“Every day, new stars arise, and new stories come to the fore,” she said. “So, personally, I don’t want it to end.”
In the view of Mr. Costas, who guided viewers through NBC’s Olympics coverage from 1992 through 2016, any comparison of the Tokyo games with previous competitions is not fair, given the pall cast by the pandemic. And three years from now, if all goes according to plan, NBCUniversal will get what amounts to a do-over in Paris.
“Paris 2024 will be, we hope, fingers crossed, much more like a classic Olympics situation,” he said. “That will be a more legitimate test.”
TOKYO — Kurumi Mochizuki is the kind of skilled soccer player who can roll a ball from between her shoulder blades to the top of her head and onto her right foot, keeping it aloft for more than a dozen kicks. She makes it look so easy.
Yet when she practices with her local club team in southeastern Tokyo, her coaches sometimes advise her to take longer breaks than her teammates, and warn her not to pick up heavy bags of balls when clearing equipment from the field.
All because she is a girl.
Kurumi, 13, is the only girl on her team. She plays with boys because there are no girls’ club teams near her neighborhood and no girls’ team at her middle school. Finding a team in high school will be difficult, too. Only one of the 14 schools in Kurumi’s area offers a girls’ team. Her older brother, who plays soccer at his high school, has had no such trouble — almost all the high schools in the district have boys’ soccer teams.
Tokyo Olympics, which open next month, offer an opportunity to anoint another crop of champions to inspire girls with athletic aspirations. But after the Olympic spotlight dims, those like Kurumi will still face powerful obstacles.
Japan has no law like Title IX, the American statute that requires schools receiving public funding to offer equal opportunities to boys and girls, and there is no public data on how much schools spend on extracurricular sports or how it breaks down on gender lines.
Female athletes who persevere often have to push past stereotypes that they are doing something unladylike, jeopardizing their chances of attracting boys and later becoming wives and mothers. Even their coaches view their participation through this lens, in some cases giving them etiquette lessons to ensure they are ready for domestic life.
2011 Women’s World Cup and claimed the silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
She followed her brother into soccer when she was 6. “When I was little, I never thought about it,” she said of being the sole girl on her team. “But once I got a bit older, I was much more aware of it.”
The extracurricular soccer team at her public middle school is technically coed, although not one of the team’s 40 players is a girl. Kurumi decided to stick to the club team she had played with since elementary school rather than try to break into a new group at school.
“There is a difference in strength and aggressiveness between boys and girls,” said Shigeki Komatsu, the middle school’s vice principal, standing on the sidelines as the boys scrimmaged on a gravel pitch, their cleats kicking up puffs of dust.
hopes that the situation would improve for female athletes in Japan.
Before that victory, girls in the United States had flocked to suburban soccer clubs after the U.S. women won the World Cup on American soil in 1999.
Koshien, that is more than 100 years old. Just after New Year’s, huge audiences tune in to watch the Hakone Ekiden, a college-level marathon relay that is restricted to male runners.
There are few vocal advocates for female athletes, and most of their coaches are men who often do not provide support for the physical changes that girls undergo in adolescence.
Hanae Ito, a swimmer who represented Japan at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, said coaches along the way had told her she was “mentally weak” when she gained weight or suffered menstruation-related mood changes as a teenage athlete.
“I thought it was a problem with me or that it was my fault,” she said. “But I think that this all ties back to Japan being a patriarchal society. Even women’s sports is seen from a male gaze.”
The idea that female athletes need to worry about their future prospects with men is deeply rooted.
After Hideko Maehata, an Olympic swimmer, became the first woman to win a gold medal for Japan, The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, heralded her victory at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games with the headline: “Next Up Is Marriage.”
Such attitudes persist today. Yuki Suzuki, who played in Japan’s Nadeshiko women’s professional soccer league and taught the sport until she gave birth to her son, is frustrated by the rigid gender definitions.
“Girls are often told ‘be feminine, be feminine,’” said Ms. Suzuki, now 34. “I think we have to change the fundamental culture of Japan when it comes to women.”
Even when girls get the chance to play, a bias toward boys emerges in small ways. At the middle school Kurumi attends, the boys’ volleyball and basketball teams get the gym three days a week for practice, while the girls use it the other two days.
Kurumi said she tried not to worry about the unequal treatment. She does not hold it against her coaches, she said, for barring her from carrying heavy equipment during practice.
“I am sure the coaches just care about me,” she said. “But personally, I know I could carry it.”
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LOS ANGELES — In today’s world of celebrity branding, captions speak louder than words. But Naomi Osaka’s are decidedly understated.
“Keep on keeping on,” the 23-year-old tennis champion posted on Instagram under two on-court photos after making it through the fourth round of the Australian Open (which she went on to win).
For a slide show that began with a shot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose Costume Institute Gala she will co-chair, in September: “oh we lit.”
Below a portrait of herself draped in Louis Vuitton and Nike (both sponsors of hers), simply: “yo.”
