Bukatsu: the personal and sporting way to become a Hero
The Japanese have a word that is practically impossible to translate into other languages. The word in question is ‘Bukatsu’ and, as often happens in Japanese, it has more than one meaning. Translating it as ‘extra-curricular activities’ would be simplistic, because in reality, the sense goes far deeper. The activities referred to are thought to refresh the mind and body and to enrich and enhance the school experience.
These voluntary activities get students involved with their peers and bring joy and motivation to many. Participation gives students advanced sporting skills and understanding, and helps them cultivate the abilities and attitudes needed to enjoy sport for the rest of their lives, while improving their strength and health in the process. Bukatsu is therefore an approach to life that uses sport as its keystone. In Japan, sport is strictly linked to education and to the development of personality, and football in particular is now a nationwide phenomenon in the country's high schools.
The 'All Japan High School Soccer Tournament', the biggest amateur sporting event in Japan
The "Winter Kokuritsu", as it is better known, is an annual football tournament involving high school teams from all over the country. It is so popular that, in the final stages of the competition, stadiums are packed with over 50,000 spectators – attendances worthy of a World Cup – and TV broadcasts attract impressive viewing figures. This the secret of Japan's success in football. The country's high school system produces athletes who go on to play in the J-League, the nation's top division.
The All Japan High School Soccer Tournament is key to the emergence of young players and this partly explains its tremendous popularity. Stadiums hosting the games are packed out and the competing teams generate just as much interest and passion as top clubs. It is no coincidence that the “Holly & Benji" cartoons and, for slightly older viewers, the adventures of Shingo Tamai (the first manga dedicated exclusively to football), feature Japanese school football teams.
Higashi Fukuoka High School Soccer Club
Higashi Fukuoka High School Soccer Club is one of the most prestigious teams and produces sporting heroes on a yearly basis. The club was formed in 1955 in Hakata Ward in Fukuoka city and boasts a packed trophy cabinet. Many of the club's players have gone on to achieve fame at the highest levels of Japanese professional football. The school team, on whose shirts the Macron Hero logo will appear this year, has won practically everything at the high school and youth team levels. This includes three victories in the All-Japan High School Soccer Championship and in the All Japan Summer Championship, and an impressive seven wins in the All Kyushu High School Soccer Tournament.
Over 50 pupils from the school have gone on to play as professionals in the J-League. Higashi Fukuoka High School has achieved similar results in rugby and baseball too (the latter being a very popular and extremely competitive sport in Japan), and its teams have often won the famous ‘Koshien’ spring-summer baseball tournament for high schools.
Bunan High School
Another sports high school to wear Macron starting this year is Bunan High School, a private high school in Warabi, a town in the south-east of Saitama prefecture. This school has a history of 61 years behind it and boasts over 1,000 titles in the various sports it teaches, which include swimming, athletics and, of course, football. Over 30 of the youngsters who have helped Bunan High School to victory in multiple national tournaments have gone on to play professionally.
From grassroots to professional
Players are launched on the path from grassroots to professional level within the Japanese school system where, unlike most other countries, sport is closely interwoven with other aspects of education. Sport is viewed as something that enriches school life, makes it more enjoyable and therefore effectively improves not just strength but physical and mental health too. In brief, sport is considered the perfect tool for guiding and supporting young people in their efforts to become heroes on and off the pitch.