Kōkichi Tsuburaya

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Kōkichi Tsuburaya
Kōkichi Tsuburaya at the 1964 Olympics
Personal information
Born(1940-05-13)May 13, 1940[1]
Sukagawa, Fukushima, Japan
DiedJanuary 9, 1968(1968-01-09) (aged 27)
Nerima, Tokyo, Japan
Height1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)
Weight54 kg (119 lb)
SportLong-distance running
Event(s)10,000 meters, marathon
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)10,000 meters: 28:52.6[2]
Marathon: 2:16:23[2]
Medal record
Representing  Japan
Men's athletics
Bronze medal – third place 1964 Tokyo Marathon

Kōkichi Tsuburaya (円谷 幸吉, Tsuburaya Kōkichi) (born Kokichi Tsumuraya (円谷 幸吉, Tsumuraya Kōkichi); May 13, 1940 – January 9, 1968) was a Japanese athlete who competed mainly as a marathoner. Kokichi was also a 1st lieutenant in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

Running career[edit]

Tsuburaya competed at the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan, finishing sixth in the 10,000m event and lining up for the marathon as well, on the final day of competition. Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the race decisively, becoming the first man to defend his Olympic title in the event, having won in Rome in 1960, running barefoot. Tsuburaya entered the stadium second, but was overtaken on the final lap by the furious sprint of Britain's Basil Heatley and finished third, earning the bronze medal. Tsuburaya was mortified by the loss to Heatley, saying to fellow marathoner Kenji Kimihara, "I committed an inexcusable blunder in front of the Japanese people. I have to make amends by running and hoisting the Hinomaru in the next Olympics, in Mexico".[3]

Shortly after the Tokyo Olympics, Tsuburaya suffered from an ongoing back problem, known as lumbago. On January 9, 1968, he committed suicide by slashing his wrist in his dormitory room where he had stayed during his training period for the Mexico City Olympics.[4]


Tsuburaya was found dead in his dorm room, holding on to his bronze medal. His suicide was an emotional reaction to the marriage of his longtime girlfriend, Eiko, to another man. Tsuburaya had wanted to marry Eiko, but his military bosses refused to consent to a marriage until after the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, and Eiko's parents had been unwilling to have her wait to marry until after the Games.[5]

In his suicide note, Tsuburaya paid thanks to his parents, siblings and trainers for their contributions, hoped his nieces and nephews would grow up well, and asked for forgiveness from his parents.[6] He left two handwritten notes as explanation for why he took his life.[7]

His suicide note reads as such:

My dear Father, my dear Mother: I thank you for the three-day pickled yam. It was delicious. Thank you for the dried persimmons. And the rice cakes. They were delicious, too.

My dear Brother Toshio, and my dear Sister: I thank you for the sushi. It was delicious.

My dear Brother Katsumi, and my dear Sister: The wine and apples were delicious. I thank you.

My dear Brother Iwao, and my dear Sister: I thank you. The basil-flavored rice, and the Nanban pickles were delicious.

My dear Brother Kikuzo, and my dear Sister: The grape juice and Yomeishu were delicious. I thank you. And thank you, my dear Sister, for the laundry you always did for me.

My dear Brother Kozo and my dear Sister: I thank you for the rides you gave me in your car, to and fro. The mongo-cuttlefish was delicious. I thank you.

My dear Brother Masao, and my dear sister: I am very sorry for all the worries I caused you.

Yukio-kun, Hideo-kun, Mikio-kun, Toshiko-chan, Hideko-chan, Ryosuke-kun, Takahisa-kun, Miyoko-chan, Yukie-chan, Mitsue-chan, Akira-kun, Yoshiyuki-kun, Keiko-chan, Koei-kun, Yu-chan, Kii-chan, Shoji-kun: May you grow up to be fine people.

My dear Father and my dear Mother, Kokichi is too tired to run anymore. I beg you to forgive me. Your hearts must never have rested worrying and caring for me.

My dear Father and Mother, Kokichi would have liked to live by your side.[8]


  1. ^ Kokichi Tsuburaya. sports-reference.com
  2. ^ a b All-Athletics. "Profile of Kokichi Tsuburaya". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2014-12-03.
  3. ^ Whiting, Robert, "Schollander, Hayes were spectacular at Tokyo Games", The Japan Times, 18 October 2014, p. 13
  4. ^ Larimer, Tim (October 2, 2000). "The Agony of Defeat". TIME Asia. Archived from the original on January 25, 2001. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  5. ^ Belson, Ken (July 18, 2021), "Elegy for a Heartbroken Medalist", The New York Times
  6. ^ "Tsuburaya's suicide note" (in Japanese). January 9, 1968. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  7. ^ Tomizawa, Roy. "The Triumphant Tragedy of Marathoner Kokichi Tsuburaya Part 4: A Suicide Note that Captures an Essence of the Japanese, and Endures as Literature". The Olympians. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  8. ^ Kash. "The Tragic Death of a Japanese Olympian". J.W. Kash. Retrieved 12 September 2017.