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An old story behind Japanese success in Volleyball

Team Japan

Tokyo, 9th November 2007 – In Japan, every time the hometown teams play, thousands of cheering fans completely fill the Competition Hall: each match, in any city, no matter where or when. The majority of them are young fans but it’s very common to see adults, elderly people and “mama-san”. Mama san are grown up women that had played Volleyball when they were younger. They still enjoy watching the matches and, at times, also playing.

The Volleyball history in Japan is very old.
At the beginning of the 19Th Century Volleyball arrived from USA following the US soldiers involved in Pacific areas. Japanese soon discovered that Volleyball was a perfect game for Asiatic: they took advantage of their quickness and agility. Other sports rely mostly on strength and power but the tiny Oriental people couldn’t be competitive. Therefore Volleyball spread fast all over Nippon (the native name for Japan) and became very popular. Both, men and women, started playing and thus an extraordinary tale was born.

At that time, Japan played with the 9-player system, while the international rules called for a 6-player team. It was necessary to adapt the Japanese game to the international competition in order for Japan to compete at 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games

Ten workers (women) of the same factory, Nichibo Kaizuka (a textile manufacturing), became the symbol of Japan. Those women, known as “Toyo no Majo” (Oriental Witches) were coached by Hirofumi Daimatsu. They practiced each days from 5.00 in the afternoon (after their job duty) until midnight in the factory’s gymnasium.
Daimatsu, so called “Oni coach” for his strict discipline and unrelenting conditioning drills (in Japanese Oni means demon) and those women succeeded to win 175 matches in a row (1964 Olympic Gold medal included).

Japanese have found in this story the features they love: the hard work, the perseverance and the suffering. That’s why nowadays, the Japanese Volleyball players are still so popular although the aren’t among the top world’s team.

The shining modern images broadcasted by Fuji TV, arouse enthusiasm in young fans but you can recognize an uncomfortable look on the elder people faces. The modern Japan is changing too fast for them: they grew up following slower rhythm and firmer values and this amazing speed and shallow happiness are bewildering.

 

Andrea Zorzi

 

This story is part of the special “Follow Me” project, signed by two times World Champion Andrea “Zorro” Zorzi. Videos and interviews on the FIVB World Cup 2007 are available form the FIVB home page (www.fivb.org).

  
 

 

  
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