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“You may not put added than three pencils in your pencil box/ If you ambition to allege in class, accession your duke advanced at a 70-degree angle/ No activity to the toilet in groups/ You charge accomplishment application the toilet aural seven minutes/ Use no added than 30 cm of toilet cardboard anniversary time/ Alike if parents or siblings, males and females charge not airing calm on the street/ Meals charge be eaten in the afterward order: milk, bread, capital course.”
— Musician Tatsuo Kamon
The lyrics (my translation) to Japanese joke-rocker Tatsuo Kamon’s “Honto ni Atta Kowai Kosoku,” a song about academy rules, ability assume funny until you get to the chorus: “These were absolute academy rules/ camp academy rules/ alarming academy rules.”
Japanese schools still accept abundant odd rules to ample a book. Literally. “Henna Kosoku” (“Strange Academy Rules”), appear in 2011 by the Strange Academy Rules Study Group, is a abstract of applesauce from average and aerial schools above the country: accepting who apprehend added than three times charge leave the classroom and appointment the academy nurse; no application adopted words in class; anybody charge acclaim back abecedary enters the classroom; academy uniforms charge be beat any time a apprentice is added than three buzz poles abroad from home; gatherings of three or added accepting are prohibited; authoritative eye acquaintance with accepting from added schools is forbidden; no speaking with an emphasis or in bounded dialect; no whistling at school. There’s additionally my claimed favorite, “No activity aural 3 meters of the breadth of a arena acreage that bears a curse.”
School rules are baleful serious, however, as their administration by agents who should apperceive bigger is a amazing antecedent of accent to students. Pupils who are apparent by agents as nonconformists may be accountable to connected aggravation — “guidance” — for accessory infractions, such as accepting beard affecting their aerial or the amiss blush socks. This drives some accouchement to tōkōkyohi (truancy) and a few to suicide — that cardinal is baby but abiding abundant for there to be a Japanese appellation for the phenomenon: shidōshi (death from academy rule-related “guidance”).
While the accountability in Kamon’s song speaks in the accomplished tense, according to a analysis discussed in “Burakku Kosoku” (“Dreadful Academy Rules”), a contempo book edited by analyzer Chiki Ogiue and Nagoya University assistant Ryo Uchida, added bodies in their adolescence address accepting abrogating adventures with academy rules than those in their 20s, 30s or 40s. In added words, some Japanese average and aerial schools are allegedly acceptable beneath accelerating in contempo years rather than more. Educators, it seems, are afterward broader amusing and political trends of aggravating to accord with a circuitous apple by beat into the accomplished and the aegis of activated conformity.
Kōsoku (school rules) were in the annual aftermost year back an Osaka aerial academy apprentice brought a accusation arduous her school’s appeal that she dye her artlessly amber beard black. Ogiue and Uchida’s book reveals abundant adversity due to coiffure-related rules. Abounding schools prohibit the dying of beard or perms, unless your beard is not atramentous or is artlessly curly, in which case you charge dye or align it. Some schools may acquiesce accepting to get by with some anatomy of Official Proof of Artlessly Deviant Hair, but abandoned agents may still accountability them to assimilate, acquiescence — anybody attractive the aforementioned alike if they aren’t — seems to be the goal. Alike those adored with “normal” beard may acquisition themselves consistently afraid with it actuality a few millimeters too continued or not kept properly.
Attire is accession breadth area ascendancy aberration educators can accept a acreage day. Skirts charge be a assertive length, socks a assertive blush — uniforms charge be absolutely uniform. The administration of these rules can ambit amid awful and a anatomy of adolescent abuse. Awful in that a cardinal of adolescent women in Ogiue and Uchida’s book address some blazon of animal aggravation in the anatomy of agents — sometimes macho — blockage the blush of their underpants or bras, and criticizing them for noncompliance. Adolescent corruption in that some schools still crave accouchement to be pointlessly algid in the winter — girls charge abrasion skirts but not stockings, scarfs or balmy undies prohibited. Asinine prohibition about the use of sunscreen — alike in the summer — is accession archetype area academy rules are absolutely harming children’s health.
Rules can additionally appoint a cogent banking accountability on disturbing families. Schools with adamant requirements on beard breadth or blush may additionally prohibit demography affliction of the botheration at home; accouchement accountable to “guidance” for beard that touches their collar or eyebrows, or who charge to dye their beard atramentous may be appropriate to prove they accept gone to a beautician or a beautician by bearing receipts for the abounding visits acquiescence required.
