Koshien, that is more than 100 years old. Just after New Year’s, huge audiences tune in to watch the Hakone Ekiden, a college-level marathon relay that is restricted to male runners.

There are few vocal advocates for female athletes, and most of their coaches are men who often do not provide support for the physical changes that girls undergo in adolescence.

Hanae Ito, a swimmer who represented Japan at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, said coaches along the way had told her she was “mentally weak” when she gained weight or suffered menstruation-related mood changes as a teenage athlete.

“I thought it was a problem with me or that it was my fault,” she said. “But I think that this all ties back to Japan being a patriarchal society. Even women’s sports is seen from a male gaze.”

The idea that female athletes need to worry about their future prospects with men is deeply rooted.

After Hideko Maehata, an Olympic swimmer, became the first woman to win a gold medal for Japan, The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, heralded her victory at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games with the headline: “Next Up Is Marriage.”

Such attitudes persist today. Yuki Suzuki, who played in Japan’s Nadeshiko women’s professional soccer league and taught the sport until she gave birth to her son, is frustrated by the rigid gender definitions.

“Girls are often told ‘be feminine, be feminine,’” said Ms. Suzuki, now 34. “I think we have to change the fundamental culture of Japan when it comes to women.”

Even when girls get the chance to play, a bias toward boys emerges in small ways. At the middle school Kurumi attends, the boys’ volleyball and basketball teams get the gym three days a week for practice, while the girls use it the other two days.

Kurumi said she tried not to worry about the unequal treatment. She does not hold it against her coaches, she said, for barring her from carrying heavy equipment during practice.

“I am sure the coaches just care about me,” she said. “But personally, I know I could carry it.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<