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No colorful underwear, short stockings or ponytails: the strict regulations in Japan’s schools

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Drankonian rules apply in Japanese schools. For example, schoolgirls are not allowed to tie their hair in a ponytail because their necks could “sexually arouse” their male classmates.

Japanese schools are notorious for their strict regulations regarding the dress code of their students. The length of her stockings, the color of her underwear, the shape of her eyebrows – all this is settled. Another provision is not only particularly absurd, but also sexist and is repeatedly criticized.

According to former middle school teacher Motoki Sugiyama, female students are not allowed to wear ponytails because their exposed necks could “sexually arouse” male students. This is how a school administration would have justified the regulation to him.

“The students have no choice but to accept them”

“They’re worried about boys staring at girls, which is why only white underwear is allowed,” Sugiyama told Vice. He’s referring to the rule in most schools that girls are only allowed to wear white underwear so that it doesn’t show through the uniform.

“I have always criticized these rules, but because there is so little criticism and they have become so normal, students have no choice but to accept them,” he said.

Dress codes are designed to curb bullying

Sugiyama taught for eleven years at five different schools about 150 kilometers south of Tokyo. Hair tied in a ponytail was forbidden in all these schools. The former teacher makes videos about the Japanese education system on TikTok. He urges schools to repeal those outdated and sexist regulations that would stand in the way of children’s self-realization.

To curb bullying and violence in schools, the Japanese education system has been repeatedly reformed since the 1870s – and the rules have become increasingly restrictive. Exactly what is banned varies from school to school, but the desired effect is the same: conformity, says Asao Naito, associate professor of sociology at Meiji University.

“Sexuality becomes something that can be controlled”

When Naito went to school about 40 years ago, long skirts were worn by so-called “sukeban” (offending girls). “For this reason, long skirts were banned and made shorter,” he says. In the meantime, however, that dress code is to be overturned again: “Now the schools do not allow short skirts and make them longer.”

Naito is critical of the fact that schools in Japan have such strict regulations. “Sexuality does not become something that belongs to the individual, but something that can be controlled,” he says.

Schools stick to their rules

The Japanese government of Japan is therefore asking schools to change their rules. However, many schools should ignore requests that are not legally binding or subject to sanctions, says former teacher Sugiyama.

However, some schools are said to have complied. A spokesman for Hosoyamada Junior High School in Kagoshima told Vice that the school changed its dress code for students after complaints last year. Ponytails and braids are still forbidden, but underwear no longer has to be white. It may also be grey, black or dark blue.

swell: “Vice”, “TikTok Motoki Sugiyama”

This article originally appeared on Stern.de

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