【ENGLISH】Social Challenger Award
Assisting the child’s return to society from a juvenile reformatory. (F.C. Tokyo)
■Social Challenger Award
“Giving us the Realization” - The Story of F.C. Tokyo -
“Assisting the child’s return to society from a Juvenile Training School”
Mr. Kubota of F.C. Tokyo, who nominated this topic for the award states, “it’s not an easy topic. However, we felt there were significant meaning in this project, and this was the opportunity to tell the story. It’s something that can be seen in any part of the country and we hope to act in some way in other cities as well.”
This topic received high interest from not only the members of the Social Challenger Award selection committee, but from the members of the other selection committee as well. There were many comments provided.
“There seems to be kids that loses their confidence in themselves after conducting a second offense after rejuvenation. It’s important whether they have somebody that act as a supporter for them. There are cases where parents are not around for that role. In some case people within the community plays that role and the kids are able to redeem themselves. After rejuvenation it’s important to create a community and build the network to support them. We hope that the connection they build with clubs results in an important part of their reformatory and an opportunity for them to look ahead.”
“Obviously conducting a crime is bad. There is responsibility to expiate. However, it’s important to think about their human rights after they expiate.
There are increased cases where kids are somewhat a victim from adults and the society due to domestic violence and poverty issues within their household. This effort is not only for a particular individual. It’s a responsibility for the whole society to not create an individual out of rejuvenation to repeatedly conduct a crime. People needs to realize there is an issue in front of them.”
Under the Ministry of Justice’s prevention of second conviction plan, “job” and “a place where they belong” is among their emphasis. Regarding jobs it’s important to have a wide range of knowledge toward the variety of jobs out there and also very important to learn the value and meaning of the work besides from the financial value. For the meaning of a place where they belong, it does not simply mean about the place they live physically. It’s more about having the opportunity to work with their neighbor and surroundings, have the sense that they are needed in the society and they have a role that creates the sense of self-usefulness. Even for those who lack in the ability to build relationship with others, it’s important to provide them comfort and allow them to realize that they can stay.
Upon the recognition of the award, Satoru Ohashi, Director-General of the Correction Bureau ,Ministry of Justice provided these comments.
“I am happy to hear that F.C. Tokyo’s work in assisting child’s return to society from a Juvenile Training School has received many understanding from supporters and the selection committee through the voting of the SHAREN awards. I am sure there were a lot of roadblocks within the club and outside companies in making this happen without a previous example, but I would like to thank F.C. Tokyo and SODATE AGE NET for their efforts.
“The reality of Juvenile Training School is mostly unknown. They are playing a very important role to develop the ability of a child, so they can be welcomed back into the society.”
We hope to pass along the significance of handling this issue through the interview from Satoru Ohashi, Director-General of the Correction Bureau ,Ministry of Justice, Kei Kudo, president of certified non-profit organization SODATEAGE NET and Yoshihide Imura and Jun Kubota from F.C. Tokyo.
Capture the true nature of the issue and plan things out
―How did this effort start?
（F.C. Tokyo：Kubota）It all started with our visit with the J.LEAGUE Chairman to the Tama Juvenile Training School where we provided our Football clinics. Even though we were welcomed I was unsure if this was all we can do. Obviously, there are many restrictions within the Juvenile Training School, but I wondered if there were any other way to contribute besides from providing football clinics.
After talking with the staff from the Juvenile Training School, the issues that was brought up were how kids aren’t able to have the connection with the society until they get out of the facility. As J.LEAGUE provided a career design support program called “J.LEAGUE YONONAKA KA” to the players in the academy, I felt this can be somewhat of a reference we can provide.
If we were able to bring the kids from the Juvenile Training School to our practice grounds, I felt they will be able to see the different jobs associated with the club and what players go through daily. I felt this will be a good experience for the kids to be involved with the society, but it took two long years to make this happen. We were hesitant on how to make this work from our club’s vision. The environment surrounding the J.LEAGUE has changed over the last 20 years and as F.C. Tokyo’s recognition has grown, our intentions has evolved to contributing to the community rather than just putting our names out there. The number of natural disasters we deal with has also led us to that way of thinking. We cannot just settle as a club to be seen, as people have gained the perspective of the power of sports.
However, our resources are limited and we cannot attack every issue in the society. F.C. Tokyo has decided to focus on the topic of “The next generation that will be the future of our community” and also support “Parasports.”
