Overseas Olympic Teams’ Katakana Clothing Gets Attention in Japan

In this photo from the official Instagram account of the German Olympic football team, players are seen traveling wearing polo shirts with “Germany” written in phonetic Japanese katakana characters.

TOKYO – It’s not just the athletic’s exquisite play that is attracting attention at the Tokyo Olympics. Clothing worn by foreign athletes featuring phonetic Japanese katakana characters is also the subject of many looks in Japan.

At the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, where the table tennis competition took place, orange polo shirts worn by German national team officials feature the word “Germany” in black on the chest. It is not written in the Latin alphabet, but in Katakana, which is generally used for words of foreign origin in Japanese.

British officials appeared in white tank tops with four katakana letters for “Great Britain” on the BMX bike site, and the German Olympic football team was shown on their official Instagram page traveling in a polo shirt with “Germany” written on it. in katakana.

According to the German company Adidas, which was contracted to produce clothing for the German and British national teams, the decision to put the names of katakana countries on the uniforms for the Tokyo Olympics was taken in 2018. The clothing brand de sport proposed the idea of ​​showing respect to the host country to welcome foreign athletes with open arms, and to show the pride of the teams in representing their country. It was well received by the leaders of each nation.

This photo shows a British national team t-shirt with the name of the country in phonetic Japanese katakana characters. (Photo courtesy of Adidas)

The decision to use katakana instead of hiragana, the other Japanese phonetic character set, was based on their pursuit of “high quality design and ease of reading.” Adidas has also adopted the katakana for the uniforms of the Hungarian and Irish teams. In addition to shirts, jackets and pants, bags and hats also have katakana patterns.

The designs were decided before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Initially, the design was intended to show which country the athletes represented when they visited Tokyo, so that the Japanese on the streets would be more familiar with the athletes from overseas.

However, the world situation has changed dramatically. Athletes could no longer casually go out in Tokyo, and the opportunity to see “katakana clothes” on the streets was lost. Despite this, coaches and officials who wore them to competition venues appeared on TV screens.

Even athletes from countries where companies other than Adidas were engaged, such as Finland and the Czech Republic, wore clothes that included katakana characters, and the Japanese on social media called it “cute,” ” eye-catching “and” warm “. . ”

Simon Cartwright, 55, of Adidas, who played a central role in the project, said it was natural that Japanese katakana culture, which Japan could proudly show off to the world, attracted attention. He said the response was beyond the expectations of officials and he was proud that the designs’ goals had been achieved on the global stage, with so many accepting them.

What the Japanese are probably wondering is if they will be able to buy this katakana. According to Cartwright, unfortunately, in the case of Adidas, it is only on sale in the teams’ home countries and is difficult to buy in Japan at the moment.

(Japanese original by Shohei Kawamura, Sports News Department)

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