While it’s become common knowledge that many Japanese talent agencies prohibit idol singers from dating, there are similar rules in place at some Japanese high schools. The logic is that teens should be focusing on their studies and wholesome extra-curricular activities, as opposed to squandering their precious youth trying to get a date (when exactly they are supposed to become interested in romantic companionship is a question anti-dating schools quietly sidestep in its entirety).
Tochigi Prefecture’s Ashikaga High School isn’t so strict as to have a blanket ban on dating, but its boys volleyball team, a regular competitor at national championship tournaments, does set internal limits on its members’ love lives. Players aren’t allowed to date anyone else involved with the volleyball program, such as the equipment managers, who in Japan are usually female students, so as to prevent jealousy and animosity from breeding among teammates.
However, young love isn’t always so easily contained, and one boy on the team, a 17-year-old second-year student, began dating a first-year female student equipment manager. Their tryst was discovered, though, and it’s now come to light that on June 29, the 66-year-old coach confronted the boy about violating the team’s internal rule. After telling the boy to kneel on the floor in the traditional Japanese style, he began to berate the teen for his actions, kicking him in the chest repeatedly and striking him on the back when he toppled over, angrily declaring “This is corporal punishment.”
Ashikaga High School principal Shigekazu Matsushita relayed all this at a press conference held on Nov 30. In addition to the above incident, the boy was assaulted multiple times by his teammates both in the dormitory in which he lived and in the school gymnasium.
Sadly, real life doesn’t always operate like a feel-good youth sports movie, and despite the deplorable actions of the coach and players involved in the attacks, it’s been another successful year for Ashikaga’s volleyball team, which once again earned entry to the national high school tournament, scheduled to take place between Jan 4 and 8. Matsushita announced that the coach will not be travelling with the team to the venue, Tokyo’s Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Startlingly, the coach will not be fired for the incident, though the school says he regrets his actions. Instead, he’ll be allowed to serve out his current contract until its end at the conclusion of the school year in spring (the school has said his contract will not be renewed). Matsushita also said that the attacks on the boy by his teammates “are not recognized as incidents of bullying” by the school, one of the more reprehensible denials of bullying in recent memory.
Making things even more troubling is that in 2008, in a separate incident, a pair of third-year students who were members of Ashikaga’s volleyball team were expelled after months of assaulting their underclassmen teammates, including punching them and scalding one student’s face with hot water in the dorm’s shower facility, because they “had been playing poorly” or “had bad attitudes.” The two third-year students were subsequently expelled (it’s unclear whether the team’s current coach was also in charge of the team at the time).
However, there is a happy ending, of sorts, in that both the recently assaulted boy and the manager have since left the team.
Sources: Livedoor News/Sankei News via Jin, Eduon
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