I entered the faculty of law at Keio University in 1962. (Photo courtesy of Yohji Yamamoto)

Having the time of my life: Yohji Yamamoto (7)

Cars, sailing, band - flamboyant college days

I had decided to take Keio University's entrance exam, but still feeling a lingering attachment to the arts, I also wanted to apply to Tokyo University of the Arts, also known as Geidai. The painting department seemed like it would be a bit difficult for me, so I decided to take the test for the crafts department.

I had eight months to prepare. I managed to get through to the second round of testing, but unfortunately the next exam date was the same as the test for Keio.

Keio or Geidai? I was wracked with doubt. However, when I thought of my mother's aching back as she worked with absolute dedication at her dressmaking shop to take care of her only son, all on her own, I could not bring myself to follow an artist's path, which has an uncertain future.

"I'll take Keio's test, Mother. I want you to be happy..."

With these words, I left for the testing site on the day of the Keio entrance exam. Even as I walked out the door, my mother never interfered or pressured me. But I understood - so clearly that it hurt, in fact - that she wanted me to choose Keio. It seems she had told others that she wanted her son to get a job at a big company, and that she wanted to close the dressmaking shop and live peacefully in a nice apartment.

I successfully passed the exam and in April 1962 I became an undergraduate with the faculty of law at Keio University. My best friend, Goichi Hayashi, was also accepted to Keio's faculty of letters - he later transferred to the faculty of law. I would attend the Hiyoshi campus in Kanagawa Prefecture.

I chose the law faculty because I actually had a desire to become a prosecutor, someone who would uphold justice. So, I studied code of criminal procedure quite seriously. But to pass the bar exam I had to lock myself away in the library and spend my days studying in specialized seminars.

I quickly came to understand this reality and decided to give up my dream of becoming a legal professional. I resolved instead to enjoy to the utmost my student life as a "Keio boy."

The very first thing I did was get a driver's license. Gyosei was a school for boys from wealthy families, but Keio was even more so. Many students would commute to school in sports cars. I belonged to Keio's auto club and I worked hard to improve my driving and maintenance skills at the driving course on the south side of campus.

I wanted a car of my own as soon as possible, so I was overjoyed when a friend sold me a used British-made Austin for a reasonable price. I saved money by working part time at a cafe and as a tutor teaching younger students at their homes. As soon as I bought my own car, my friend and I went out for a drive around Hayama and Zushi, seaside towns an hour or two from Tokyo. In summer we would rent a beach house, go sailing and have a great time.

I'm a competitive person and I never wanted to lose to anyone when it came to driving. On the expressway, the speed demons would come out and try to race.

"Are you trying to start a race?"

"OK, let's do it, then."

My motto is to buy any fight that is offered to me. I was proud to be one of the best "street racers" at Keio. Of course, I was always careful to comply with all traffic laws...

I was also busy with my band.

The Ventures, an American rock band known for their teke teke technique that produces a tremolo effect, were hot. It was their influence that made me passionate about the electric guitar. In our band, I was the lead guitarist and vocalist, and my best friend Goichi Hayashi played the drums. We were joined by a rhythm guitarist and a bass player. Our band, 4 Beat, played at clubs in Roppongi and even at the U.S. military base in Asaka, where we opened for professional bands.

We covered the songs of The Ventures and Peter, Paul and Mary. Our jam sessions were also quite thrilling. We would rent venues and plan parties, but we performers could only watch wistfully from the stage as the male students happily picked up the girls there.

"We're in a pretty crappy role, aren't we? I can't take this anymore!" We would blurt out to each other. Cars, sailing and music... Although I was enjoying flamboyant hobbies, I was still an innocent young man, and shy around women.

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