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A new ban marked in Japanese schools

by Narges Mohammadi

Japanese schools ban ponytails; fearing they might ‘sexually excite’ men

Japanese schools banned female students from wearing their hair in ponytails because the “nape of their necks” could “sexually excite” male students. Former middle school teacher Motoki Sugiyama told Vice the reasoning is similar to that of the schools’ white-only underwear policy, so that they won’t show through the uniforms.

He explained: “They’re worried boys will look at girls, which is similar to the reasoning behind upholding a white-only underwear color rule,” he explained. “I’ve always criticized these rules, but because there’s such a lack of criticism and it’s become so normalized, students have no choice but to accept them.”

According to Vice magazine, a 2020 survey showed that in the Fukuoka prefecture of the country, one in 10 schools banned the up-do. Sugiyama taught in the prefecture of Shizuoka for 11 years in five different schools, which all outlawed ponytails.

Parents and students alike expressed outrage at the absurd dress code in June, pushing the Japanese government to revise the prefectural boards of education’s rules. But not every school was whipped into shape. In fact, Sugiyama still receives complaints from students who claim their schools won’t ease up on dress-code restrictions.

A ban on ponytails and underwear color aren’t the only stringent guidelines Japanese students must follow. Schools enforce further restrictions such as the color of children’s socks, skirt length and even the shape of their eyebrows. They also have to ditch the hair dye, for if a student’s locks aren’t “black or straight,” they are forced to show proof that it’s their natural hair color.

Sugiyama regularly posts TikToks about the arbitrary rules, with students rarely receiving a valid explanation. Sometimes, schools would allow short, bob hairstyles, despite it showing off the neck just as a ponytail would.

The harsh regulations, have roots dating back to the 1870s when the Japanese government first established a regulated system of education. During that time, school rules were extremely confining with the goal of reducing violence in schools. Over time, the rules began to vary between generations and schools, but the result is consistent: Everyone is the same.

But not all Japanese schools are cracking down on students’ appearances. Hosoyamada Junior High School, in the prefecture of Kagoshima, modified its dress code after students complained last year, a spokesperson for the school told Vice. While ponytails and pigtails are still not allowed, there are more generous rules on underwear — it can be black, gray or navy blue.

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