Kōkichi Tsuburaya

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Kōkichi Tsuburaya
Kōkichi Tsuburaya 1964.jpg
Kōkichi Tsuburaya at the 1964 Olympics
Personal information
Nationality Japanese
Born (1940-05-13)May 13, 1940[1]
Sukagawa, Fukushima
Died January 9, 1968(1968-01-09) (aged 27)
Unspecified, Japan
Height 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)
Weight 54 kg (119 lb)
Sport Long-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]

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, 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.[4]

In his suicide note, he paid thanks to his parents, siblings and trainers for their contributions, urged his fellow runners to do well, and ended the note (please note this is informal translation): "I am too exhausted to run any more. Please forgive me. I'm sorry for causing my parents concern and worry, but this is for the best. Thank you very much for everything you have done for me."[5] He was twenty-seven years old.


  1. ^ Kokichi Tsuburaya. sports-reference.com
  2. ^ a b All-Athletics. "Profile of Kokichi Tsuburaya". 
  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. Retrieved 21 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "Tsuburaya's suicide note" (in Japanese). January 9, 1968. Retrieved August 15, 2012.