translated by Brett Larner
Translator's note: Click here for more background on this story, which comes shortly after the suicide of a national-level high school basketball team's 17-year-old captain following beatings by the team's coach. Although none of the Japanese media reports on this story mention the head coach by name, Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. is coached by Masaaki Watanabe. Yesterday the Aichi Prefecture Government website featured an interview with Watanabe in a series titled "Shining Stars," but as of this morning the interview, #24 in a series, has been deleted.
At a special session at Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. on Jan. 26 addressing allegations of the use of corporal punishment on student athletes by the 50-year-old male head coach of the school's national-level ekiden team after requests from the Aichi Prefectural Board of Education for him to exert more self-control in his leadership, Board officials revealed that two members of the team had left Toyokawa Kogyo during the 2012-13 school year as a consequence of being beaten by the coach, one transferring to another school and the other dropping out. The Board also confirmed that during the same period of time ten other team members had also experienced beatings.
At the session, school principal Yoshihisa Takemoto told members of the media that at an altitude training camp in Nagano late last July the coach hit a team members in the face with both hands twice. One of the blows hit the student's ear, damaging the eardrum seriously enough to require two weeks of treatment. The coach explained the incident by saying, "The student's awareness of things was pretty dim, so I was making reality clear to him." Following this, the student left the team and in September transferred to another school. In October the coach repeatedly slapped a female team member in the face in front of the other students, leading to her dropping out of the school at the end of December.
A questionnaire about whether they had experienced corporal punishment was distributed to all Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. students on Jan. 11. Ten members of the school's ekiden team responded that they had been slapped in the face, kicked, or received other physical punishment. Many of these students indicated that they had been beaten on multiple occasions. The coach told the school administration, "Corporal punishment is not part of my leadership," but administration officials determined that his actions did in fact constitute corporal punishment. On Jan. 25 the administration sent a report to the Prefectural Board of Education that a total of twelve team members including the two students who left the school had been subjected to corporal punishment.
Principal Takemoto commented, "This is not something we want here. We need to carefully consider the situation." On the question of why the school administration did not inform the Prefectural Board of Education that two students had left the school after receiving corporal punishment he replied, "We prioritized respecting the decisions of the students and those responsible for them."
As part of the Jan. 26 session, administration officials held a meeting with the adult leadership of the school's ekiden team to explain the details of the situation to them. The other adults responsible for the team were virtually unanimous in their support for the head coach to remain in his position, saying, "If the ekiden team is going to make the National Championships then we need our coach and his strength." The administration said that they would allow the coach to continue working but urged him to exert more self-control in his leadership.
Additionally, at the session it was revealed that an advisor to the boys' volleyball team had slapped a team member, while another teacher had likewise struck a student in the classroom.