Japan teacher arrested on suspicion of brutally punishing judo students who ate popsicles

The Mainichi                                                                     October 14, 2020           https://mainichi.jp/articles/20201013/k00/00m/040/212000c

A teacher at a junior high school in Takarazuka, a west Japan city, was arrested Oct. 12 on suspicion of assault, after two first-grade students in the school judo club he supervises were subject to serious and minor injuries, respectively, including broken bones as punishment for unpermitted behavior.

Takahiro Ueno, 50, a teacher at Takarazuka Municipal Nagao Junior High School and resident of the prefectural city of Nishinomiya, was arrested by Hyogo Prefectural Police’s Takarazuka Police Station. Ueno is reported to have physically punished the two students and told them “this is judo training” after losing his temper when they ate popsicles without permission.

According to the police investigation, on Sept. 25 in the school’s dojo, Ueno spent about 30 minutes abusing the students, aged 12 and 13, from around 4:30 p.m., by using judo techniques to throw them, hit them in the face, and grapple them on the floor. The 12-year-old student was seriously injured, and suffered a spinal fracture that would take three months to heal. The 13-year-old student was pulled to the ground and sustained minor injuries by having his neck bruised. Ueno is said to have acknowledged most of the allegations against him.

The Takarazuka Municipal Board of Education reported that Ueno became angry after the two students ate popsicles from a fridge in the dojo without permission. They both apologized, but they were subjected to a one-sided, repetitious barrage of throws and grapples. One boy who lost consciousness due to a chokehold was slapped awake before being subjected to the same move again.

A teacher in his 40s assigned as a deputy supervisor to the judo club was also at the scene, but he reported that he stood by and watched because fear stopped him from trying to quell the situation. The student who was seriously injured ran home, and the incident came to light after his parents got in touch with the school. A complaint was filed with police in October, based on which the Takarazuka Police Station began its investigation.

The education board reported that Ueno started teaching at Nagao Junior High School in April, 2016. He is a math teacher and student guidance counselor of the second- year students. He has judo 3rd-Dan while the students are beginners. On the night of the incident when Ueno went to apologize to school officials including the vice principal, and to the students’ homes, he acknowledged that he had physically punished them.

At a school Ueno was previously posted to, he was disciplined a total of three times — one salary cut and two warnings — between 2011 and 2013 for acts including breaking a student’s nose when punishing them. He has reportedly received anger management training to suppress his rage.

“This is a humanitarian issue,” commented an injury-victims’ association
Hisako Kurata, the head of the Japan Judo Accident Victims Association (JJAVA) and the mother of a high school judo club member who died from a judo injury in 2011, criticized the teacher. “An adult with a strong physique used violence against beginner students. It goes beyond a judo problem; it is a humanitarian issue. What he did was inhumane.”

Ueno had been disciplined a total of three times in the past for physically punishing students. Kurata commented “The problem is that the Takarazuka Municipal Board of Education had allowed him to continue teaching. It is an issue for the municipal or the prefectural education board to consider. The top officials must seriously work on it. If a third-party committee is going to investigate, the members need to be on the victims’ side, allowing the victims’ side to observe and check the reports.”

Serious judo injuries frequently occur during practice at junior high and high schools, resulting in many lawsuits. JJAVA has indicated factors leading to severe injuries: a beginner, a first-year student, skill gap between opponents, weight gap between opponents etc. Kurata appealed, “Judo injuries continue to occur. The All Japan Judo Federation has promoted safe teaching methods to raise awareness, but it has not reached the grass roots level. It’s time to change the qualification system.”


Extracts from other articles
The Kobe Shimbun NEXT





The teacher had been disciplined a total of three times when he was teaching at another junior high school. In November 2011, he slapped a student during judo club training. In November 2012, he pushed a student down, injuring the inside of his mouth and in June, 2013, he broke a student’s nose when he gave him a head-butt. The last two punishments took place outside of judo club hours.

Just before the third incident, around May 2013, the prefectural education board issued a note to the municipal education board, stating that disciplined teachers should not be allowed to supervise club activities. The teacher was given a disciplinary salary cut after the third physical punishment, but since it happened outside of club hours, he was allowed to continue supervising the judo club.


Bunshun Online

The Hyogo Police senior officer’s remark: “Whether he hit the student or not is not an issue. The boy suffered a spinal fracture, so the teacher’s action was beyond the scope of instruction. An adult with judo experience continued to use techniques against a beginner child. This itself is use of violence. The boys were injured, but the next time he may kill them. He was arrested right away because we thought he was high risk.”

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