It was around that time when the Deputy Director-General for the Correction Bureau（Note：Currently Satoru Ohashi Director General of the Correction Bureau）of the Ministry of Justice visited our practice ground in Kodaira. He mentioned that “They are not only able to gain valuable experiences here, but this can lead to being part of the community after they leave the Juvenile Training School. This is no difference to F.C. Tokyo’s activity in developing the younger generation.” That’s when we felt this can be under our focus of supporting the next generation that will be the future of our community.
―How did the Ministry of Justice feel about this project?
（Ministry of Justice：Ohashi）I already knew about F.C. Tokyo’s continued activity with the Tama Juvenile Training School. After receiving this suggestion, I wanted to see the possibilities with my own eyes and that’s why I visited F.C. Tokyo’s training ground in Kodaira last year (April, 2019).
After speaking with the club staff, I was able to see the variety of jobs, what players go through in order to step foot in the pitch of the top league in Japan and the motivation of the people supporting them.
I felt the opportunity for the kids to see what kind of respect and responsibility each member of the staff has in order to make the glamorous game day possible is very important for them in becoming part of the community again once they get out of the facility.
―Did the club make any changes？
（F.C. Tokyo：Kubota）The focal point of the project was for the kids to see the work of people behind the scenes like the groundskeeper and the roupeiro (equipment manager). We wanted them to know there are people who are supporting tirelessly to make the glamorous games of J.LEAGUE possible because that’s how the society is built too.
First of all, we want them to come early and help the staff prepare for the practices and to see how intense the training actually is. Then get a glimpse of how they are supported by the fans, how they answer, and deal with their media sessions. At the end we provide some 1-on-1 time for the kids to spend with the players and receive words of encouragement.
This project is important to have the Top Team Management Department to be on board. The players who take their time to spend with the kids are very welcoming and will give their time until the last minute. Keigo Higashi talked about the pressure of competing in the championship race. Akihiro Hayashi reflected on the challenges he faced when playing overseas. Both were open in sharing their experiences and talked about how they battled through the challenges while listening to what the kids are dealing with.
What we focused on is to not force anything and make this a selfish act. Both sides are equal. We wanted to use the environment of a training ground, so the kids are able to experience themselves. What they each get from this opportunity will be different. In a training ground you can get the opportunity of seeing from all angles. You see the staff that supports the team, the training itself, the fans that make their way to support the players, and how much effort players put in working pre and post practice to gain an edge over others. We would like them to have the opportunity to gain something from all this.
When conducting a crime, there may be situations where it’s not all their fault, but something that was created by the social structure. The players were able to spend time with kids who previously played football and as they got to know them, the players mentioned how valuable it was for them to meet a committed coach and the environment they were in.
We were happy to see the kids seriously participating in the project and we were able to feel that from the feedbacks and thank you letters.
※We received special permission to add some parts of the participant’s feedback.
After talking with Mr. Takahagi from F.C. Tokyo today, I felt a person with a warm heart is a person that has a wonderful smile. In every word that came out of Mr. Takahagi’s mouth you can tell he has the respect to any question you ask. Even if it’s an item you’re referring to he shows the utmost respect. When it’s about a person it changes to trust and respect and you can tell from his eyes how much he cares about the people around him. It amazes you how a person can have such kind eyes. A word that stuck with me was when he said, “You have to trust somebody in order to gain the trust, so I always try to believe in the person.” It was really cool how he said this and it just all sank in me that I had no words to respond with. In my life up until now, I never was able to fully trust somebody but for some reason I felt I was trusted. Now that I look back now, there probably wasn’t trust involved there. Finally, I feel that I am able to understand that whatever you do to people, it comes back to you. After meeting Mr. Takahagi, my thinking has changed. I felt that I shouldn’t always be defensive and show the trust to others when I can. I would like to become a person with a little more space for others and be nice to people.
After speaking with Mr. Tanba, I felt he accepted me even though I did some wrongdoings in the past. Honestly it was great that I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Tanba as an individual regardless of him being a football player. I say that because we barely talked about football in our conversation and he told me about his childhood and about his first impressions on meeting me. What I was impressed about most was when he said, “Everything is a fine line” meaning the difference between a person who committed a crime and who has not. This word stuck with me and he didn’t look at individuals like this person is going to commit a crime or this person is definitely not going to commit a crime, but just looked at everybody the same way. He mentioned the only difference is that they took the wrong road and went the other way. He also said that everybody has the freedom to live their own way, so it’s more fun to value your life. By valuing your life means to value not yourself, but your family, friends, and loved ones, and also things you possess. I was really happy to meet Mr. Tanba, and even though it was a short time I felt really fortunate. I was happy that he wanted to not just talk about himself but wanted to hear my story as well. I hope to get out of the Juvenile Training School, find a job and once I settle to hopefully have the opportunity to go meet and speak with him again. I hope to tell him then that I am happy with my life. I happened to be talkative and like to do fun things, so it would be great if he continues to remember me the next time we meet. Thank you for making this memorable time for me today.
