Kids can’t catch

10 10 2007

Fat kids…The reported fitness levels of Japanese children have hit rock-bottom. Never before have Japanese children been fatter, more uncoordinated, or more unfit than they are now. That’s not to say that you’d walk into a Japanese school classroom and see a multitude of fat kids – the Japanese body-shape generally precludes that… but you will see quite a few chubby kids, far more than ever before. And loads of skinny kids who can barely catch a ball.

A survey by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry of physical strength and athletic ability was conducted on 74,000 people aged between 6 to 79. The survey focused primarily on the fitness levels of primary school students.

The survey discovered that whilst from 1987 to 1996, levels dropped sharply to hit new lows, but over the last ten years it has hit a plateau. That’s not cause for celebration, it’s seen as an indication that Japan’s kids have hit the bottom of the barrel: there is no lower.
In the tests, the Ministry discovered that running pace is about the same level it was 10 years ago – the slowest on record. The ability to throw a ball has declined steadily, then has leveled out over the last 10 years… again at a record low. Jumping skills have eroded, and many children cannot even perform basic skills. Physical co-ordination is at an all-time low.
A ministry official stated:
“Many children can’t run straight, while others get injured because they are too slow to duck out of the way of a ball…”
(and end up like this?)

Japanese ‘Print Club’ Without a doubt Japanese youths lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle. Video games have taken over as being the primary hobby for most Japanese kids. Children spend far longer in specialized study schools (Cram Schools) than ever before. Universities set extremely high standards, so to get into a good university, you have to go to a good high school. To get into a good high school, you have to go to a good junior high. To get into a good junior high, you have to go to a good elementary (primary) school… and – I kid you not – there is pressure on children to enroll in the right kindergarten.

My family will move early next year, so that my now 6 month old baby will be in the ‘right’ location to get into a ‘good’ kindergarten. That’s not going overboard in Japan, it’s just something that’s become a necessity if you’re able.
Nuts. And the pressure’s huge, so kids study, and study long hours. And cram schools provide extra tutelage that many parents crave. Note that: it’s not the kids doing this, it’s the parents making their kids do this.
Added to this, there are very few recreational leagues that kids can participate in outside of school teams.

So we’re left with a generation of kids who spend too much time with heads buried in books, and when they want to unwind, they plug in the Playstation (X-box isn’t so huge here). There are still ‘jocks’, but the average kid doesn’t play a helluva lot of sport, nor partakes in much physical activity.

The average Japanese father works too late to take much of an interest in his offspring’s sporting activities. Rest assured, that this is one father who’ll be making sure there’s always time to play some catch.

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