A Glimpse of Japanese School’s Life – Part 4

|This post is written by Saladine|

Welcome back to the 4th part Japanese School’s Life! It took me a week for me to post this, because of my tight curriculum pressure (gomeeen). But fear not! I have prepared a special information that will mostly amused you all. Today, I will talk about the Japanese Schools problems. You all know, right? The School Refusal Syndrome and Bullying, that was fairly known in many Anime and Manga concept. Why does School Refusal Syndrome exist? What makes some student reluctant to come to school? What kind of bullying exist in Japan? This is the kind of question I always wonder when I watch Anime with School’s concept, particularly High Schools. Since Bullying and the School Refusal Syndrome have a kind of cause and effect relation, I will explain Bullying in Japan first. Well then, down we go!

Bullying / Ijime, what is that?

In Japan, bullying is familiarly known as ijime (虐め). The Japanese definition of ijime is very simple: “To inflict mental, emotional, or physical suffering upon someone in a weaker position.” In this sense, punching someone, gossiping, making deter environment, ignoring, and excluding someone can be considered as Ijime. Ijime in Japan is very famous, but what makes it so special rather than other countries?

What so different about Bullying in Japan?

In shorts, it’s the way they conduct the bullying. Different from other countries, Japanese student, especially junior high school students, practice the act of bullying in a non-physical fashion. Say, Australia or other western countries bullies are prone to inflict physical damage to convert their stress. In Japan, it’s not like that. Perhaps, you can imagine that a girl bullying in America is similar to most students bullies in Japan. For further information, you can look below.

“The [Girl Bullying] is very closely related with Japanese Bullying, or, ijime

“Where bullying take places, Japan mostly happen in the classrooms. Let me ask you this, why is that?”

“Distinction between Japanese and Australia bullies. Notice the result of the bullying is different”


Have you notice the difference in Japan and other countries bullying concept? Not only the bullying mostly take place in the classroom, but the impact to the victims are lean to depression and apathy, rather than physical (but it does not mean were neglecting the possibilities of physical bullying). Today, I shall assert the biggest, frequently used bullying method in Japan, the act of Alienation.

The main cause of ijime in Japan

It all takes roots in the Japanese educations. One of the issues that arises with ijime is the role of Japanese education that places an emphasis on group conformity, which generates the idea and behavior of alienating individuals who stray from the group norm. Significantly, training, rather than teaching, of uniformity begins at the preschool level. In the minds of Japanese parents and educators, the most important goal of the preschool experience is training in the habits and attitudes appropriate to group life, such as enthusiasm, openheartedness, enjoyment of being with other children, and identification with classroom standards of behavior.

“Bullying – Suicide from time to time. Ever wonder why its still there?”

The training in group life necessitates two essential principles, ‘participation’ and ‘cooperation’, which arise in order to enforce and maintain order of group conformity. Universal participation is one hallmark of Japanese egalitarian sentiments that is foremost on teachers’ minds in their daily classroom decisions. To develop ‘normally’ a Japanese child must be part of a group. She or he must participate in group activities [group life] (shudan seikatsu). Attempts are made to ensure that children develop a desire to participate in group activities with others and find enjoyment in that participation. The need for cooperation is also enhanced, and children are trained to become cooperative with others within the group. As tactics to teach children the two principles, teachers indicate that ‘to behave like everyone else’ is an ideal behavior, and demonstrate explicit consequences that those who disobey participation or co-operation will be left out of the group.

Japanese children soon learn that to resist the system is to battle an army of friendly shadows. Authority resides with no one, and to change the collective habits of the group requires an impossible effort. To escape or rebel is to sever social contact with those who provide daily companionship and the warmth of social life. Those who can foster group harmony are good and respected as members of the group, and those who have trouble meeting the group norm are bad, disrespected and alienated.

“The actor of bullies. Its not always the problem kids; The good students are also capable to conduct bullying”

Thus, a certain degree of peer pressure functions in service of classroom management where uniformity is highly required to achieve a group goal, and students exhibit negative attitudes towards individuals who stray and fail to participate or become cooperative. The excessiveness of such negative attitudes can often lead to acts of ijime, with the desire to eliminate or victimize those diverging individuals.


Oh, ok, but does that make Japan bullying as something special?

You can bet your sorry ass it is. What came up as ‘dangerous’ in the students’ perspectives was that the negative view of ijime is likely to turn into positive when a matter of conformity is the issue. The word ‘necessary’ was used by the students to permit and normalize the attitude to alienate a different individual during their social interactions, in terms of gathering the same types of people whom they want or need to be with. Here, ijime is entering into a permissible zone in the form of alienation.

For example, several incidents in which children themselves act to maintain order by using physical threats, such as hitting a distracted individual to remind him to do his job or punching a group mate to make her behave during a cooperative activity, are allowed by the teacher, looked on without comment. They have the idea that the problem lies in the victim and the victimization is due to his/her own fault in not being cooperative.

