Photo: YouTube/Nanyakanya News

Human pyramids continue in Kobe schools as injuries mount to 51; mayor’s pleas to stop unanswered

By SoraNews24

On Monday, Japan celebrates Sports Day which is the anniversary of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and a holiday to inspire exercise for all. Around this time, schools all over the country hold Sports Festivals where they take part in a variety of physical activities from dancing to relay races.

However, one controversial act is known as “gymnastic formation” (kumi taiso), in which students climb on top of one another and balance to create pleasing geometric patterns. The most common type of gymnastic formation is the standard human pyramid.

For years now these activities have ignited a firestorm of debate in Japan where the practice is often mandatory, with opponents arguing that it puts children at a great risk of injury for little gain. Supporters, on the other hand, counter those claims with arguments of “Come on,” and “Human pyramids!!!”

▼ This 10-tier human pyramid in Osaka collapsed in 2015, injuring six students, one with a fracture.

In the  city of Kobe alone, 51 gymnastic formation-related injuries occurred between January to August of this year, and in the past three years 123 related fractures have been reported. This may lead you to believe that the entire city is being run by the mayor from Jaws who is going to ignore the particular problem until it swims up and bites him in the butt, but actually he has been an active opponent of the sport.

On Aug 2, Mayor Kizo Hisamoto requested that the Kobe Board of Education suspend all mandatory gymnastic formations. However, his pleas appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, so he addressed the board as well as teachers and principals directly via Twitter after oddly slipping in a humble brag about his trip to England.

“I just returned to the office after a trip to the UK and received a report from the board of education. In gymnastic formation activities of autumn sports festivals, three accidents involving bone fractures occurred in rapid succession, one of which will take four weeks to recover from. What is being done about this? I keep asking. Please, board of education, teachers, and principals of elementary and junior high schools, have the courage to end this.”

Only 20 schools in the city had since voluntarily stopped gymnastic formations, while others continued saying that students have already begun practicing for it. That’s the kind of excuse that would make me roll my eyes had it come from my child, but apparently it works on the level of municipal government.

Some, such as law professor Yasutaka Machimura, have gone as far as saying this practice is illegal. Citing the criminal code, Machimura says schools could be committing “mayhem” and/or “professional negligence resulting in injury or death” by knowingly forcing kids to engage in dangerous and incapacitating activities.

It’s a sentiment that netizens from around Japan were quick to agree with.

“Especially with the mayor speaking out against it. The schools wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in court if they were sued or charged by parents.”

“Is the school board made up of ignorant idiots who must maintain the status quo, even if it’s hurting people?”

“It won’t stop until someone dies, and even then it probably won’t stop.”

“Make the board of education do gymnastic formations and see if they feel safe.”

“I bet the real number of injuries is even higher. Schools always try to cover up these things.”

“Parents of injured kids should call the police.”

“Personally I really enjoyed these activities when I was young, but I do remember a top kid falling and breaking his arm.”

Since most schools have yet to do anything about injuries as a result of these activities, it does appear that it would take some serious legal consequences to precipitate real change. However, it should also be noted that gymnastic formations such as human pyramids are good ways to encourage teamwork and physical fitness. It could also be said that human pyramids don’t necessarily injure people, forcing people to make human pyramids injures people.

Source: Blogos, Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- High school gymnastics team brings much needed humor, Attack on Titan to competitions

-- Talented Japanese sixth graders pull off mind-blowing jump-rope routine【Video】

-- French Olympic announcer in hot water for calling Japanese gymnasts “little Pikachus”

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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This 10-tier human pyramid in Osaka collapsed in 2015, injuring six students, one with a fracture.

Oh my God! A fracture.

i broke my arm in my high school days racing around the roller skating rink. Glad no one pressured me to stop.

-28 ( +3 / -31 )

There are a bunch of dangerous exercises Japanese schools do, the warming up stretching ones on NHK in the mornings in particular, you should never bounce stretch at any time, just google it, yet Japan has their head in the sand on all of this.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

balance to create pleasing geometric patterns.

Tell that to the kids who have been hurt!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

It’s one thing to do gymnastics, run, skate, or whatever as your own choice. Injuries are a part of it. But, having a child who is being forced to take part in “human pyramids” and risk injury that can not only be painful but costly (medical treatment, medication, etc. — the cost can add up) and put your kid out of school for some time is a completely different issue. Do children/parents have a choice in this? Whose responsibility it is if a kid breaks a femur or suffers from a concussion?

