Photo/Illutration Cheerleading squad members of Senshu University Matsudo High School from Chiba Prefecture wear shorts instead of skirts at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, on March 27. (Kazuhiko Matsunaga)

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Prefecture--Cheerleaders from some high schools wore shorts instead of skirts at the spring national baseball tournament here to protect themselves against secret filming by perverts in the crowd.

The annual tournament is the first since the novel coronavirus pandemic began in 2020 to allow loud cheering and singing in the stands of Hanshin Koshien Stadium.

Tournament officials also gave spectators the choice of whether to wear facial masks or not.

Many students decided to cover up in a different way.

The cheerleading squad of Senshu University Matsudo High School from Chiba Prefecture, for example, were clad in shorts at the March 27 game at Hanshin Koshien Stadium.

“We sometimes raise our legs high, depending on the choreography,” said Mano Ogawa, the cheerleader captain. “The Koshien stands are tiered. This time, we can cheer without worrying.”

A few years ago, a video of the school’s cheerleaders in skirt uniforms spread on the internet without the students’ permission, according to school officials.

The officials had warned people in the stands against taking “unnatural” pictures of the cheerleaders. The school decided to change the uniforms to shorts when the design was renewed.

“It is inherently the fault of those who engage in such secretive acts, but it is the minimum school responsibility to protect the safety and security of its students,” Takao Otsuka, vice principal at the school, said.

Cheerleaders for Osaka Toin Senior High School wore leggings under their skirts in the stands for a game on March 28.

The school adopted the leggings uniforms as a measure against secret filming for the spring tourney last year.

The cheering squad of Chiben Gakuen Wakayama Senior High School also wore shorts uniforms in the stands.

“We have used them since the summer tournament last year,” a school official said. “It is our top priority to protect students.”

At a March 28 game at Koshien, school officials of Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School from Miyagi Prefecture held up six signs that read, “Please refrain from filming during the cheering.”

Riseisha High School from Osaka Prefecture and Yamanashi Gakuin Senior High School had their cheerleaders perform away from the infield stands, where secret recordings are often taken.

Students and parents stood up and formed a “wall” to block the cheerleaders from the view of the cameras.

However, cheerleaders of a school from Kochi Prefecture wore skirts for its game at Koshien. The uniform was renewed when the baseball team qualified for the spring tournament.

“Many students told me they wanted to wear pretty skirts,” the dance club coach said.

School officials said they will thoroughly think about measures to protect the students from secret filming.

Covert recording of athletes or skirt-wearing cheerleaders has become a social problem.

Prosecutors on March 7 received the case of a man in his 30s who is suspected of violating a Kyoto prefectural ordinance banning indecent acts.

He allegedly filmed the lower bodies of relay-race competitors in the annual Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden in Kyoto in January.

In another case, a man in his 50s was referred to prosecutors on suspicion of secretly filming cheerleaders in the stands at a university baseball game.

Organizers of the high school baseball tourney are concerned about secret filming.

At a meeting, they advised participating schools to place officials around the cheerleaders and brass band members. They also shared ideas that were used at past tournaments.

“We’d like to work on this problem to make everyone who comes from all over the country feel comfortable and enjoy the cheering,” the organizer said.

(This article was written by Kazuhiko Matsunaga and Takeshi Okada.)