“A scene on Mondai no nai watashi tachi [We who have no problem]. Hearing the Dorama name, what kind of question pop up in your mind now?”

The problem raised here was that it is difficult for those students, who are willing to intervene, to resist ijime where ijime behavior is accepted by others, or ‘the majority’. No one basically wants to stand out because such an act makes him/her in the minority, which is a disadvantage. They believed that their intention to act for intervention is easily interrupted as no one is supposed to or is brave enough to depart from ‘the majority’ and to stand out.

From here, two major problems become visible. Firstly, the students display cold-heartedness towards individuals who fail to become cooperative with the rest during social interactions, and judge these individuals as different. Japanese students do not simply leave these different individuals alone, but develop the idea and desire to actually hurt them and become engaged in with the act of ijime. Secondly, the students are easily influenced by the ‘others’ who represent the majority in their classroom. Their attitudes and behaviors depend almost entirely on the others, and their individual opinions, thoughts or feelings are suppressed by the pressure to conform with the majority. This tyranny of emulating the majority is most likely to aggravate the situation of ijime, maintaining the victim’s vulnerability and inability to fight back.

Interesting Trivia: They do not need some kind of stress-out emotion to perform ijime. Just simply being different is enough to legitimize their action; And they were carried out by average students.

What about School Refusal Syndrome?

As the name stated, it is an action of a students to refuse attending school. School refusal, or Tokokyohi, usually happens to students who feel traumatize, pain, or emotionally hurt by their environment. It can be their family, classmates, friends, neighbor, or even their teacher. It is also possible for the students that move away from place to place prefer not to attend school. There are four explanation to explain why tokokyohi happen in the first place; As a mental illness, as the laziness, as resistance to school, and as physical and psychological burnout. Now, why does such thing happens?

“Doesn’t this makes you question why is Absenteeism never cease to exist in Japanese School’s Life? The answer is already there”

Considering the cause of Tokokyohi, the main emotion that play the part are fear and anxiety. When children do not perform as well as they had hoped in school, they may feel that they have failed expectations. Japanese children then become easily frustrated perfectionists whose confidence is quickly broken when confronted with difficulty. These children may frequently “give up” on school and seclude themselves at home. Children that fear bullying may neglect their studies and refuse to go to class. Also, the numerous and inflexible rules and regulations in Japanese schools stifle student’s freedom. Some children want to avoid this restrictive and competitive climate.

“Data survey on why students do not want to attend school. Stress on relation between people.”

“Data survey on why students do not want to attend school. Assert the inside of the students.”

What happen if SRS continue to be executed?

Each people have ways to conquer their fear, by it confronting it or diverting their attention to other matter. Some students who refuse to attend school cover they lack of communication through social media or internet. This act of seclusion can escalate into a Hikikomori or acute social withdrawal, where the students who refuse to attend school reject the idea of coming out of home, cutting ties with the outside world. They define their home as a comfort zone, refuse to take a step forward. Perhaps, they are searching for an ideal world somewhere else?

If they continue to not attending school, the school has the right to expel the said students. Every school in Japan has a minimum attendance to be kept. If the students exceed the minimum attendance, the school have the right to punish by expelling them. But before they do that, the Homeroom teacher must notify the troubled students before executing the punishment.

Isn’t there any truancy prevention program?

Of course, the government are fully aware of this main 2 problems on Japanese Education, and they also develop a truancy prevention program. Although there are various program that can be implemented, the basic concept is implementing the idea of school as something beneficial. It’s not just the students and the teacher, the parents and their communities must promote the idea of attending school and give motivation to the students. For a better explanation, you can look Here and Here.

“This is the stereotype Hikikomori room looks like. Have you ever wonder why it such a mess and so many trash scattered?”

Before closing, id like to give you a little insight. Have you ever wonder, in Anime and Manga, where the protagonist or other people say something out loud they get looked by their surroundings? Or, have you ever wonder why a little gossip or whisper from the protagonist surrounding is such a big deal? Ever wonder why reputation is very important in Japanese Life? In my opinion, it was closely related with the feeling of conformity. If they different, they will be exclude. This teaching that also creates a trauma in many minds of Japanese Students makes it possible to control them through the simple act of Alienating, Whispering, or even Ignoring.

That’s it for today’s article! Apology beforehand, the SRS have a little explanation on the internet, so I scrap what I can get. I plan to make this the last Japan school life article, but while researching, I found a few material that can be brought to light. And so, I wish to extend the Japan school’s life article for a few part more! But not directly after this, I wish to make a little review article next. Then, I came back to Japan School’s Life after a few post. Sorry if this article late to be posted. See you next time!

About Saladin

Another weird college kid in search for something not boring. Have a very high confidence in everything I do, and can debate to death to prove a point. Majoring in International Relation, studying diplomacy, but love martial arts. Never allow me to see your gesture, if you don't want to be judged. Oh, and god, I love sweet!

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