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Do you need to have a buzz cut to be on a high school baseball team in Japan?

A Kahoku Shimpo reader from Sendai has a son in high school who wants to continue playing baseball but is not comfortable clipping his hair short — a tradition for high school boys on the baseball team.

The Kahoku Shimpo spoke to trainers with baseball teams as well as with the Miyagi High School Baseball Federation on whether the hairstyle is a requirement for team members nowadays.

For baseball players at Shibata High School in Shibata, Miyagi Prefecture, which won a spot for the first time to play in the national high school baseball tournament in the spring, clipping their hair short is a tacit rule.

“They only have two and a half years to dedicate themselves to baseball,” said the team’s coach Makoto Hiratsuka, 48. “So I want the students to concentrate on baseball instead of thinking about their hairstyles.”

When asked about the main reasons behind the rule, many high school baseball team coaches talked about tradition, the need to focus on the sport and that it’s easier to play that way.

However, none of them believed the hairstyle would affect a student’s baseball skill or performance.

Furukawa Gakuen in the city of Osaki also requires all of its players to have close-cropped hair.

“It is about the mindset and attitude towards baseball,” said the team’s coach, Ryo Yonekura, 37, pointing out that each school has its own regulations and students have the freedom to choose the schools to which they apply.

Compiled in 1950, the Japan Student Baseball Charter — which lays out the principles for school baseball — does not include any regulations regarding hairstyles.

The Miyagi High School Baseball Federation allows each school to decide their own approach, but most schools require baseball team members to cut their hair short.

“The federation is not thinking of setting any rules,” said Yoshitsugu Matsumoto, president of the federation. “There is no rule that says you have to have a buzz cut, and it is up to each school to decide.”

However, an increasing number of schools are allowing baseball players to choose their own hairstyle.

Sanuma High School in the city of Tome, also in Miyagi Prefecture, abolished the tradition in the fall of 2019. Players asked their coach to change the rule after they saw their opponents in a practice match wearing different hairstyles.

Currently the school does not have any special rules on the length of hair. But players agreed to avoid wearing hair undercut, and tuck their bangs inside their caps during practice and games.

“Students seem to be more confident since they stopped getting a buzz cut,” said coach Yasuhiro Matsui, 48.

When Matsui was in elementary school, he once burst into tears when he had to shave off his hair, because he didn’t want to.

“I thought I wouldn’t be able to play baseball without having a buzz cut,” he recalled. “Some students must be feeling the same.”

As of May, only a handful of high schools allowed their baseball players to wear their hair according to their own preference.

In some cases, parents of the players complain to coaches about the shaved hair. Other coaches have said that it would be better to do away with the tradition if maintaining it means more players quit the sport.

Students at Sendai Ikuei Gakuen, which is one of the powerhouses of high school baseball in Japan, have been required to have a buzz cut, but the school has started to consider easing its policy.

According to the team’s coach, Wataru Sue, 38, some students have been reluctant to join the club as they feel uncomfortable with the haircut.

“The disadvantages of keeping the rule on uniform haircuts are becoming greater,” he said. “It may be a turning point.”

This section features topics and issues from the Tohoku region covered by the Kahoku Shimpo, the largest newspaper in Tohoku. The original article was published June 29.

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