The message we want to share
―What was the impression when hearing about the award？
（F.C. Tokyo：Kubota）Obviously, we are not doing this to earn an award, but by entering we were able to tell the story to more people. It’s very important that this activity reaches to a larger population. Our hope is to expand the reach with F.C. Tokyo being a part of this. In order to make that happen, we have to continue learning as well. There are many reasons why we were able to make this happen but working with the Ministry of Justice and SODATEAGE NET is a big part of it.
For example, there are study groups involving Juvenile Training School and private sectors for promoting collaboration. There are also gathering where people who supports the Tama Juvenile Training School in different ways. It’s important for us to stay on top of these difficult issues and to join the people who have been working to improve the environment. After being able to participate in these meetings we were able to learn what we didn’t know.
―What is the message you would like to send through this opportunity?
（Ministry of Justice：Ohashi）As a reality, there are victims that have been hurting due to the crime that was conducted by the kids in the Juvenile Training School. While in the facility, we look back at the crime with the kids and work individually with them so they will not repeat this when they return to the society.
The amount of kids coming into the Juvenile Training School has decreased over the years and we feel this is a group effort from the schools, local government and the community. On the other hand, there are increased number of students who struggles to find a place after they leave the facility, develop mental limitation and developmental issue, or struggle in dealing with their past experiences of being a battered child.
The numbers may have decreased, but there are still some that falls out of the supporting net provided by the society. In order to support them time and effort is needed, but the staff at the Juvenile Training School are already working tirelessly 365 days and 24 hours. At the facility, the staff are creative in providing opportunities to the kids besides of their regular tasks.
The easiest way to learn about the activities within the facility is to actually see it with your own eyes. Currently we are limited to welcome people into our facility due to COVID-19, but every year we have provided opportunities for people to visit. We would like people to take their time when available to learn about the activities done by the Juvenile Training School.
（SODATEAGE：Imura）The biggest issue is that people are not aware that these problems exist. At times we provide study tours and I believe there are opportunities for people to visit their nearby facilities and we would like people to share what they see from their visits. Also, you can gain a completely different perspective by being involved, so we would like to urge people to be a part as well. Similar to what “ALLY” has become for LGBT,（Note: ALLY is the biggest supporter of the LGBT movement）if we have more people who are acknowledged as supporters to them that will be great.
To be honest, I was one of the guys that didn’t want to be involved. However, after doing some research I was able to find out that they are less involved with heinous crime. After being involved I was able to gain the understanding that they’re individuals who needs a lot of supporters. Previously I heard that only 30% were able to find jobs after leaving the facility. Being excluded from their homes, society and schools, they usually are left to fight through by themselves.
However, we were unsure how the public will react at first, so we quietly started the support for the kids coming out of Juvenile Training School to find jobs. But that changed in December of 2016 when we asked for support through a fundraiser and many people that we were not aware of joined to help. Out of the people who supported us, there were some past juvenile as well and they mentioned about their personal experiences on how difficult it was to be back part of the society. Their hope was for the kids currently in the facility to not have the same problems. There was also a supporter who used to work as a coach for the soccer club who became parents and reached out to support in some way.
One coach said, “It may not be out of question that there are players who struggles in this tough environment, fails to accomplish their dream and rails off the path. There are possibilities, we may be developing those type of kids here too.”
It’s a difficult issue as there are victims who are involved that are suffering, but we feel it’s important to support both sides. As long as we do not ignore and keep an eye out to the people who are needing our supports, we feel people will eventually understand.
Going back to why I felt heinous crimes were a big part of the kids in the juvenile in the first place was how the media only focuses on those incidents. In 2016 the reformatory law has changed and there were movements toward opening it up more toward the society. Until then it was not visible to us and seemed like we were all happy without knowing what’s going on. That’s why it was mostly the heinous crimes that were visible to us on the news. However, after the change in law, there have been news that treat incidents from a different angle. We feel that this being one of the topics chosen by the SHAREN award can be another turning point as well.
―From each can we hear about your future vision and dream?
