Japanese High School Rules

Rules FI

Today is the closing ceremony for this school year at my high school, which means that a new year will start soon.  Because the new year starts in spring, we only get a 2-week spring vacation between the end of the school year and the beginning of the school year. That means all of my new first-year students are already wandering around the school collecting textbooks, school uniforms, and books of information about the school. In one of their books, there is a map of the school and all of the rules for the students.

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Students in their uniforms. Faces are blurred out because making my students look like creepy nightmare creatures is fun not because of privacy.

I stole one of the books of rules and read through them with a Japanese/English dictionary. Nobody ever actually told me the school rules when I arrived a few years ago. Every time I have heard one during my time here, I have been surprised at what the school restricts the students on. Here are a few of the surprising rules that my students must follow at my school.

On Their Appearance

1. Students must wear their uniform every day. You cannot attend school without your uniform. This includes school shoes, neck ties for girls, and the school crest (a pin on their uniform).

2. You may not change your natural appearance. For example, dying your hair, wearing makeup, wearing colored contacts, tweezing your eyebrows, painting your fingernails etc.

3. You may not wear any jewelry or accessories of any kind. For example necklaces, rings, watches, and earrings etc.

4. Students may only wear navy or black socks (boys and girls) and stockings (girls)

5. You may not wear a bright colored sweater or jacket over your uniform during winter. You may wear a tan, gray, navy, or black sweater or jacket only.

6. Boys must not have long hair or facial hair.

7. Girls cannot wear a scrunchie. Plain black, brown, or navy elastic hair ties only. Students can only wear hair ties in their hair and not on their wrist.

8. These uniform rules must be followed anytime students wear their uniform. Even while the students are not in school or at school, they must wear their uniforms properly to be good representatives of their school.

9. Students undershirts for their uniform must be a solid plain white gray or cream color.

On Their Activites Outside of School

1. Students may not work a part time job. If a student needs to work a part-time job during the school year or during long vacations the job must be approved by the school.

2. Students may not go to an arcade without their parents.

3. Students cannot go to karaoke without their parents.

4. Students must be home before curfew (10:00pm).

5. Students may not take extra classes at cram school without informing their homeroom teacher first.

6. Students may not have a sleep over at a friends house, even if their parents approve.

On Their Behavior At School

1. Students may not bring manga to school.

2. Students may not have their cell phones out while inside the school building. If they must use their phone between classes or after school they have to use it in the parking lot in front of the school entrance.

4. All students must be at school by 8:30am. If you are late 5 times you must come early for a week and do punishment cleaning before school.

5. If a student is going to be absent a parent must call the school to tell why.

6. Every student must sign up for and participate in a club activity.

There were many more rules that I think are common in every country’s public schools so I didn’t feel the need to write those out for you. It should be noted that every school in Japan, especially high schools, are unique.

When you talk about the school systerm in Japan it is important to remember that high school is not mandatory. Students choose which high school they go to based on what they want to do in the future. Therefore each school specializes in different things, have different types of students, and different rules and expectations. THere are schools for students who want to be office workers, students at prestigious colleges, students who want to study languages, and students who want to be farmers and mechanics.

 

My school situation is that I am teaching at a high level academic high school. All of my students want to attend a competitive university and, therefore, take school very seriously. Schools like mine tend to be stricter with students about the rules they must follow. I also live in the countryside, where things are more traditional. I know students in Tokyo and other large cities have far fewer restrictions.

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This should be the Japan’s official motto.

I do see students sometimes breaking these rules, even as rural, traditional, and academic as my school is. There is always at least a few rebellious third-year students wearing a tinted lip balm and dark brown contacts that change their eye color only slightly. It happens, but it is rare.

As a teacher, you are expected to follow the same rules as the students. The only rule that my teachers don’t really follow is that female teachers do wear a minimal amount of makeup and can change their hair color slightly. Some teachers wear jewlery but nothing large or bulky. Other than that teachers generally don’t do anything that the students cannot.

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The classroom where I mold minds. I’m kinda impressive.

I remember when I learned that students couldn’t wear hair ties around their wrists and being horrified that I had been doing it for a year and a half in front of them because no one had told me. I am almost never without a hair tie on my wrist so that was a really hard habit for me to break at school.

Next year my school will have its first long-term international foreign exchange student. I don’t want to write too much about her because I want to respect her privacy (i.e. what country she is from, her Japanese ability etc.), but I wonder how a foreigner will react to these rules. If she doesn’t have black hair and eyes she will very obviously stand-out. That could cause all sorts of problems for her and the other students getting along because of how strong the Japanese group identity is.

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An assembly in the gym where every student is sitting perfectly straight, still, silent, and listening for FOUR HOURS straight. Not kidding. I can’t even do that.

Here is an example from a friend of a friend of mine of the kinds of problems it could cause. This friend of a friend is a teacher in Fukui and she has been living here for over ten years. Her daughter has always been in the Japanese school system and, other than her appearance of blonde hair and blue eyes, she is very Japanese. She speaks fluent Japanese, was raised in Japanese culture and acts like her classmates.

Her daughter entered Junior High School a few years ago. Apparently the teachers of the school called her parents to ask them to please dye her hair black because it wasn’t fair that the other students couldn’t have blonde hair. Her parents refused. The other students cannot change their natural appearance and neither would their foreign daughter.

