Let’s discuss the dangers of human pyramids at schools

This week’s featured article


New guidelines to help prevent injuries when students take part in kumitaisō, or coordinated group gymnastics in which schoolchildren form human pyramids, will be drafted by the end of March, education minister Hiroshi Hase announced Tuesday.

Kumitaisō is a popular and long-running feature of sports days at Japanese schools, but the practice has also been the cause of serious injuries, raising safety concerns.

“It involves the lives of children, and some of the reported casualties have included serious injuries,” Hase told a news conference.

He said that in preparing the guidelines, the education ministry will analyze medical reports from elementary, junior high and high school students that have been submitted to the Japan Sport Council to establish how the injuries occurred.

According to the JSC, insurance payments were made in more than 8,000 cases a year between fiscal 2011 and 2014 to cover medical bills for injuries associated with students performing the human pyramid.

In the city of Osaka, the board of education has made it a rule for schools to limit the size of human pyramids to five tiers and human towers to three.

At Taisho Junior High School in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, a 10-tier human pyramid — where students kneel in rows on each other’s backs, with the top person standing — collapsed during a performance at the school’s sports day on Sept. 27. One student suffered broken bones, while five more sustained other injuries.

Hase did not elaborate on whether the guidelines will include regulations similar to those in Osaka.

“I should not comment on what could be included or not because we won’t know until we analyze the data,” he said.

First published in The Japan Times on Feb. 10.

Warm up

One-minute chat about sport.


Collect words related to sports day, e.g., brass band, runner, march.

New words

1) injury: damage, hurt; e.g., “He can’t play because of an injury.”

2) casualty: a person injured or killed in an accident; e.g., “Luckily, there were no casualties in the traffic accident.”

3) kneel: to go down on one or both knees; e.g., “She is kneeling beside the bed.”

4) collapse: to fall down; e.g., “The bridge collapsed suddenly.”

5) sustain: to undergo or suffer; e.g., “They sustained serious burns in the fire.”

6) elaborate: to present or add details; e.g., “He elaborated on the rough idea he had mentioned earlier.”

Guess the headline

Human p_ _ _ _ _ _ guidelines to be drafted for Japanese s_ _ _ _ _ _


1) How many accidents related to human pyramids have insurance companies paid out for recently?

2) When will the new guidelines for kumitaisō be drafted?

3) What are the regulations for kumitaisō in Osaka?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Did you do kumitaisō when you were at school? What did you think of it?

2) Do you think the government should set national regulations for kumitaisō like the ones in Osaka?

3) What do you think should be done in terms of gymnastic education for students in Japan?


多くの人が学生時代に組体操をした経験があることでしょう。華やかな競技は運動会の大トリとなることもしばしばです。しかし、組体操に関連した事故が多発し続けている状況や子供たちを取り巻く環境も大きく変わっている現状を考えると、数十年前と同じような演目を子供にさせることはできないとの考えが広まってきているようです。子供の成長にけがは付き物だ、 という考えもあれば子供たちを危険にさらすわけにはいかないという考えもあるでしょう。



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