Football Goes East: Business, Culture, and the People's Game in China, Japan, and South Korea

By Wolfram Manzenreiter; John Horne | Go to book overview
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7

School sport, physical education and the development of football culture in Japan

Sugimoto Atsuo


Introduction

Modern sports were introduced into Japan in the latter half of the 19th century. Since its early days, the meaning and the practice of sport were primarily associated with more general objectives of the educational apparatus. Being no exception to the rule, football also found its first and primary home in Japan within the social field of its educational institutions.

The print marks of school culture have been observable in the practice of football throughout its entire history in Japan. The concept of school sports is deeply rooted in the idea of disciplined behaviour, body training and physical education aimed at overcoming obstacles. Students are constantly under pressure to comply with an ideology that rewards anybody who tries hard enough. In consequence, the framework of school culture has generated various forms of acceptable and non-acceptable ways of behaving and bodily habitus. As students are expected to do their best constantly, or at least to appear as if performing to the utmost of their abilities, the display of pleasure and enjoyment that may spontaneously arise during the sensual experience of sports has generally been regarded as off-limits. Verbal expressions illustrating the expected normative standard, such as 'don't let your teeth be seen during sport classes' (taiiku no jikan wa ha o misete wa ikenai), which means don't be caught smiling, restrain young football players from engaging in joyful celebrations even when they have scored a goal. Although such perceptions have become attenuated in the past twenty years, they have still been observed in recent ethnographies of school sport in Japan (dalla Chiesa 2002).

The unwritten rules of normative behaviour are enforced by a power hierarchy between pupils and teachers, who within school sports are generally the players and referees respectively. The player-referee relation in this setting cannot transcend the ordinary social order of pupil and teacher, even within the confined realm of the time and space of play, governed by its own rules. Openly expressing one's dissatisfaction with a referee's decision thus would be congruent with complaining about a teacher, which is an offence and usually is followed by sanctions. Acting against the framework of expected role behaviour is regarded as a breach of trust because it offends the preferred hierarchical mode of social organisation in Japan between a superior and a subordinate. Tamaki (1999:64-7) has suggested

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