Sunday morning rush hour in Tokyo suburbs

Sunday morning between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. is children and youth’s rush hour in suburbs of greater Tokyo area.  It is the day for sports matches for kids who play sports.  Baseball,  soccer, basketball, tennis, martial arts, volleyball and others, Japanese in general loves to train and play sports formally, and that creates this Sunday morning rush since the matches are played often on Sunday.

This Sunday formal sports games tell so much about the Japanese.  To me, it epitomizes Japanese love to compete, love of formalized process and love of doing things for others.

Take love of competition.  Japanese tends to underplay the winning and losing, but they love things that clear winners come through.  If it is only to play, why would they go through the trouble of setting up the game site, coordinate schedules of officials and teams, manage the games?  This is tied to the love of formalized process too.  In Japan, junior high school is where all these formalized sports competition is  most active.  Each school has several types of sports for the students to choose from.  The system is that a student selects the sport she is most interested, and she is expected to stick with that specific sport throughout the 3 years attending junior high school.

Over the past 20 years, not only Japanese martial arts and baseball but soccer and basketball independent regional leagues has been developed for children from around age 5 to 12 too.  Maybe its the influence of martial art such as judo, aikido and kendo (swordsmanship), where “do” process, sands for ” way”, the way of doing things, or endless path.  It does not just apply to sports since “do” is used to describe old Japanese art like flower arrangement, calligraphy, tea ceremony, etc.  But this notion of “do” fits perfectly when Japanese relate to any sports.

And what about doing things for others, losing ones self in helping others?  Mothers taking turns to accompany the kids to the game sight, riding trains or driving, being on standby at the sight for any help they can provide is easy to understand.  What may not be so easy for non-Japanese to understand is that most of the junior high school teachers coach sports but they are not paid for their time or effort.  They are not paid for Saturday activities with the team members or for coaching sessions, nor for all Sunday coaching sessions.  Social psychologist may point out that if everyone doesn’t, it is hard for a lone person to go against the grain.  Perhaps that is why Japanese junior high school teachers coach sports even if they are not paid.  But by observing them, talking to them, one realizes that these teachers are serious about educating young people and most feel sports is important in teaching by experience in communication with one another, working together, overcoming problem together, all for a common goal.  Most of the league coaches are not paid either.  They are mostly fathers of children who feel the important value in teaching children through sports.

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