Table Speech

Children Change through Sports and Manners
--- The DNA for politeness remains in them―what Manner Kids Project has achieved for 120,000 children ---

March 11, 2015

Mr. Hideo Tanaka
Chief Director,
Public Interest Incorporated Association Manner Kids Project

 The Manner Kids Project aims to raise children well-balanced in “physical, moral and intellectual capacity” by making children experience traditional Japanese manners through sports and cultural activities. I set out on this initiative when I was working in the human resource department of a company. I got anxious about the lack of greetings among employees and set up the “Greeting Road” in our factories with a slogan that read “always greet each other cheerfully, livelily and refreshingly.” As I wondered why grown-ups failed to exchange greetings, I happened to walk by an elementary school in my neighborhood one morning and found school children were passing by teachers at the gate without saying a word. I realized the practice of greeting was disappearing. After this experience, I talked to members of the alumni association of my alma mater Waseda University Tennis Club and established a tennis school for elementary school children.

 After retirement, I launched the Manner Kids Tennis Project in April 2005 as a project of the Japan Tennis Association. It was authorized as a non-profit organization in June 2007 to broaden our scope to other sports and cultural activities. 125,000 children from kindergarten to elementary school in 47 prefectures have participated in our projects to date. Also, 310 schools in 34 prefectures have adopted our program as part of their curriculum.

 Our tennis class starts with the instruction on good posture and how to bow and greet properly, given by the Master of Ogasawara School of Etiquette, Ms. Makiko Suzuki. Children then take a 90-minute tennis lesson and try to keep the good posture, bowing and greeting. At first, many children stand badly and they speak in feeble voices. By the end of the class, their posture gets better and their voice gets louder. We see their impressive improvement that tells the DNA for politeness remains in children.

 “Manner Kids Body Trunk Training” was developed jointly by the Tokyo Metropolitan School Teacher Training Center and the Waseda University, Faculty of Sport Sciences to make children master good posture in their daily school life. Children get instructions on the Ogasawara School of Etiquette and try to train their body trunk through increased physical activities at school.

 We also conduct “Manner Kids Survey,” based on the suggestions by Professor Yoichi Akashi, President of Chiba Keiai Junior College. The survey identifies the proper way of bowing, greeting, walking, posture, lifestyle and social norms, sets concrete goals and evaluates their achievements through a holistic approach taken by children, parents and teachers.

 In the Manner Kids Program, parents get a lecture by Master Suzuki on the importance of greeting to be made from inferiors to superiors. In a family, children should greet their parents politely first thing in the morning and parents should pause to reply and check their condition. People in the past said, “Look at your children in the morning, call their names at noon and touch them at night to make sure they are fine, or they might vanish.” Master Suzuki also emphasizes that for a child, mother is someone to love and father is someone to respect. Therefore, mothers shouldn’t talk ill of their husband and try to deliver only beautiful words to make children respect their father. Children who grow up with much affection gain high tolerance for stress or bullying.

 Professor Hajime Omori of Tsukuba University Graduate School and a member of our Project also argues that “mother’s love nurtures the brain of a child,” based on his experiments on rats. Results showed that rats loved by their mothers in early childhood behaved calmly, were more tolerant to stress and were resistant to the decline of cognitive function later in life.

 We also send four “Manner Kids Ambassadors” to summer camps abroad, selected through a national tennis team competition for elementary school children. Winners are judged on the basis of tennis achievement, compliance with rules and good manners as well as an essay they submit. Ambassadors travelled to Wimbledon, UK up to 2010 and to New York since 2011.

 We also plan to implement our project in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, especially in Fukushima Prefecture where children have limited opportunity to engage in outdoor activities that could adversely affect the development of their nervous system. We have received some alarming reports from our partner organizations that children in Fukushima seem to be lacking attention, losing control of their emotions and body and tend to give up easily without trying. I must say schools are conservative in nature and slow to adopt something new.

 Rotary Club members here today are highly influential in the community. With your advice, schools would be more open. We sincerely hope to have your kind cooperation and advice to further enhance our initiative.

 All of our projects have been operated with donations from companies and individuals as well as membership fees from our regular and supporting members. Our annual budget totals 26 million yen. We hope to increase our corporate members to solidify our financial basis. As I close my speech, let me ask for your generous support and kind advice and guidance to our activities.