Posted by debito on May 24th, 2007
Hi Blog. In what is sure to be a continuing series, I would like to award the Second Debito.org Dejima Award to the All Japan High School Athletic Federation.
Suggested by Chris Flynn, the Dejima Award is a showcase for those small-minded people in this society who feel the need to keep foreign peoples, ideas, and influences from these pristine shores. In much the same spirit as Feudal Japan kept foreigners secluded on an island off Nagasaki named Dejima centuries ago.
The obvious prescience displayed by the people who organize these footraces for students, when deciding to “keep the race more interesting for disgruntled fans” by shutting foreigners out of the starting lineup, is sure to make foreign students feel more welcome, and help keep Japan’s education system (struggling with our low birthrate, desperately courting foreign students) solvent and equal-opportunity. Not.
More from the Asahi Shinbun on this issue immediately following, with Japanese articles in the Comments section.
More on Japan’s nasty habit of shutting foreigners out of its sports and other competitions (again, sometimes using the same argument that foreigners have an unfair advantage due to physical or mental prowess) archived at
Avoid katou kyousou as best you can if it’s tainted with foreignness, I guess… Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Foreign students can’t start ekiden
05/24/2007 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Courtesy of Glenn Boothe
Bowing to pressure from disgruntled fans, a high school athletic association will prohibit foreign students from running the first leg of the All Japan High School Ekiden Championships relay marathon starting next year.
The All Japan High School Athletic Federation said the decision, reached Tuesday, is intended to make the races more interesting for fans.
But others say the move reeks of discrimination against foreign students.
In recent years, many students from Kenya have started the first–and longest–section of the ekiden races.
They have often built such wide leads that rival teams have had almost no chance to catch up in the later legs.
Ekiden fans and organizers said the strategies of those teams have made the races dull because the huge early leads all but eliminate the chances for the drama of a close finish.
Teams with foreign students running the first leg have won the All Japan High School Ekiden Championships five times in the past 10 years. Three of those victories were achieved after the first runner broke well ahead of the pack.
Of the five foreign students selected for the 2006 All Japan High School Ekiden Championships, four ran the first section for their teams.
“We looked into the issue in a constructive manner after angry fans complained it is a turnoff to see foreign students scoring an insurmountable lead in the first section,” said Kazunobu Umemura, executive managing director of the federation.
The rule will also apply to prefecture-level qualifying events.
The boys’ 42-kilometer ekiden consists of seven sections, with a 10-km first leg. The girls’ race, totaling 21 km, consists of five sections, starting with a 6-km leg.
Keisuke Sawaki, a director of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, said the high school federation likely had an “agonizing” time coming up with its decision.
“From the standpoints of ‘internationalization’ and school education, it would be ideal not to have any restrictions,” he said. “In reality, however, the differences in physical capabilities between Japanese and foreign students are far beyond imagination.”
Under rules established in 1994 by the All Japan High School Athletic Federation, the number of foreign students attending any competition under its supervision must be about 20 percent or less of all participating students.
In accordance with the rules, the number of foreign students who can enter the ekiden race has been limited to one from each school since 1995.
Koji Watanabe, coach of the track team at Nishiwaki Technical High School in Nishiwaki, Hyogo Prefecture, said new rules are needed to give public high schools with no foreign students a chance to win.
His team won the ekiden race in the boys’ division a record eight times.
But Takao Watanabe, coach of the track team at Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School in Sendai, disagreed.
“It remains questionable to distinguish runners by nationality,” said Watanabe, whose team won the ekiden race for three straight years with Kenyan students through 2005. “The decision is not good from an educational point of view because it can be viewed as excluding foreign students.”(IHT/Asahi: May 24,2007)