Last December, for the first time in the more than two decades I’ve spent in school, I felt trapped. But I also felt that I couldn’t quit law school. The only thing keeping me going was the fact that I was going to get out of there one day—away from professors who act like infants, administrators who act like royalty, and classmates who burn the last embers of their youth perfecting their (ungraded) assignments.
As governments take a few too pages too many from China’s dictatorial playbook, and make potentially irreversible sacrifices to our civil liberties in the purported aim of beating down a coronavirus pandemic, perhaps more people around the world can relate to the feeling of being subject to forces well beyond our control. Campus life on universities, prematurely extinguished. Face masks, once an object of racist derision against East Asians, now necessary to step outdoors.
Even when folks spend their time at home collecting unhealthy screen time can’t escape the black hole of unnecessary information that Silicon Valley merrily smears on their algorithm-addicted eyes all day. Last week, I returned home from the grocery store irked to hear my parents ask me about whether there were any eggs left on the shelves because they heard something about Thailand. Unable to part with their iPhones and televisions at mealtimes, they too are trapped in an evil vortex of panic buying and resource hoarding.
As AJR said in “Drama“, one of the songs I regularly play on repeat in Spotify:
But who am I to complain, when I also scroll through Twitter daily, just to retweet from a few dozens accounts who now spend all day laughing at Mr. Abe’s idea to give two masks to each household, and (rightly) bashing fellow his Liberal Democratic Party colleagues calling for the government not to extend any aid to residents in Japan without Japanese citizenship? When record numbers of Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks?
So perhaps it felt so reinvigorating to read about this very random piece of news on 4years., an Asahi Shimbun site focused on intercollegiate sports in Japan, yesterday:
Mirai Fukuoka Suns, an American football team in the X1 division of the X-League [an American football league in Japan], announced on April 1 that Koji Tokuda, the “head supporter” of American football on 4years., has joined the team as a football player. Mr. Koji was the captain of the American football team at Hosei University in the 2009-10 season. This is his first return to the gridiron in a decade. “American football always makes me very excited, and I’ve always wanted to do something to give back to the sport. I look forward to being able to play for Fukuoka Suns,” Koji said.
Just to give some context, Koji Tokuda is a comedian and television personality who, until February, was part of a double act called ブリリアン (Brillian), which you can read about on this entertainment blog post here (in Japanese), because I know nothing about Mr. Tokuda. Here is Asahi Shimbun‘s video of Koji Tokuda in uniform below:
While certainly a thousand times more athletic that I am and will ever be, Mr. Koji, at the tender age of 32, also isn’t exactly in the prime of his youth as an upcoming professional athlete. At the same time, I think this makes his decision to amicably part ways with Brillian, and to restart his life as an American footballer a month later, all the more brave.
Ten years ago, Mr. Koji brought Hosei University to the Koshien Bowl, Japan’s annual national college football championship, a decade ago, and lost. After he graduated, as he told the Asahi Shimbun in a 2017 interview, he didn’t want to become a professional athlete:
“I had felt that I was reaching my limit, so I didn’t think about becoming a professional American football athlete. For the longest time, I just wanted to become famous and get that feeling I had while I was at Koshien. I thought long and hard about what the fastest way to do so was, and the answer I came up with was to become a comedian.”
“A ghost never dies, it remains always to come and to come-back,” wrote Jacques Derrida, as retold by Hua Hsu in a New Yorker article that a friend sent me last week. Ours is the life that we live, and so we must control the ghosts of our past, before we let the ghosts of our past control ourselves. Mr. Koji probably let his ghosts felt known when he couldn’t stop talking about the NFL during his entertainment career. Now, he has gone all in, and he gets to play with Takashi Kurihara, his former teammate at Hosei University.
Maybe I, who never got over my own insecurities in gym class as a kid, or the ghosts I left behind at Waseda University, just have a soft spot for carefully crafted stories in the Japanese mass media about male athletes and the careers they left behind. But in a city, or indeed a world, swept up in an unending panic about the coronavirus, this peripheral piece of news about Mr. Koji will hopefully inspire me for the difficult weeks to come.
Naoki Kitagawa took the cover photo I used for this blog post for the Asahi Shimbun.
Do not use this blog post as a source for news about the coronavirus pandemic. Tales from Tabata is not a primary news source. For updates on COVID-19 in Japan, please see the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare’s site and other primary news sources.