Tuesday, September 13, 2005


School days have started in Japan, and on the train to work that passes though all the stations filled with waiting countryside kids dressed in all their variations on the uniform (things haven’t changed all that much in this regard since I first came here in the early 70s and beheld guys going to school in expensive Meiji era military uniforms (expensive as we later learned from having to keep Keech newly and cleanly uniformed during his high school days - school uniforms have long been a lucrative business here), the guys in full uniform with cap, the girls in long dresses that were the chaste equivalent) and though it seems the authorities have pretty much done away with the caps and outer jackets, the guys still have to wear white shirts and ties with the uniform pants, the girls chastely shorter versions of chastity.

Nevertheless, everywhere I looked along the train line were signs of the students’ innate craving to defeat the unifomity, to deuniformize, to express their selves however borderline permissible: the guys via lowered pants, raised cuffs, oddly clinched belts, loose ties, oddly tied ties, big shirts, open collars; the girls via low socks, floppy socks, superfloppy socks, bulky socks, high socks, open collars, varilength sleeves, any way they could vary the uniform, it was done. Natural enough in the young.

I remember doing the same when I was in high school and we had to wear ties and jackets; we would do whatever we could to be different without actually breaking the rules, though we did it in tribes, to be massively cool, wearing a shoelace as a tie, or throwing the tie over the shoulder, but for most the defiance (which in truth was more solidarity/conformity with peers than defiance of authority) didn’t last much beyond graduation and wanderjahre into real life, where defiance didn’t work for the newbies back then, any more than it will work now for most of these youngsters. A few, though, will manage to follow their own way through life and one day down the line perhaps brighten the journey for all, through the power of their art…

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