, pregnancy, labor and delivery – we have to train for them.”

As explained in this article, only one out five pregnant women exercise according to a study commissioned by the International Olympic Committee, and that “The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for women with uncomplicated pregnancies (although contact sports, scuba diving, sky diving, hot yoga or activities with risk of falling should be avoided, reads the organization’s opinion).”

Said Dr. Raul Artal, who co-authored the report, “pregnancy should not be a state of confinement but rather an opportunity for women to continue an active lifestyle or to adopt an active lifestyle if they were not active before.”

Amber Miller
Amber Miller competing at the 2011 Chicago Marathon

Amber Miller certainly didn’t confine herself. At the age of 27, while 39 weeks pregnant, Miller ran in the 2011 Chicago Marathon. It was not publicized, but when people realized she was pregnant, she got a lot of double takes and words of encouragement, as noted in this New York Times Well blog post.

Miller finished the race three hours off her personal best, in 6 hours and 25 minutes, mixing in walking with running. But then after the marathon, she embarked on a second one. While running she experienced contractions. Eight hours after completing the marathon, she gave birth to a baby girl. Which of the two was more difficult? “I don’t feel anything from the marathon, but I do feel what you’d expect after giving birth,” she said the day after.

So for all the mothers who have toughed it out, by just having children, Happy Mother’s Day!

Roy with 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch
Roy with 1964 Tokyo Olympic Torch
The Olympians has been a labor of love for exactly two years. It is my sketchbook as I prepare for the mural masterpiece, a book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

While my book’s focus is on the XVIII Tokyo Olympiad, I use my blog as an excuse to write about anything even remotely related to these areas: the Tokyo Olympics, the Olympics overall, Japan, and sports in general. In other words, I think of my blog as therapy for a restlessly curious mind.

How else could I go 730 straight days without missing a post?

Enjoy!

Japan 1964

 

Tokyo 2020

 

Random Rambles

Roy's 2nd Birthday
Roy’s 2nd Birthday
It’s been exactly two years since I started my journey to understand the context, the organization and the stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. My father was at those games as a news producer for NBC, and I turned one years old on Opening Day.

I moved to Tokyo for a third time in January, 2014, excited by Tokyo’s selection as the host city for the 2020 Summer Games. Surprised to find not a single book on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in English, I endeavored to write the definitive record. On May 1, 2015, I started my blog, The Olympians is in many ways, the first draft of my book.

All, thank you for your wonderful comments and support!

 

Olympians 1964

 

Amazing Olympians

A Visit with a Japanese Family_13

Here is part 4 of a series on how the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 presented the typical Japanese family to the world. In these series of pictures, the writers again show how similar the typical Japanese and Western families actually are. Moms shout out to kids that dinner is ready, and they settle together at the dinner table to a wide variety of cuisine.

13 Amid the cackling and shouting of the kid on the lawn we hear Mother’ s voice. It’s supper time. Japan adopted daylight-saving-time shortly after the war, but the problem of getting the children inside while it was still light out proved too great, and daylight-saving-time was abandoned.

14 All the family members gather in the kitchen area for supper. For dinner you can expect any variety of Western, Chinese, Indian or Japanese food. No other nation offers such an array of homecooking. The availability of fresh meats and an abundant supply   of   fish give the homemaker scores of menu ideas. Rice, the all­ time favorite in Japan is losing some of its popularity to bread, especially at breakfast time. The main food seasoning is soy sauce, which was first introduced. to Japan from China centuries ago.   Try a little on your fish.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_14

When I read that Japanese typically eat Indian food, I had to pause for a moment. Indian food? Then I realized that one of the most popular dishes in the Japanese diet is indeed curry rice, a thick yellow curry that has been popular since the late 19th century when the British introduced it to the Japanese.

The article ends as does the day of the typical Japanese family – with everyone fast asleep, except the eldest son burning the midnight oil studying for university exams.

16   The   family   has retired for the night.   What a long time we’ve been here!   Only   one   light is burning.   It’s in the room of the oldest boy who is studying for the university entrance examinations .   He is   preparing   for the fiercest competition he may ever face. Taro, the family dog, is keeping the vigil outside. Well, good night now, have a good rest.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_16

It’s the 1960s! The Japanese economy is booming! This was the time of The Three Sacred Treasures of Post-War Japan, when every family had to have a television, a refrigerator and a washing machine.

