By Hitomi Kayama
It’s to my knowledge that just about every person on campus has spotted, if not goggled at, the student wearing blue robes, matched with a turban-like head covering. If you still can’t recall exactly who I’m referring to, just think back to the last guy in Komaba you took a second glance at. Or perhaps several glances.
I remember my initial reaction when seeing Shionoya Kyosuke for the first time. Woah – cool, Todai has a Nepalese exchange… On second thought, maybe he’s Mongolian. And then of course, the speculations came buzzing into my head after I’d seen him multiple times: for a foreigner he seems to be pretty intermingled with the Japanese students… he can’t be Japanese, can he? Does he actually wear the same thing every day, or am I just seeing him on the same day, every week? I wonder what he’s going to do when it gets too humid for robes… I grew more puzzled and confounded as I continued to make futile attempts at making sense of him.
Upon questioning a fairly diverse range of people who had seen him before, though – my friends within PEAK, a few of my teachers, the odd Japanese Todai student or two, it became very clear that barely anyone knew why he wore this thing rain or shine, let alone the culture to which his very interesting attire belonged. So as a new writer for the Komaba Times, I felt it my duty to uncover once and for all the questions most of us on campus have been itching to ask him.
A very casual conversation with Kyosuke was more than enough to fill in all the blanks. To give a brief introduction, he’s a first year Humanities III student who was born and raised in Japan, and was your very typical Japanese University student until the summer of 2013 (despite his very exotic look he still does enjoy singing anime songs at karaoke from time to time). To my utter disbelief, this was when he started wearing the clothes we now all recognize him by – merely less than five months ago. What’s truly intriguing is that Kyosuke’s not so sure why he wears what he does – ‘I’ve always been drawn to wearing something like it ever since I was in junior high school. The robes are Chinese, and I bought them from a store in Japan that specializes in them. About the turban – it’s a gift my friend brought back as a souvenir from Syria.’ As he said this, I was pleased to find out exactly how he’s managed to negate all those guesses that have been made as to what culture his clothes are supposed to represent.
He was very honest as well – with a grin on his face, he looked pretty pleased with himself; ‘It’s a total hassle going to the bathroom. But it’s worth it. The robes are very warm and easy to put on, lots of people approach me at social events out of pure curiosity, and the turban even serves a double function as a head cushion.’ I couldn’t help but laugh at the last thing he told me, though. ‘My parents, with whom I no longer live in the same house, haven’t seen me since before I began wearing these robes and this turban. Oh, and they have no idea I’m wearing them.’ He used a term to describe how they would react if they saw him now, the humour of which would simply be lost in translation – ‘koshi nuku deshou,’ literally meaning ‘they’ll lose their hips and will be unable to stand’. This is something Kyosuke will inevitably have to face at some point, owing to the fact that he’s planning to wear his robes for the rest of his life.
Hitomi is a 1st-year PEAK student at the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo.