Ambivalent Team Spirit: East African Runners in Japanese Distance Running

By Yuki Takatori.

Published by The Sport Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Japanese society has long sought to maintain social and ethnic homogeneity; even so it has long accepted foreigners as members of its sports teams, expressing no resentment provided they stand out neither numerically (in the case of Westerners) or racially (in the case of fellow Asians). However, the recent dominance of student athletes from East Africa (primarily Kenyans and Ethiopians) in long distance running has caused considerable controversy, compelling Japan’s track and field organizations to limit the number of competitors from Africa by writing or revising various exclusionary rules. Japanese track and field finds itself in a predicament: though it acknowledges that much has been learned about technique from the Africans, and that they have pushed their Japanese team mates to a higher level of performance, it fears that those same team mates will find themselves increasingly absent from the podium. In this paper, I outline the history of exclusionary measures in Japanese distance running and argue that such restrictions harmfully shelter Japanese runners from situations which would afford them opportunities to improve by learning from and testing themselves against the best in the world.

Keywords: Japan, Foreign Athletes, Distance Running

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.91-99. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 533.829KB).

Yuki Takatori

Associate Professor, Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Yuki Takatori is an associate professor and advisor for Asian Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Her research interests include the role of Ekiden, or long-distance relay, in Japanese society.