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Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. Head Coach Masaaki Watanabe and Eight Students Transfer to Nittai Ebara H.S.

translated by Brett Larner

Having led Aichi prefecture's Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. boys to the National High School Ekiden Championships for fourteen straight years through 2011, former head coach Masaaki Watanabe, 51, became the new head coach and a health and physical education teacher at Tokyo's Nittai Ebara H.S. as of the start of the academic year on April 1.  Along with Watanabe, eight students including five members of Toyokawa Kogyo's team at last December's National High School Ekiden transferred to Nittai Ebara.  Past instances of large numbers of top-class athletes transferring en masse include the 2012 transfer of ten students from Sendai Ikuei H.S. to Toyokawa H.S., but it is safe to say it is unusual.

Watanabe became head coach at Toyokawa Kogyo in 1993 and developed it into one of the country's most powerful high school ekiden teams.  In January last year his use of corporal punishment against students came to light, resulting in a disciplinary four-month suspension.  He left the school last spring after transferring to another high school, but, still maintaining his strong reputation for leadership, Watanabe continued to privately coach part of the Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. team including the eight athletes who went on to be part of the transfer to Nittai Ebara H.S.

The eight transferring students include seven boys, six third-years and two second-years [sic], and one girl.  The National High School Championships rules specify that "students are prohibited from competing within six months after transferring to another school," meaning that the likelihood that members of the group will be barred from competing in this summer's National High School Track and Field Championships is high.  Nittai Ebara H.S. officials commented, "[Hiring Watanabe] was an overall comprehensive decision.  The athletes who transferred wanted to remain with him."

Translator's note: This is the first article on the Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. corporal punishment scandal I've seen that specifically names Watanabe.  In 2009 he was reprimanded for beating team members with the handle of a deck brush to the point that they needed stitches.  In 2012 he hit another student in the head and damaged the student's eardrum, an injury that required weeks of medical treatment.  In last year's investigation twelve Toyokawa Kogyo students confirmed having been beaten by Watanabe, two quitting the school as a result.


Anonymous said…
I wonder, Brent, what the real reaction to the allegations against this man was behind the scenes - it doesn't seem right that he be allowed to keep any kind of coaching position, let alone be given further opportunities. It just seems like this move is part and parcel of "the system" in Japan - conformity and reluctance to speak up against those in authority, who, if they are in a high enough position, can basically act with impunity. And at the heart of this are all the young athletes, those who feel that they have to follow him and those he is coaching at the new school. How many of these will be lost through the attrition that is the school running scene in Japan - through burnout or abuse. At least he was named in the article...
yuza said…
He has had tremendous success as a coach, but one does wonder how much longer this kind of behaviour will be tolerated.

What irritates me the most about instances like this in sport is that it is almost always an elderly man abusing children or women; it is just very poor form.

I am curious to know how many of his students have gone onto become really successful athletes? Do you have any idea Brett?

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