Kōkichi Tsuburaya at the 1964 Olympics
|Born||May 13, 1940|
Sukagawa, Fukushima, Japan
|Died||January 9, 1968 (aged 27)|
Nerima, Tokyo, Japan
|Height||1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)|
|Weight||54 kg (119 lb)|
|Event(s)||10,000 meters, marathon|
|Achievements and titles|
|Personal best(s)||10,000 meters: 28:52.6 |
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.
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".
Shortly after the Tokyo Olympics, Kokichi 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.
Kokichi was found dead in his dorm room, holding on to his bronze medal. In his suicide note, he 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. He left two handwritten notes as explanation for why he took his life.
Here is his farewell letter:
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, Yoshiyukikun, 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kōkichi Tsuburaya.|
- Kokichi Tsuburaya. sports-reference.com
- All-Athletics. "Profile of Kokichi Tsuburaya".
- Whiting, Robert, "Schollander, Hayes were spectacular at Tokyo Games", The Japan Times, 18 October 2014, p. 13
- Larimer, Tim (October 2, 2000). "The Agony of Defeat". TIME Asia. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
- "Tsuburaya's suicide note" (in Japanese). January 9, 1968. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
- 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.
- Kash. "The Tragic Death of a Japanese Olympian". J.W. Kash. Retrieved 12 September 2017.