Japan: A country known for its quirks, bizarre traditions and practices. This extends even to their educational system. In 2011, a book entited “Henna Kosuku” (“Strange School Rules”), was published by the Strang School Rules Study Group and it revealed a collection of the crazy rules middle and high schoolers experienced across the country.
Crazy rules such as: sneezing three times in class merits an exit from the classroom and a visit to the school nurse, no using of foreign words in class, applauding the teachers when they enter the room, groupings of three or more students are forbidden, making eye contact with students from different schools is not allowed, no speaking with a local dialect or accent, no whistling in school premises and the most bizarre one, “No going within three meters of the area of a playing field that bears a curse.”
While these may seem trivial and even ridiculous, the school rules are set in stone and strictly implemented. Students who do not conform to them are usually marked for guidance by the teachers. Because of the tremendous pressure and constant “guidance”, some children were pushed to make tragic decisions such as suicide. While the number of victims is still small, the horrifying truth is that it is increasing enough to create a Japanese term for it called shidōshi (death from school rule-related “guidance”).
Financial Obligations Due to School Rules
These rules can also lead to a significant financial burden to struggling families. Rigid requirements call for a certain hair length or colour and some schools prohibit these to be taken care of at home. The children who are subject for “guidance” regarding these areas must then get these issues addressed by a barber or beautician and produce receipts as proof. Japan is known to have very expensive rates for salons and barbershops which is why self-care products and hair treatments are the norm in the country.
When it comes to creating uniformity, it would seem that price and practicality are thrown out the window for some schools. It was only earlier this year when a public elementary school in a stylish area of Tokyo mandated Armani-designed uniforms that cost ¥80,000 (968 SGD) and the students nor the parents could do anything about it. These rules make the arrangements between the schools and the supplier merchants highly questionable.
Underlying Reasons for Conformity
In the book “Burakku Kosoku” (“Dreadful School Rules”) that was edited by critic Chiki Ogiue and Nagoya University Professor Ryo Uchida, it was discussed whether these school rules were only implemented to avoid classroom violence and misbehaviour or was it a way to compel and mould the young generation to respect authority even if it leads to mindless conformity. Countless foreigners have commented how law-abiding the Japanese are even if the rules are questionable or illogical.
In Japan, challenging the rules is pointless so might as well just abide by them. This training and transformation start at school, which account for a significant portion in a person’s life; an amount that is enough to overpower personal identity and opinion and exchange it with “robots”.