Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
After the glory of its recent victory in the summer high school baseball championship at Koshien Stadium for a second straight year, it is surprising to witness Komazawa University Tomakomai High School’s self immolation in sudden scandal (“Scandal strikes baseball champs,” August 24). I am surprised by the speed of the school’s humiliation, not by the violence that lies behind the scandal - the revelation that a 27-year-old teacher supervising the team struck a student athlete on more than one occasion. Contrary to the myth that Japan’s is a safe and harmonious society the bald fact of the matter is that there is a remarkable amount of violence and crime here, much of which is tolerated, or else neglected, ignored or under-reported.
This incident is yet another reminder that Japan’s is the kind of society that still widely tolerates corporal punishment in schools. Even stranger is that it is the kind of society where, instead of being immediately fired from his work and arrested for criminal assault the teacher in question was merely “punished” in a typically vague manner, and the matter is now under investigation by various parties - the school, the Hokkaido and Japan High School Baseball Federations - rather than by the police.
Listening to school officials apologize for “causing trouble” is a particularly tiresome hypocrisy to witness because, after all, this is only a game we’re talking about, a hobby, a pastime of leisure. You throw the ball, you catch the ball. It’s nothing important.
Published on Wednesday, September 7, 2005 as “Ugly underside of victory.”
This incident gave me opportunity to rant - excuse me - instruct some more on one of my favorite topics - my disdain for and dislike of organized, competitive team sports. It serves to teach us how Japanese can be said not to play baseball for enjoyment, but as a kind of martial art - disciplining the mind and body in the refined Yamato spirit.
I am not surprised at all and it is shameful how the media and educational authorities jump on this slapping incident as if it is an anomaly, when in fact it is the embodiment of - or at least symptomatic of - how the game is taught here. As in other sports, like sumo, physical abuse is tolerated as a way of toughening up an athlete for competition. The fact that it is criminal assault doesn’t register with the common imagination.