For Japanese kids in extracurricular school activities, the gasshuku, or retreat, in an integral part of the experience. Usually taking place during summer vacation, the members of the club/team travel out of town to spend a few days practicing their sport or instruments, but most would say the real value of the trip is the bonds they form and the memories they make.
And it’s definitely true that the kendo club from Mie High School, in the town of Bungoono, Oita Prefecture, will remember this year’s gasshuku for a long time…but probably not for the sort of reason they’d expected to. This year’s summer retreat took place from July 10 to 12, with the club staying at a hotel in the nearby town of Bungotakada, accompanied by at least two coaches/teachers and one parent.
The group was staying in Japanese-style rooms with tatami reed floors and futon sleeping mats, with several kids to each room. Lights out was fairly early on the first night, sometime before 9:30, and while some kids probably slept soundly until morning, at least three were awoken in the middle of the night by one of their coaches urinating on one of their futons.
This was not, however, a planned lesson about how kendo athletes, as the successors to the traditions of samurai swordsman, should always be on guard. After the students went to sleep, the coaches and accompanying parent decided to crack open some drinks in a separate room. The drinking session lasted from about 9:30 to 11 p.m., with one coach, a man in his 50s, putting away six or seven beers, by his recollection.
Downing a six pack in an hour and a half is bound to make you sleepy, and the coach dozed off. But all that booze was both the cause of his sleepiness and the reason for the end of it, because he woke up at around 2 in the morning with an overwhelming urge to pee. So he got up and went to heed the call of nature, opening the sliding door to a room where three third-year male students were sleeping and sending out a stream of urine onto one boy’s futon, which also moistened the kid’s T-shirt.
Shocked at what was happening, the boys started shouting, but the teacher was still sleepy and/or intoxicated enough that he didn’t respond to them, and instead shuffled off to the hotel’s bath for a soak after doing his business. When morning came, the students spoke with their chaperones. The teacher who urinated on their futon apologized, and has since also apologized to the students’ parents, saying “I was still half-asleep and mistook their room for the bathroom. I am incredibly sorry.” He also paid a 7,000-yen “cleaning fee” to the hotel, but we’re hoping the management decides to put the money towards just buying a new futon instead.
One would think the presence of tatami flooring, which you’ll never find in a Japanese bathroom, should have tipped the teacher off as to where he was, especially since shoes aren’t worn inside traditional Japanese hotels, so he should have been able to feel what sort of floor he was standing barefoot on. Then again, copious amounts of alcohol don’t do your powers of perception any favors.
The incident was reported to the school by an anonymous phone call on July 15, and the teacher was suspended from participating in the kendo club’s activities for 15 days. He’s since returned to the club, but not without a reprimand from the school’s principal, who said “His actions were inappropriate for someone in charge of our students. I am awaiting the judgement of the prefectural board of education [regarding what to do with the teacher].”
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