Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku. Tokyo 108-0023
The sad story of the Osaka area high school boy whose late-December suicide was a reaction to chronic criminal assaults by his sports coach is unresolved, as the coach is not under arrest (`How does coach avoid arrest?`, William Murphy, January 27) and, I suppose, still supervising youngsters. The Osaka City Board of Education`s decision to suspend entrance examinations for the physical education department of the school involved (Sakuranomiya Senior High School) is a bumbling, ineffectual response that will accomplish exactly nothing.
Then the January 31st Japan Times story `Judo federation apologizes for abuse` recounts harassment and assaults on female judoka. One of the worst features about these episodes is the feigned shock by Japanese media and commentators. The pretense that any of this is out of the ordinary is frustrating. We all know that there is a streak of cruelty and violence running straight through Japanese culture and history. Percival Constantine was correct in his January 17th letter `Corporal punishment common,` and Manfred Baur was also correct in his January 20th letter `Coach may be just tip of iceberg.` Of course he is. In a culture like Japan`s where how things look is more important than how they actually are more is hidden than is revealed and everything is the tip of some iceberg.
We might say that child abuse is one of Japan`s cultural traditions. Internationally, criminal mothers are allowed to kidnap their own children from foreign spouses and get away with it on the precept that they have exclusive rights to their children, as property. Domestically, terrorizing children with demon masks to celebrate setsubun is child abuse. So is the annual spring time `Baby cry sumo` festival when sumo wrestlers deliberately shake babies to evoke crying. So is forcing school children to eat mercury-tainted dolphin and whale meat in their school lunches. So is grading students on their patriotism. So is forcing school boys to go about in winter with bare legs exposed from school uniform short pants. In fact, short pants themselves might be a human rights crime.