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Would a compromise be possible, if performing these acts with protective gear on mats? Or is the danger part of the ‘fun’?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The key is voluntary vs. mandated.

Students that voluntarily participate with the consent of their parents is one thing.

Being forced to do it (or else) is something else altogether.

And given the tendency of Japanese teachers and students to bully those who "don't participate", the voluntary approach doesn't work, as those who opted out would likely be bullied as a result.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

Just ban this stupid activity! How many kids have to be injured and possibly killed before they wake up and realize it is not a safe activity?

18 ( +19 / -1 )

FizzBit: "Oh my God! A fracture."

Some kids have suffered spinal injuries and nerve damage from this "show for parents". Would that have been enough for you -- if you could no longer walk?

This has been made ILLEGAL in parts of Japan, and yet they STILL do it, with no punishment at all. Just goes to show how the lip-service laws work. I seriously hope that if a kid is injured the school and local government get sued for all they have.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

I suppose the thing to realize here is that they are doing it at sports day. They are not just doing kumitaiso for the sake or benefits of kumitaiso. They may exist, but the real reason is to entertain parents and grandparents at what is always hyped as the biggest day of the school year. Gramps and dad have heard the hype and they want to be entertained. The bigger the pyramid, the greater the entertainment. It's also a chance to get one up on the school down the road if you build one level higher than them.

My kids' school only did a three level pyramid, but its been stopped. I am pleased about this, but it is clear it has left a big hole in the sports day schedule. The school has tried various things as replacements, but they do not draw the same gasps that kumi taiso did. That's what any school trying to get rid of it will be up against.

For skim readers, I will repeat that I am against kumi taiso. I am also against fathers working every day minus sports day, mothers helicopter parenting, and kids being seen as performing monkeys.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

More proof those in charge are still living in the 1950s

13 ( +13 / -0 )

If the mayor is that against it, he can simply make it illegal. Ta-da!!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The indoctrination and forcing of a collectivist mindset on show. No ones heart will really be in this, not the kids, not the nervous parents, nor the teachers who just won’t be speaking up about it. All for some ridiculous notion of group unity that doesn’t really exist anyway. It’s forced, awkward and outdated. Check out the tactics of coercion, shaming, hours of yelling and screaming that go into the prep.

“ Please, board of education, teachers, and principals of elementary and junior high schools, have the courage to end this.” Courage!!

If you are aiming for a North Korean style populace though, knock yourselves out.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Make Board of Education members personally liable for all costs and damages arising from any injuries incurred whilst doing this. They will soon put a stop to it.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

The story says schools have been allowed to voluntarily stop and twenty have done so. This means that there cannot be insurmountable top-down pressure from the BoE enforcing military-style education. What we are looking at is problems at individual schools, either the principal/vice-principal or the PTA.

The story is correct to mention that kumi taiso has supporters and that people are excited to watch it. I'm sure there will be schools who want to stop it, no-injuries safety-first can be a path of least hassle, but the PTA won't let them. This could even be down to an individual PTA head, someone probably pressganged into the role, not wanting to get a reputation from monster parents in established local families as "Tanaka, him that killed kumi taiso and made sports day boring". Never underestimate how petty small town politics can be.

I think my kids overtrain at their clubs, but there are still parents who moan about the kids not doing as much as another school rumoured to do more. You can't just blame the coaches.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I think my kids overtrain at their clubs, but there are still parents who moan about the kids not doing as much as another school rumoured to do more. You can't just blame the coaches.

The moaning has a double meaning, first off, the parents think that their kids are going to become famous professional athletes if they train their butts off.

