Sunday, 6 November 2011

Uniforms

The Japanese love uniforms. Unfortunately, this is not the semi-weird semi-fetishism of mine own country, with its Gilbert and its Sullivan and its bewigged judiciary, but another facet of Japan’s love of imitation.
I’ll write another blog post on Japanese over-staffing; suffice it to say that in Japan, people don’t become surplus to requirements, they simply don a uniform and get given a very very questionable job to do. Every train station, for instance, seems to have a person whose job it is simply to bow at people as they arrive.

Elsewhere in Japanese life, members of staff are very present though their role seems to be nothing more than to shout at you, to bow at you, and to wear a weird fancy-dress style uniform. Every train, no matter how slow and suburban, seems to have two drivers and a train guard (who, at every stop, performs an elaborate ritual of arm waving, nodding, saluting and whistle-blowing) to complement the staff on each platform. They all have brightly coloured polyester uniforms, and matching, naval-style, hats: all brass and brazen.
At the recent University fair, too, the administrators seemed somewhat miffed that we did not (though we weren't the only ones) put on the "Gambatte Nihon" T shirst they forced on us more than once.

Another weird feature of Japuniform policy is that school children wear their uniforms everywhere and at weekends! AT WEEKENDS! First, let it be noted that the most common school uniform resembles a fancy-dress shop sailor outfit, for boys and for girls, and that there is often an extremely wide, though disappointingly a-nautical, hat to go with it. Perhaps it’s a function of Japanese group conscience, or perhaps these kids simply don’t have other clothes, but it’s perfectly normal that wherever a schoolchild be seen, he proudly displays which educational institution he attends. The very idea of that in England… 

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