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Toyo University Head Coach Shinji Kawashima Resigns After Team Member Arrested for Molesting High School Student (updated)

translated and edited by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner

Less than one month before the Hakone Ekiden at which Toyo University was expected to be a contender for the overall win, Sydney Olympics marathoner and Toyo track and field team head coach Shinji Kawashima, 42, along with Toyo's track and field administrative head Yuji Kawano, 32, resigned after the Dec. 1 arrest of 2nd-year team member Kazuki Kobayashi, 20, for the alleged fondling of a female high school student on a commuter train. Assistant coaches Hisashi Sato and Kazuhiro Uemura have taken over the team's leadership for the time being.

The incident in question occured on Dec. 1 at 8:20 am onboard a train on Tokyo's Tobu Tojo line. Kobayashi, the 2nd place finisher in the 3000 m steeplechase at the 2006 National High School Championships, was on his way from his home in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture to Toyo's Tokyo campus when he was alleged to have inappropriately touched the body of a female high school student. He was pulled off the train at Narimasu Station and taken to a police station in Takashimadaira.

Kawashima announced his resignation after a meeting today with top administrators at the university. He issued a statement through the university's public relations office, saying, "I consider this a grave personal failure. As a coach I have always viewed myself as responsibile for teaching my athletes how to live as decent people, but I clearly didn't sufficiently understand their state of mind. I may have put too much pressure on them between the demands of training and studying. Because my leadership was inadequate I must take responsibility for this incident, and I sincerely apologize to the victim." Kawashima became head coach at Toyo in 2002, the same year leading the team to its first Hakone Ekiden appearance in 3 years. In 2007 Toyo finished 5th in Hakone, its best placing under Kawashima's guidance.

Official practice for Toyo's distance running team has been cancelled indefinitely since Dec. 2, leaving the school's runners to work out on their own. According to Toyo's public relations office, Kobayashi was a member of the school's distance running team but was not part of its 16-member Hakone Ekiden squad. Hakone team members met at the school's track in Kawagoe on Dec. 4 but only jogged around the campus' dormitories.

Representatives of Toyo visited Kobayashi in jail on Dec. 4 to gather information for a report on the incident. On Dec. 5 the university will file the report with the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Association. An official from the Kanto Assocation commented, "After receiving Toyo's report we will hold a closed meeting to decide on further action." Toyo University dean of student life Tomonori Matsuo told the media, "Kobayashi did not live in a university dormitory and he was not a member of the Hakone team, so for our part we do not see a need to withdraw the team from competition. However, we will respect and abide by the Kanto Association's judgment on the matter."

Toyo placed 5th at October's Izumo Ekiden and 4th at November's All-Japan University Ekiden. It has run in the Hakone Ekiden 66 times but the likelihood that the school will be barred from next month's race appears high.


Brett Larner said…
This is really sad news. The assault itself is terrible, but unfortunately extremely common here. Just today a group of 4 men were arrested at a station in Tokyo after surrounding a young woman on a train and molesting her while one of the men filmed the incident to put on a porn site.

Kawashima comes across as a very upright and honorable person. It's incredibly unfortunate that this happened to him and to his team, especially now. Senior Tomoya Onishi is in fantastic shape (see my reports on the Nat'l Long Distance Meet, the Int'l Chiba Ekiden, the Izumo and Nat'l Univ. ekidens, and the Takashimadaira road race, etc.) and it looks like he now won't get to run his final Hakone.

Even worse, Kawashima looked to have the kind of athlete every coach dreams of finding once in his career in first-year Ryuji Kashiwabara. The absolutely outstanding Kashiwabara came to Toyo to learn from a coach of Kawashima's experience and ability, and the separation of the two is bad for not only them and the school but for the next generation of Japanese distance running. Kashiwabara is that good. It's an incredible waste.

I hope that Kawashima is able to find a position elsewhere and that Toyo can bring in a coach who is able to brind Kashiwabara up as well as Kawashima would have.

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