（Ministry of Justice：Ohashi）To those kids who are having difficulties fitting in and cannot lean on their families, we would like to support in a way where they feel that they can lean on people in the community. In the Juvenile Training School, along with the volunteers we are moving toward working strongly with the local community, schools, and private enterprises and organizations. The facility will always remain as a place where they face the crime they conducted and the victim they hurt. But we will continue to work towards providing the opportunity for the kids to be a part of the local community again.
To the community, we hope that people will show the interest toward the Juvenile Training School and the kids who are part of it. We ask for all to give them the needed support when they are back into our community. Decreasing the number of crime and misconduct can lead to less victims. We hope that it’s a society where people from all backgrounds and diversity can have a happy life. We feel that having this opportunity to share this with more J.LEAGUE fans about the Juvenile Training School through the SHAREN awards is a great way to kickoff.
Many J.LEAGUE clubs are working with their local Juvenile Training School in many ways and we cannot thank enough. There may be future nominations, so I will not go into depth but it’s a really thankful act. Each club are following along the shared principle by the league and uses their diverse staff and skillset to speak loudly and receive the trust and expectation from the fans.
For the clubs to work with their local Juvenile Training School and show some understanding towards the kids and to act together, it increases the interest and recognition from the society. There are over fifty facilities throughout the country, but we hope to continue building a good relationship with the J.LEAGUE clubs and gain understanding from their fans in order to provide more special projects.
（SODATEAGE：KUDO）The achievement we were able to accomplish with people that does not specialize in correctional education leads to the increased interest in this topic which have reached to a different segment of people. I am happy to be a part even in a small way. At the same time, I feel this has been an issue where we were not able to sustain activities in the past.
In reality, it’s hard to maintain the activity level for these projects when participating as a volunteer, which includes us. We hope that if a club like the F.C. Tokyo is part of this social contribution it results in increased number of socio and more fans to attend the games at the stadium.
In projects like this we are often asked about the impact it provides. We feel F.C. Tokyo being recognized for the award provides a huge impact where J.LEAGUE and other clubs are all focusing on the issues in our society and looking at how much social contribution they can provide.
（F.C. Tokyo：Kubota）Even though it may not stand out, disparities are increasing in our society. It all leads to issues like learning support, Kodomo Shokudo, Juvenile Training School. In a local community where the social structure is distorted, F.C. Tokyo always has a mindset on how we can help not just on the surface, but we hope to increase people’s interest even toward the background and structure of why those issues may have occured.
Also, we think about what we can do for the victims. We look at what other J.LEAGUE clubs are doing as well. As we continue this project we will seek if we can extend our approach in other ways. For example, there may be something we can do for the staff who supports the Juvenile Training School.
It’s also important to work with people that doesn’t just bring up the issues, but challenges other by coming up with solutions from their role. On occasions when we can interact, I try to show up at those meetings and take the opportunity to learn. By repeatedly doing that in a respectful matter, your network will automatically grow and I hope to continue to do that.
When I am asked why are you involved with these activities? My answer is pretty straightforward. Because we’re F.C. Tokyo and we’re a J.LEAGUE club. That’s what we are expected. There is a philosophy among J.LEAGUE and F.C. Tokyo. It’s not just about football. Being involved with social cooperation activities should be no question. In order for us to accomplish that we need to focus on conducting our business.
Strength of a club is the power of the voice. Not for self-advertisement and we need to use it in the right way. If there is a social issue, we would first like to increase the awareness of the issue. We would like to not just continue looking at the issue but trying to find ways to improve. Our hope is that it spreads to other clubs and we would like to approach to Ministry of Justice’s workshops.
If we continue with this project, down the road we may have the opportunity to meet a student who was part of this. That would be the moment of joy.
I had the opportunity to attend a study tour at a Juvenile Training School with my connection with the SODATE AGE NET. In that occasion I learned about the trend of juvenile crime, the environment factors, and the rehabilitation programs. I was embarrassed how much I did not know. To be honest, I was unaware of the people that falls out of the social system and the people that supports those individuals. From that day on, I have placed a yellow feather inside my glasses case to not forget.
When I previously heard about Juvenile Training School , it seemed like a far topic from myself and seemed like somebody else’s business. However, after actually experiencing, it became my own issue. I felt more strongly toward the importance of communities where people feel their own existence. It led me to think about my personal actions and whether or not if I am creating a loneliness to somebody and building a negative chain.
With the club being involved on this topic, hopefully it will lead to more and more individual acting on its own.