Her nonchalance, perhaps, is a way of guarding herself on social media, where many more loquacious celebrities have made unforced errors.
business is boomin’. Ms. Osaka is covering everything from ears to rears, making headphones with Beats, athleisure with Nike and denim with Levi’s. Dresses? She designed them with Adeam, a Japanese-American brand. Swimwear? She crafted a collection with Frankies Bikinis.
In April, she announced that she would serve as C.E.O. of her own company: Kinlò, a line of skin care made for people with melanated skin tones, produced with GoDaddy. According to Forbes, she made $37.4 million in endorsements and tournament prizes between May 2019 and May 2020, the most a female athlete has ever earned in a single year.
pain medication, watches (which Ms. Osaka also does, for Tag Heuer) and the ever-changing category of fast food. On a Monday in March, Ms. Osaka found herself in the Los Angeles test kitchen of the chain restaurant Sweetgreen, the Supreme of salad, trying to wrap her head around the notion that one of the restaurant’s dressings — rémoulade — would soon be disappearing from the menu.
“What’s in it that makes it seasonal?” Ms. Osaka said.
“The pickles,” said Katelyn Shannon, a research and development chef of Sweetgreen.
blog post Women Laughing Alone With Salad went viral. Most of those women were white; perhaps none of them compelled anyone to eat a salad (unironically, anyway).
“Representation is important,” said Ms. Osaka, who is Haitian and Japanese. (Part of the proceeds of a salad she designed for Sweetgreen — with baby spinach and tortilla chips, among other ingredients — will go toward nonprofits working to increase food access in Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.)
this was a turning point: taking a stance increased her brand value. She shortly thereafter teamed up with Basic Space, an online swap meet for hype beasts (sample items for sale include a St. John coat and a Range Rover) to sell 500 masks designed by her 25-year-old sister, Mari. They sold out in 30 minutes, with proceeds going to UNICEF.
The Unsuspecting Player,” reaching $150,000. It is a Mangaesque imagining of a brown-skinned woman with a tennis racket and a cascade of pink hair not unlike a wig Ms. Osaka wore in a recent Instagram post.
“I’ve always felt like my sister knows me best,” Naomi Osaka said during an April interview on Clubhouse, the audio broadcasting app. “I’ve grown up watching her draw and do digital art and paintings, I always wanted to find a way to use my platform to showcase that.”
“Though maybe not exactly how I am,” she added, “she captured me well.”
It was Ms. Osaka’s first time on Clubhouse, and she did not hide her bemusement when the volume of Mari’s audio dwarfed her own. “I’m literally right next to my sister, so I don’t get why I have a bad connection and she doesn’t,” she said.
Many of her brand partnerships involve Mari. They collaborate on sketches for clothing Ms. Osaka designs with her fashion sponsors, like an upcoming capsule collection with Levi’s. “I draw really badly, she can make it look good,” Ms. Osaka said. “She’s able to interpret. Sometimes we don’t even have to talk for her to understand what I’m thinking.”
Before the pandemic, Ms. Osaka visited the Levi’s workshop in West Hollywood to conceptualize the pieces, which include an obi-inspired bustier and denim shorts with crystal fringe. When in-person meeting became impossible, she went on Zoom, signing off on 10 designs before they went into production.
“As a little kid, I would watch ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and ‘Project Runway,’ and those were sort of scratching the surface of what goes on behind the scenes,” she said. At Levi’s, she said, she could see the process, “how technical they are about buttons and cutting fabric.”
Far from the celebrity sponsorship model of yore, in which stars of syndicated TV shows claim to color their own hair at home, Ms. Osaka does not want to work with a company unless she’s learning on the job.
As companies scurry to make up for decades of underrepresentation of races other than white, Ms. Osaka is aware that she may seem like the golden ticket.
“I don’t just want to be a figurehead, or someone used,” she said. “If I’m with a brand, I want it to be from my heart instead of just trying to promote a message, just for money.”
Surely, some thirsty brands have offered some pretty sweet deals?
Ms. Osaka laughed. “That’s really a him question,” she said, gesturing at Stuart Duguid, her agent and manager.
“She’s not taking incoming calls,” he said.
Back in the test kitchen, Ms. Osaka had cast herself, convincingly, as student in salad master class, asking about the pros and cons of various greens, what ingredients go together, watching and learning as Mr. Ru, the Sweetgreen co-founder, demonstrated the proper way to mix with tongs “You’ve got to do the twist,” he said, flipping his wrist.
Upstairs, in a makeshift conference room, she photographed a mood board taped to a concrete wall. She gazed at the unfinished ceiling and a rattling screen window. “Really pretty architecture,” she said, sincerely. . Many celebrities are more keen on checking their texts than looking around the room. That’s not Ms. Osaka, or her brand.
“I’m very curious about a lot of things,” she said. “Being curious is one of the happinesses of life, because if you’re not curious, that means you’re sort of settled. I feel really humbled, that I play tennis but I’m able to have all these new experiences and opportunities, like getting to make a salad here. I don’t think a lot of people can say that.”
“I’m really good at tennis,” she added, “but I’d like to be really good at other things, too.”