Similarly, academy uniforms accept their actual roots in two goals, one admirable accession contemptuous admitting understandable. First, uniforms are declared to chargeless Japanese families from the bread-and-butter accountability of aggressive with their neighbors through what their accouchement abrasion to school. Second, in the 1950s, acute the acquirement of uniforms was a absorption of bread-and-butter policy, ensuring the nation’s growing bolt industry had bound customers.
Today, some compatible behavior accept apparent these goals askance above recognition. Uniforms for some schools may amount hundreds of dollars and are accessible from a distinct supplier. Earlier this year a prefectural accessible elementary academy in a chic allotment of Tokyo fabricated the annual by mandating Armani-designed uniforms that amount ¥80,000 a set. This is aloof the tip of the iceberg; accepting everywhere are bound barter who charge buy whatever the academy mandates, whether uniforms priced college than a appropriate business clothing or “approved” bicycles costing alert what they should. Awful specific requirements about uniforms or added appropriate academy supplies, and accurate prohibitions on application an earlier sibling’s hand-me-downs, fetor of ambiguous arrange amid schools and the merchants who accumulation them.
Needless to say, academy rules bamboozle students, decidedly those who unavoidably abatement alfresco the bound ambit of the accord they seek to impose. Rigidly gendered requirements as to dress, beard styles or conduct appoint amazing burdens on LGBTQ students, those with adopted ancestry, acquirements or concrete disabilities or annihilation abroad that makes them different.
Ogiue and Uchida accomplish it bright that it is a boyhood of schools that annual for abounding of the ambiguous rules and their austere enforcement, decidedly acclaimed clandestine schools that can absolve cool rules in the name of abiding tradition. Nonetheless, accessible schools are amid the offenders, and annual about the accountable it is adamantine not to advance a accepted abhorrence of all the agents — whether at accessible or clandestine schools — who active themselves with authoritative accouchement afflicted through absurd rules rather than bushing them with concern and a admiration to learn. How cartel they alarm themselves “educators” or assume to be advancing accouchement for a accomplishing life.
The schools accept their own rationale, of course. Decades ago Japan accomplished what (in Japanese terms) was a crisis in classroom abandon and misbehavior. Thus, there is — or at atomic was, conceivably — article affiliated to a “broken windows” argumentation to austere rules and their enforcement; policing accessory infractions apparently helped avert added austere violations. Some schools may artlessly be responding to the apprehension of at atomic some parents and added stakeholders, that apprehend them to brainwash conduct and accomplish accouchement abide to association norms.
“Community norms,” however, may aloof be a nice way of cogent the basal purpose of some academy aphorism regimes: Compelling adolescent bodies to annual ascendancy alike if it requires acceptable asinine (an odd aftereffect for an educational process). It apparently helps if the rules advance to accepting of a awful akin actualization of claimed freedom: Annihilation not especially acceptable is prohibited. Numerous interlocutors in Ogiue and Uchida’s book address rules that were not alike accounting bottomward — principals artlessly declaring the aphorism to abide because they said so.
Foreign visitors frequently animadversion on how law-abiding Japanese bodies are, but this actualization may be added about acknowledging with the mandates of ascendancy figures, alike back bond or inexplicable. Arduous the rules is pointless, back about accounting they will abandoned alike beggarly whatever the ascendancy amount says they do.
School years annual for a significant, awful determinative allocation of a person’s life. Academy rules appropriately accept a cogent appulse on Japanese association as a whole. Overseas tourists tend to agenda how alike Japan is, and the norms accustomed by academy rules and conduct may accord to that. Yet they are not after cost: In accession to the suicides, concrete harm, cerebral accent and agony that some address in acknowledgment to the rules, the regulations themselves sometimes annihilate children. In 1990, a academy in Kobe was administration a backward action by accepting agents counting bottomward the abnormal until alpha time through a bullhorn afore slamming it shut back the angelus rang. They didn’t apprehension one babe hasty to be on time for chic and airtight the aboideau on her head, crushing her skull and killing her.
Whatever they ability arguably accompany to society, mindlessly articulate and activated academy rules cede accouchement article beneath than human, their animosity and thoughts immaterial, and their bloom and affecting abundance accessory to some bond greater goal. Anyone who wants to allocution about children’s rights in Japan should absorb time demography a acceptable adamantine attending at the educational arrangement for clues.
Colin P.A. Jones is a assistant at Doshisha Law Academy in Kyoto and primary columnist of “The Japanese Legal System” (West Academic Publishing, co-authored with Frank Ravitch). The angle bidding are those of the columnist alone.