AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 494

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Session 494: Sports and Education in Modern Japan

Organizer: Thomas Blackwood, , Japan

Since the importation of modern (Western) sports to Japan over a century ago, they have been legitimized and widely perpetuated through a structural-functional discourse claiming that they help to socialize Japanese youth into productive citizenry. In this panel, we explore sport as it has been employed in and as education, patterns of participation and changing forms of organization, and the subjectivities that sports have been deemed to train into Japanese youth. The panel includes studies that employ qualitative, quantitative, and archival research methods, and which examine the ideologies and pedagogies, structures and methods, and empirical outcomes of participation in amateur sports in Japan. Blackwood, Miller, and Nakazawa all examine sports in schools, focusing on extracurricular clubs, but while Blackwood’s paper is based on his findings from a large-scale survey of high school seniors, Miller’s is based on fieldwork examining pedagogies among coaches, and Nakazawa’s is based on archival research of historical documents. Edwards, on the other hand, examines the relationship between sports and education outside of the school, focusing on the Japan Football Academy (JFA). Finally, Nishijima’s paper presents survey results showing that children’s participation in sports, and the organizations they join, greatly vary depending on school year, geographic region, and socioeconomic background. Together, our projects not only examine the cultures of sport and what practitioners—coaches, athletes, etc.—claim sport does for individuals, groups, and even society, but also provide insight into broader cultural ideals of proper citizenship/subjectivity, as sport not only informs but also reflects those broader ideals.

Homo Athleticus? Japanese High School Sports Clubs as a Part of Education
Thomas Blackwood, , Japan

Joining an extracurricular club is an important activity for a majority of Japanese high school students, and is considered an important part of high school education by Japanese teachers, parents, and society in general. Previously (2005), through qualitative research, I explored the subjective meanings that participation in high school baseball holds for Japanese high school students (and graduates) in forming their identities and worldviews, in addition to helping them develop interpersonal skills and certain qualities of character. The interpersonal skills often claimed to have been learned included proper manners/courtesy; how to conduct proper greetings or salutations; trust; and cooperation. Character included things like confidence; endurance; empathy; gratitude; cheerfulness; tenacity; and the importance of making one’s best effort, taking responsibility, and not complaining. From the fall of 2009 through the spring of 2010 I followed up this study with an in-depth (12-page, over 110-question) survey of Japanese high school seniors, to see whether, and how, high school baseball players may differ along these dimensions from students who participate in sports clubs other than baseball, those who join non-sports extracurricular clubs, and students who do not participate in any clubs. Close to 3,500 students, from 16 different high schools all across Japan (Hokkaido in the north to Oita Prefecture in the south), completed the survey, which asks about club participation, career path, self-assessment, and values/worldviews. I am currently analyzing the responses utilizing SPSS software, and in this paper, I will present some of the key findings of my analysis.

Raising Footballers, Raising Japan: The Japan Football Association Academy
Elise M. Edwards, Butler University, USA

Since the late 1980s, the Japan Football Association (JFA) has pursued an ambitious plan to put Japan on the map of premier soccer nations. Co-hosting the first men’s World Cup in Asia with South Korea in 2002, and jumpstarting the professional men’s “J-League” have been some of the JFA’s more prominent efforts. In the last decade, the “JFA Academy,” a year-round residential school for promising middle- and high school-aged players has come to embody the JFA’s vision by linking formal education and soccer training with ideals of proper citizenship and a blueprint for the future success of Japan and Japanese people. Against the backdrop of an unrelenting recession, JFA administrators and coaches have argued that by training young boys and girls to be competitive soccer players they also are preparing them to be productive citizens in a radically shifting global economy and domestic labor market. The JFA Academy is both the flagship and the living laboratory of this vision. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted at the Academy, this paper will explore its curriculum and daily routines, contemplate the intersections between the Academy and curricular changes occurring more broadly in Japanese education, and examine the social effects and neoliberal underpinnings of a modern form of physical education aimed at producing “elite” Japanese citizens who, in words of the Academy’s founder, meet the “global standard” (sekai kijun).