The second reason the parents want them to practice more often, it keeps the kids out of the house, and in a supervised activity, which gives them more time to play pachinko, so when their kids get rich and famous they can pay off their gambling debts!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

to achieve something (difficult) together, as a group, is a very important aspect of Japanese society / culture. this is just another reflection of that...

the problem is that we,re not in 1940 anymore...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Placing children several meters up in the air with a chance of falling is a dangerous act....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The moaning has a double meaning, first off, the parents think that their kids are going to become famous professional athletes if they train their butts off.

yep with all the training and afterschool sports activities youd think Japan would be leading the world in gold medals at the Olympics. Same goes for the workforces, Japanese have some of the longest working hrs youd think it result in the highest productivetly levels per hr worked, yet Japan doesnt even rank in the top 20

6 ( +6 / -0 )

There are always English classes for that lol mind you I suppose they aren't free

Pachinco isnt free either and far more expensive than english classes, at least you can learn a skill/language that allows you to escape Japan if you choose too. Just imagine if Japanese become addicted to learning english and became really good at it as a result, how different and free J society would be.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

kohakuebisu - I think my kids overtrain at their clubs, 

Really? You think that 10 hours a week plus games on weekends is too much? (sarcasm)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Let's avoid the shame and embarrassment of failure. March the injured ones off straightaway. Get them out of sight, and out of mind.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is such a stupid action, but stupid is was stupid does, at least it takes the focus of the judo injured that far exceeds global norms. Judo club sounds nice untill your child Is confined to a chair. How's Your child? Fell off a pyramid that was madetory? My grandad was a Kamakazi pilot so it was madetory for him too. Shogani.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am sure its great camaraderie for all of the team to be the best etc, but I had a look at the picture and I think that the last guy to be on top would be around 14-16 feet in the air, so when this pile of students comes tumbling down the guy on the bottom had about 8-9 leaves of students raining down on him, that quite a bit of weight, I am surprised that there is not more injuries possibly concussion. and all of this is done on a hard floor! I think its time to have a rethink wether if this is really necessary, I am sure that there is other games that can be played, still using team work, competitiveness and spirit.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

These human pyramids, especially anything above three levels, is moronic and very dangerous. Kids have been paralyzed due to falls.

It is my understanding that public schools in Tokyo no longer do these. The Tokyo middle school my two boys attended stopped this quite early.

This should be a reminder that there is considerable regional and local variation in Japan.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

My Kindergarten does it.

A three tier pyramid of 5 year olds.


0 ( +1 / -1 )

the problem is that we,re not in 1940 anymore...

That's a good thing that we aren't.

The problem is that the school systems think we are.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Really? You think that 10 hours a week plus games on weekends is too much? (sarcasm)

I certainly do. Anything more than ZERO hours of mandated after-school activities is too much.

If they want to offer after-school and weekend programs for those students who want to participate, fine. But to mandate what kids do in their own time? That's a steaming pile of nonsense.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Here's a crazy idea: How about voluntary participation?

1 ( +2 / -1 )


If Japanese learned English society would be free and happy? lol man!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Where's the Sport in this activity ?

The only concept of Spots in Japan Junior School Sports day are the Relay and 100m races. The rest is questionable.

Even in High School it's a bit lacking.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm one of those who don't support bad habit, "gymnastic formation".

When the season of sports festival comes, I used to be depressed, remambering P.E teachers roaring. They force us to make many kinds of formation, some of which needs lots of patience. I would often be scolded for not being able to lift my teammate's legs when we make the formation called "airplane". Among all of the students, one of the teachers point our team out saying "why can't you hold up the simple formation, huh? Look everybody around you. They are waiting you. Hurry! Hurry up!" Then, he goes "stop! Hey, you guys, start all over again! You can't go home until you complete all of the formation planned to show!" The practice went after 5 p.m.

What do you think? Are we a member of an army? I don't think it's not an education. It just increases students' risk of injury and stress which is inessentially needed. 98 percent of students in our junior high school were complaing about it.

At that time, these things were considered as usual, but they are an almost mental abuse now.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Such an unbalanced article isn't journalism, it's sermonising.

Having said that, my own view is that this activity should be voluntary. Many boys enjoy dangerous sports. Take rugby for instance: This will no doubt enjoy a surge of popularity, but it can, and does, sometimes result in serious injury. Not everything that is dangerous should be banned.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ bill, I was talking to a keen rugby fan/trainer the other day about this, his reply was when it comes to small children, they don't have contact its more of passing the ball and running and team work, when kids get a bit older the training gets a bit more intense and a bit more hands on, and when they get to teen agers, then its time for scums etc, but there bodies are more developed and then as testosterone kicks in, things get a bit more intense.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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