The Feb. 14 editorial “Violence in sumo training” pointed out “a culture characterized by tolerance of corporal punishment,” but this “tradition” goes far beyond the sumo ring.
Take extracurricular activities at university, for example: vertically structured relationships, emphasis on mental toughness and, above all, a distorted idea of discipline and stoicism behind the veneer of “training.” In July 2007 a member of the Meiji University cheering squad who had suffered insidious hazing committed suicide. The university disbanded the squad after finding that senior members of the group had no regrets. And according to a Japanese newspaper, other students at the university echoed the idea that “Every member has gone through this for generations. It’s our traditional way of training, which made all of us strong.”
In April 2007 the head of a sailing school for delinquent children was released from prison after serving six years for physical abuse that led to the death of four students. Upon his release he reiterated his principle that “physical punishment is education.” Despite a lack of remorse, he still enjoys broad support from the grass-roots level to public figures.
Violence and hazing may be found only in particular circles, but it is Japanese society in general that tolerates them. We have to admit that we entertain romantic fantasies about a certain style of “training.” Without this recognition, it will be difficult to address the root cause of the problem.