Disciplining Youth: A Symbolic Anthropologist’s Interpretation of Corporal Punishment, Vertical Hierarchy and Education in Japanese Sports
Aaron L. Miller, Kyoto University, Japan

This paper addresses ‘corporal punishment’ (taibatsu) in Japanese amateur sports. Based on an extensive review of relevant English and Japanese literature and grounded in a comparison of high school and university sporting experiences derived from a year’s ethnographic research with a Tokyo-area private university women’s basketball team, this paper applies theory from symbolic anthropology to shed light on the understudied issues of discipline and punishment in Japanese amateur sports. I show how the use of taibatsu can be understood as a ritualistic display of symbolic violence that reinforces the standing of people in positions of authority, the model of knowledge transmission they apply (itself based on ‘vertical hierarchy’), and the importance of ‘education’ in Japanese sports. Taibatsu can therefore be seen as a symbolic acknowledgement and acceptance of the notion that sports are and should be educational in Japan, and that to achieve such ‘education’ (often called ‘character development’, or ‘character formation’ (ningen keisei)), violence must occasionally be used and is indeed justified. However, it should be noted that advocates of its use often insist that taibatsu is not ‘violence’ (boryoku) at all, knowing that if these two things are believed to be synonymous, the former’s use will be discredited,. Instead, such advocates justify their actions by asserting that taibatsu is used in the interest of a young athlete’s ‘character development,’ ‘education’ (kyoiku) or ‘guidance’ (shido), revealing a debate within Japanese amateur sports regarding how to best discipline and punish young athletes.

Why Have Japanese Schools Needed Sports? A Postwar History of Extracurricular Sport Activities in Japan
Atsushi Nakazawa, Hitotsubashi University, Japan

In Japan, a large system of extracurricular sport activities exists in junior high and high schools, which many students participate in. Extracurricular clubs are a distinctive aspect of the Japanese school and differ from the systems common in other countries. While previous studies have paid much attention to this Japanese system, and tried to clarify its functions, they have not clarified how the system itself was established. This paper addresses the postwar history of extracurricular sport activity in Japan, focusing on transitions in its nature, policies and discourses. By working through these issues, this paper examines the reasons Japanese schools have needed sports. Some of the results are summarized as follows: after World War II, a set of educational reforms shifted Japanese schools from a militaristic to a democratic mindset. Thereafter, sports were argued to have democratic value, and seen as symbols of freedom and self-government. When extracurricular sport activities were popularized beginning in the 1970s, teachers were forced to shoulder the heavy burden of coaching these sports. Teachers hesitated to complain, however, as many teachers began using extracurricular sports as a means to eliminate problems with students’ misbehavior. Thereafter, extracurricular sport activities were significantly expanded in the 1980s. In the 1990s-2000s, teachers continued to shoulder a heavy burden as neo-liberal educational reforms aimed at downsizing the school were put in place. Hence, there is currently an attempt to shift extracurricular sports activities from the school to the community.

Discontinuities and Disparities among Japanese Children’s Participation in Sports
Hiroshi Nishijima, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan

This paper aims to elucidate discontinuities and disparities in the opportunities available for Japanese children to play sports, depending on their grade in school, geographic region, and socioeconomic class (income level of the family). The data for this analysis come from an internet survey jointly conducted by the Benesse Educational Research and Development Center, Emi Kataoka, and Hiroshi Nishijima The survey was conducted nationally in March, 2009, and the respondents were 15,450 mothers whose eldest child was between 3 and 17 years of age at the time of the survey. Our major findings were as follows: 1. Pre-school and primary school children play sports largely at private sector organizations, but children in junior high and high school play sports primarily in extracurricular activities in their schools (bukatsudo). That is, Japanese children play sports throughout all stages of schooling, but their opportunities for participation change according to school stage. 2. Children from higher socioeconomic class backgrounds are more likely to play sports in private sector organizations than children from lower socioeconomic class backgrounds. 3. In large cities, the main opportunity for children to play sports exists in private sector organizations, but in smaller cities and rural areas, opportunities are provided by both private and public sector organizations