Exclusive Interview with Mr. Kage Matsushita, MUBC's Chef de Mission to the Tokyo Olympic Regatta.

MUBC名誉会員 松下啓司氏(早稲田大学漕艇部OB、 2020 MUBC 東京オリンピック遠征団 代表世話人)に聞くMUBCの魅力

Q: Kage, how have you enjoyed your sculling at MUBC?

A: Very much so. As of 25th June, 2017, this is my 3rd year since I started sculling, especially winter sculling, which is my most favorite event. I’ve never experienced such a fun and friendly series event even in Japan. My motivation as a sculler is growing and growing, just like Mt. Fuji.


Q: Has your sculling improved?

A: Yes, indeed! My first year 2015, I was the slowest sculler on the Yarra, and I was always scared that I would tip over in the winter season (actually I did in my debut race at Albert Park Lake, before getting to the start line, I enjoyed swimming and rowing in a cold winters day!) But I have many personal sculling coaches at MUBC; Peter Antonie, Shane Usher, Richard Saul and Paul Ferguson) They give me a useful and efficient suggestions so I could improve my sculling ability slowly but steadily! And in 2017, I purchased have my own boat named “Kagerow”. She is fantastic and a great lover and she allows me to be a middle class rower on the Yarra River.


Q: What exactly is your job in Melbourne, what does it entail, and when will it finish?


A: I work for Toyota Australia. As you know Toyota will close manufacturing business beginning of Oct 2017. I’m responsible for outsourced parts. I look after local suppliers. So once manufacturing business is closed, my mission is over. I’ll return to Japan by the end of this year. ‘MUBC Bumps’ would be my final row in 2017 and I will cry.


Q: I'm guessing a lot of MUBC members will be going to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Regatta and will want to stay at your house. Do you have a bedroom large enough to accommodate them all?

A: Good question, but first I need to tell you my back ground. I’m originally from Tokyo and I was born in 1964, the year the Tokyo Olympic games were held. But since I joined Toyota in 1986, I moved to Aichi Prefecture, 300Km west from Tokyo. If you want to stay at my home, you’ll need to take bullet train every day to get to Tokyo. Or another option is that my parents are still living in Tokyo. I can negotiate with them, but it seemed to be tough to have all MUBC guests. Japanese houses are generally called “Rabbit houses”. I’ll try to do the best I can for ALL MUBC mates.


Q: Invariably Olympic regattas insist on playing very loud and poorly chosen rock and roll music. You're something of a rock and roll guru yourself and play the guitar, what would be five songs you would like to hear at the Tokyo Bay course?

A: Maybe no one knows me as a rock ‘guru’. I have a band in Japan, named “Betalls”, because I’m a little bit taller than John Lennon. My name is JK as “John Kage”. My favorire songs are, “Twist and Shout” as opening, “I Saw Her Standing (or rowing) There” during the race, “In My Life” as ceremony to appreciate all the related, and “Stand By Me” as the closing song.


Q: I would like to hear some soothing classical music, but if I had to choose five myself I would go for Simon and Garfunkels 'Sounds of Silence' and 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', obviously side 2 of 'Sgt. Peppers' and 'Abbey Road', and definitely a live performance from you. How advanced are your plans to perform at the Olympic Regatta?

A: To play at Olympic regatta, I need to get through the domestic heat. Actually, I’m planning to play and show my performance this year at the Head of the Yarra, 2017. I think HOTY would be good timing to show my ability. So, after the race, I’ll turn to being a musician if you want me to do that.


Q: You raced at the Australian Universities Championships at Lake Barrington in 1984. How did you enjoy that experience?

A: Amazing experience for me. That was the first time to go overseas and race outside Japan. Everything was new and an exciting experience. Since then I have strongly wanted to go abroad. And then 31 years later, I could come to Melbourne in 2015 and join MUBC. And just two months ago, I went to Lake Barrington and competed in the Tassie Masters regatta there. Nothing has changed at all since then 1984.


Q: THIS FILM shows a Japanese coach fall out of his speedboat and it then it goes around in circles before crashing. Was this the Waseda coach of your crew?

A: I think that was our rival crew, Keio’s coach. Your film reminded me of the memory.


Q: You've been appointed MUBC's Chef de Mission to the Tokyo Olympic Regatta, how will you approach this position? And can MUBC members expect front row seats?

A: I’m not a politician! But I have a lot of rowing mates in Japan. I believe that Kage must be the best person to support MUBC members, however, please do not complain to me wherever your seats are!

Q: Thank you very much Kage.


MUBC Happi coat idea.

Q: What exactly is a ‘Happi Coat’, Mike?

A: Well basically it is a traditional Japanese dressing gown that is made of cotton and has short sleeves and reaches to above your knees and a belt goes around your waist. It is worn around the house, when you are free and relaxed.


Q: And you think MUBC members should have them? What design would you suggest?

A: Well traditionally they are black imprinted with a distinctive ‘mon’, or crest, with some images on them and Japanese text printed on the back. I would envisage the same pattern as the MUBC blazer, which is black with thin vertical blue and white stripes, and some Japanese text on it translated as ‘Harmony’, ‘Peace’, ‘Vote Greens’, ‘Well Rowed MUBC’, maybe an image of the Melbourne University angel holding an oar, that sort of thing.


Q: Sounds great.

A: I think so. They could have summer and winter ones. The winter one would be of a terri towelling fabric, long sleeves, reaching to the ankles, and both would have a couple of pockets to keep your mobile phone or iPad in.


Q: Do you think it will be easy to use the exact MUBC blazer pattern?

A: That’s a good question. Probably not.


Q: Why is that?

