RISE UP, YE SOUTHPAWS:
Left-Handedness Comes into Vogue
February 7, 2000
Until 20 or 30 years ago, lefties in Japan had a tough life. Holding one's chopsticks with the left hand was considered to be ill manners, and many parents "corrected" a child's left-handedness, thinking that it would give a bad impression on others. In recent years the pressure on this minority has eased considerably, however, as the trait is coming to be seen in a different light.
Lefties Are Cool
A recent survey has revealed, however, that a growing number of Japanese, especially young people, are coming to see left-handedness as a desirable trait. Approximately half of the respondents in their teens and twenties said that, at some point in their lives, they have wished they could become southpaws. They have positive images of lefties, connecting the trait with good reflexes and creativity, apparently influenced by their knowledge of accomplished athletes and artists who are left-handed. There are even those who train in using their left hand, hoping to become southpaws themselves.
Living in a Right-Handed World
In September 1999 the club sponsored a sandlot baseball tournament exclusively for lefties. The direction of the baseball diamond was reversed to make it easier for infielders to throw the ball, so that the batter would run to third-base position after hitting a ball. The event was held in the hopes of making the world a more comfortable place for southpaws by demonstrating what it means to be left-handed.
Despite such efforts, so far not much has changed in Japan, where--just like everywhere else--right-handers make up most of the population. Just about every implement (unless symmetrical) is geared for right-hand use. Automatic ticket gates at train stations, vending machines, and home appliances, are all designed for easy operation with the right hand, and even pen stands at bank and post office counters are usually positioned to the right of the customer. Living from day to day in such an environment can be stressful for lefties.
Activities like those by the Japan Southpaw Club have begun making at least some difference, though: More and more goods designed for lefties are coming on the market. Left-handed scissors and can openers may appear perfectly normal at first glance, but a careful look will reveal that they are mirror images of the usual products. There are also watches with the screw on the left, bottle openers that are made to be turned counterclockwise, and folding fans that open from the right to the left.
Recently there is a growing tendency to value left-handed goods for their interesting "designs." The more these products become fashionable, and the more lefties speak out for themselves, the better the quality of life will be for the 10% or so of Japanese who are left-handed.
Some Famous Left-Handed Japanese People
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.