This is part 3 about how the Olympic Organizing Committee sought to educate the visiting foreigners about the typical Japanese household. Their message – yes, we’re Japanese, but we’re Western and Modern as well! In an article written in “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, the writers explained how up to the times the typical Japanese family was. Having said that, the Kato girls are stuck cooking in the kitchen and doing the laundry, albeit with the latest white goods on the market.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_5

5 Kitchen Area. This functional modern design is gaining in popularity as fewer girls are willing to be house­ maids. The housewife’s aids today are electric appliances. Mrs. Kato and her daughter-in-law are clearing the breakfast table.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_6

6 Laundry   and   Bath.   The latest model washing ma­chine and spin dryer. Look at the bathtub-in a Japanese style bath you wash and rinse outside the tub, and in this case, in a Western style shower. The water is not replaced for every bather so it’s important that you be clean before   you   get into the hot water of the tub to relax.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_7

7 The handy folding clothesdryer can be moved to the sunniest areas as the sun moves across the sky.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_10

10 With the washing in the fresh air, Mother turns to sewing. New electric sewing machines have made it possible for women to make their own kimonos at home. Once kimonos had to be made by professional dress­ makers. Japan currently produces sewing machines, at an annual rate of 3.5 million, many of which are ex ported.

Through the eyes of mother Kato, the writers show how Japan has modernized. First, mom drives! How else can she attend PTA meetings and buy her groceries at the increasingly popular supermarket!

A Visit with a Japanese Family_11

11 Faced with increasing duties at home and outside, Mother has learned to drive. Alas, she had the new car two months before she could pass the driving test!

12 After attending a PTA meeting at the school of her youngest child, Mother stops at a supermarket on her way home. Supermarkets came into   vogue in Japan about three years ago and have proved so popular with house­ wives that there are some 2,000 supermarkets in Tokyo alone.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_12

This is part 2 about an article written in “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, a book designed to make sense of Japan to visiting foreigners during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. While the article was interesting, the pictures were fascinating.

As stated in part 1, the Olympic Organizers wanted to put foreign visitors at ease, that Japan wasn’t so different. The article shows a picture of the family Kato. Kato is a typical Japanese name, but the house they live in – definitely not typical!

A Visit with a Japanese Family_1

1 Here we are-this is the Kato   home.   Nice, isn’t it? Kato-san is a company manager and he, with his wife and eldest son’s family live in a nine-room, upper middle class home. The house, constructed recently at a cost of ¥9 million (S25,000), is of hinoki (Japanese cypress), considered the best home building material.

Hmmm, I don’t know about you, but 9 rooms, even for an upper middle-class home seems insanely spacious. And then there is the space around the house itself. If you’ve lived in a typical neighborhood, even in an upper-middle class abode, you rarely see such space around the house. More likely is that you could open your window and practically touch the house next door.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_2.JPG

2 This is the front entrance. As we slip out of our shoes and into house slippers, we meet- Kato-san’s eldest son who is making the opposite change. He’s on his way to the office.

Clearly the eldest son is Westernized. He’s not in kimono – rather, he’s in the modern-day office wear of white shirt, trousers and necktie. And another familiar cultural cue of the 1960s: the wife stays at home to do the housework while the husband is working hard for the family.

3 With her husband off to work, the wife is in the living room, guiding the   vacuum   cleaner   over   the   rug and under the Western-style furniture. You’ll notice the display shelves, a genuine Japanese touch.   Resting   on them are some of the family’s art treasures.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_3

Not only are the Japanese Westernized, they’re civilized!

8   The clock has ticked by a few hours and Mother is in the garden hanging out the wash. She smiles as she hears her daughter practicing scales upstairs. Musical education at home was a rarity in prewar   Japan, but is extremely popular now, especially for young people. Japan is proud to be the producer of some of the world’s finest pianos.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_8

9 Kato-san’s three grandchildren are on late summer vacation now, from late July to early September. The oldest girl, home from college, is spending her leisure time playing the piano, while her brother, who is a high school student, and the youngest boy, who is in junior high school, are making plastic models and assembling a radio.

A Visit with a Japanese Family_9

But not everything is Westernized. The Japanese actually do enjoy their green tea. And thanks to this article, foreigners can avoid the embarrassing faux pas of adding sugar to their green tea.

4 Upstairs, Kato-san is sipping hot green tea (without cream or sugar) which his wife has just brought him. He doesn’t have to go to the office until later. This sunny spot is a typical all-purpose Japanese room-a simple airy living room during the day, a dining area when you bring the low table to the center of the room, and at night, when the bedding is taken from the closets, and placed on the tatami presto, It’s a bedroom!

A Visit with a Japanese Family_4