A: Well in 2015 MUBC sent a large team of Veterans to compete in the All Japan Masters Rowing Championships at Shimane and everyone had to have MUBC blazers for the various functions that were put on and since we had a couple of young women in the team to steer the crews I suggested we have conservative skirts made up using the MUBC blazer pattern.


Q: That seems so sensible and would look great. So, if it was really hot and they had to take off their MUBC blazer they could still be identified as MUBC team members by their skirts with the blazer pattern?

A: Yes, and the same would flow through to other female members of MUBC, so at the MUBC Annual Dinner, for example, and usually it’s late in the year and quite often really hot, the female members could wear these skirts with a neat white blouse and they would be both cool and look cool.


Q: Well that seems pretty straightforward, especially since Melbourne University is the top university in Australia. Why didn’t it happen?

A: Well the head of the Melbourne University Sports Department said ‘no’, and in a really angry way, when I had a meeting with him about it. The whole thing became a big issue because I wrote to the Vice Chancellor to say how silly the decision was. In the end I dropped the idea because I didn’t want it to distract the team since we were all training very hard. I was steering an 8, also sculling in the Bow seat of the Quad scull, and I was making a documentary on the whole thing, and putting together a book.


Q: Very busy indeed, and tiring, I guess.

A: Very. And we were training at least 4 mornings a week, which meant getting up at 5 am.


Q: I believe the team included the person who actually thought up the idea of having an MUBC blazer in the first place, and had a tailor make them?

A: Yes. Harry McKeon had the idea several years ago and masterminded this fashion revolution. His wife, Maureen, came up with the design of black with thin vertical blue and white stripes, and of course, a traditional pocket bearing the Melbourne University emblem of an angel.


Q: Sounds lovely. Didn’t Harry catch six crabs in one race in the Quad scull you steered in Shimane?

A: Oh, that? Yes, well we went off at the start and were miles ahead and then he caught six crabs and we lost. The stroke, Tony Oakley, was nearly in tears. It must be some sort of record. Anyway, it’s just an amusing footnote in MUBC’s amazing history.


Q: But the point is that even though Melbourne University adopted the blazer for all sports, MUBC, and Harry McKeon himself, would own the intellectual rights?

A: That’s what I would imagine. But I’m not a solicitor, so l can’t be sure.


Q: Sounds rather petty. I thought MUBC is knee deep in silks? They didn’t jump in and sort it?

A: Nope. Not a squeak. The head of the MU Sports department said if we wanted to have the girls wear a skirt it would have to be in a pattern that was ‘similar’, but not the exact pattern. And I didn’t want to waste my time searching every fabric store in Melbourne, so as I said, I dropped the idea.


Q: Does anyone wear any other item of clothing with a similar pattern?

A: Oh, yes. The MUBC President decided he wanted a waist coat, so his wife did exactly that and found a fabric with a ‘similar’ pattern and made him a waistcoat, which he proudly wears at MUBC functions, so when it is hot he can take off his MUBC blazer and still be identified with a similar pattern on his waistcoat.


Q: And logically on a hot night he would be cooler too. But how similar is it?

A: Well it’s got vertical stripes, but the blue is all wrong.


Q: Didn’t he win an Olympic Gold medal and is a World Champion?

A: Yes. It’s like instead of representing Australia in Green and Gold he has to wear green and orange.


Q; It’s a disgrace. And not allowing women to wear a skirt with the blazer pattern is sexist.

A: Well what about the MU pipes and drums? Imagine if they were invited to compete in the Edinburgh Tattoo and couldn’t have the MUBC blazer pattern on their kilts?


Q: Or the MU Jewish Debating Team, representing MU in the National Debating Championships, and wearing drab black skullcaps, or Kippahs, with no blue and white stripes?

A: Yeah. Or a top Indian badminton student in the MU team who is a Sikh and wants to wear a turban but it doesn’t have the smart MU blazer stripes on it?


Q: Or a conscientious Muslim female student in the MU swimming team who wants to wear a hijab in the Opening Ceremony of the Inter-Varsity Swimming Games, she would look wonderful in a hijab with stripes.

A: Or the MU Sumo wrestling team, those big nappies would look so swish with stripes.


Q: It’s like the MU Sports department have left out 90% of all ethnic students and females and just given the nod to white Anglo-Saxon types.

A: You would think the Farrago student rat-bag newspaper would be jumping up and down and be bashing on the door of the MU Law School to take action. But then again, the actual MUBC boat shed doesn’t even have solar panels on it…


Q: Pardon? What was that?

A: Well there are no solar panels on the roof of the MUBC boat shed. Melbourne University is actually in the heart of the seat of Melbourne, which is held by the Australian Green’s Adam Bandt as its Federal Member.


Q: And with solar panels it means after a few years you never have power bills ever again. So, what do you think is the solution here? A shake-up needed in the top echelons?

A: I think so. It’s no good ‘draining the swamp’, because the Yarra River is already like a drained swamp at low tide. However, a more ‘progressive’ way of thinking is required here and a more sensible policy on the MUBC blazer pattern is the order of the day.


Q: Especially since MUBC has the intellectual rights to the blazer pattern in the first place. Who would you envisage making these Happi Coats?

A: Maybe The Regatta Shop or 776BC, both quality manufacturers of rowing gear. I suggested the idea to Cameron McKenzie-McHarg, who is CEO of 776BC, but he said it isn’t really sports gear.


Q: But surely it would keep an athlete warm at night? The last think you want is an Olympic rower to catch a cold the night before his final? Didn’t he stage that amazing race between the Olympic Gold K4 and the Silver 4-, ‘Backwards Vs. Forwards’?

A: Indeed. But if 776BC manufactured Happi coats they would probably have all those vents under the armpits. Not really necessary since the coats are quite loose already.


Q: Thank you for sharing and explaining this idea. I hope to see MUBC members wearing these Happi Coats soon.

A: My pleasure.