SI Vault
 
Death En Route to Wimbledon
John Cottrell
August 30, 1971
Jiro Satoh, the best tennis player Japan ever produced, found winning to preserve national honor too great a burden
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 30, 1971

Death En Route To Wimbledon

Jiro Satoh, the best tennis player Japan ever produced, found winning to preserve national honor too great a burden

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

But was tennis really the reason? One piece of evidence contradicts the view that the association was to blame. There is another theory that Satoh's nervous breakdown arose principally out of a dilemma of family honor and that his Davis Cup duties were merely a contributing factor. This dilemma can be traced back to New Year's Eve 1933, when he proposed marriage to Miss Okada. She accepted, and they were to be married in the spring of 1935 after he had completed his tennis tour and graduated at Waseda University. But they faced a serious obstacle. She was an only child and, according to Japanese custom, her husband would have to take her name in marriage so that the Okada line might be preserved. Many of Satoh's relatives, equally proud of their own name, strongly objected to such a change. Satoh himself had no such objection and often joked about it to his friends. But with his acute sense of honor, one cannot accept that Satoh took the opposition of his relatives lightly. Amid all the speculation following his suicide, one pointed question remained unanswered. Could it not be that he had found himself confronted with an impossible choice—that of either offending his own family or ending his betrothal? Either way he faced dishonor. Either action, for a man of such disciplined upbringing and high principles, could have been unthinkable.

Whatever the cause, Satoh's disappearance over the ship's side into the Strait of Malacca that April night in 1934 robbed Japan of the greatest tennis player that country has yet produced. Never again has Japan had a competitor in the "last eight" of Wimbledon, much less the semifinals; never since that day has she been a Davis Cup power.

1 2 3
Related Topics
  ARTICLES GALLERIES COVERS
Jiro Satoh 1 0 0
Tennis 2333 0 74
Japan 507 0 3
Wimbledon 531 0 20
Singapore 21 0 0