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Before sports day in their gym clothes which is also a uniform. The students here are getting ready for the opening ceremony.

The teachers explained they were only asking this because they were worried that the jealousy of the other students would cause resentment and problems for her interacting with her classmates. I’m not really sure if she did end up having problems with her classmates, but I know that she kept her hair the natural blonde color.

The need to follow these rules and adhere to the group identity in Japan are really interesting to me. The students at my school are so well behaved that it’s hard to argue that the rules don’t work. When I hear about a situation like my friend’s daughter, I can’t help but think at what cost are these rules worth? personal identity? self expression? Individuality?

In Japan, the group identity is more important than the individual, which is a very different than the American values of personal freedom, expressing your opinion etc…

There are good and bad things to each way of thinking, of course. Growing up in America we only ever hear about the value of our freedoms and the greatness that comes with that. There is a freedom of expression, but there are bad things that sometimes come from being encouraged and raised in a culture with those freedoms. For example, there is also hate speech, entitlement, and some egotism.

While Japan is also a free country there are a lot more rules about freedom that are not enforced by laws but are enforced by culture. The bad things that come from that are like I said above, no freedom of expression, lack of individuality, loss of personal identity, and a lack of challenging old ideas and progress. But it is so hard to argue that their system is bad. The kids are so well behaved and polite. The society is safe and honorable. Japanese people have respect. Respect for each other, respect for their environment, respect for their families.

Toliet Paper mummies

Pretty sure toilet paper doesn’t fit the school uniform rules…

Anyways, these were just some of the things on my mind lately about rules… I hope this post was able to tickle your brain and make you think about something you hadn’t thought about before.

30 Responses

  1. Riana September 22, 2015 / 8:09 am

    When you added a rule for no sleepovers does that occur on school nights only???☺️☺️

    • Erin September 27, 2015 / 11:47 pm

      Nope, It’s always a rule. Being invited over to a Japanese persons’ home even for just dinner is a big deal because of how much hospitality is required by the hosts. That’s why staying the night is seen as a big burden and somewhat rude thing to allow someone to do for you. Basically, it just isn’t very nce manners unless you’re so close that you’re like family.

      • Mira May 14, 2017 / 3:25 pm

        The accident of finding this post has breithengd my day

  2. Moka gruin January 1, 2016 / 6:40 am

    I go to school in japan

    • Unknown April 7, 2016 / 11:43 am

      I feel bad for you.

    • Anonymous September 7, 2016 / 4:46 am

      i work in japan!!!
      satzymca kako!!

  3. Taylor April 11, 2016 / 4:27 pm

    Wait! Highschool students can’t go out without their parents!
    They can’t sleep at their friends house?!
    Then what are the mangas and animes showing us?!
    … LOL… I feel bad for a lot of the Japanese students.
    I’ll have to ask my Japanese teacher.

    • Erin April 18, 2016 / 5:46 am

      High school students can go just about anywhere without their parents! My kids often travel to Osaka by bus for a day trip shopping with their friends. It’s a 4 and a half hour bus ride! They just can’t go to arcades and karaoke rooms by themselves. Of course, they still do sometimes. Remember my school is in the countryside and my school is a high achieving school which makes the rules more strict. In Tokyo at a low performing school there are probably very few rules.

      Each high school in Japan is very different since students dont have to attend them. School is only mandatory in Japan until the end of junior high school.

      • Brendan October 7, 2016 / 11:35 pm

        Where can I find a list of the rules in urban and/or low performing schools? I’m trying to put American and Japanese culture together for a project and knowing these things would be helpful.

  4. Ariel June 5, 2016 / 7:34 am

    The anime and Manga have lied. ;-; At least you can use your phone.

    • Erin July 6, 2016 / 12:51 am

      Anime I have realized is all a fictional version of Japan, at least compared to my high school in rural Japan.

      Use your phone at school? haha, no way! That is definitely against the rules. They can’t even have them out during passing periods. They can only use them before 8:30 or after 4:30 outside the front doors of the school (the genkan). I didn’t write that one because I thought it would be the same in schools everywhere and wouldn’t be a surprise.

  5. Memo July 16, 2016 / 4:13 am

    OMG! I really love the rules of Japanes school. I wish I had studied there😍
    I wish I could build a school with the same rules.
    I just want to know something, does the school really makes the students and their homeroom teachers to clean up their classes before going to home?

    • Ayame December 22, 2016 / 7:16 am

      Sometimes. Some Japanese schools have janitors and the students only clean a little bit, while others have no janitors and the students do all of the cleaning. Some Japanese schools also have incinerators to burn trash at the end of the day.

  6. Morgan Wolfe August 11, 2016 / 11:34 pm

    Sorry for the story but you seem to reply to comments so i’m going to explain a bit

    So I’ve been TRYING to do research on schools in japan because I am from Canada and i’m thinking about doing an exchange program but this coming up year will be my grade 12 year (Final year) so i need to figure out whether or not i’m going to do it.
    The thing is I was out of school for a full school year due to illness and when I started to go back my grades weren’t the best because I was out for so long (but they’re better now) but i won’t be graduating on time and i’ll probably have to re-take a few classes to earn all of my credits. Would it still be possibly for me to do the exchange even though where my credits are are a bit…patchy?
    and if i didn’t do it next year, because i’m not technically graduated, would i be able to do it the following year?

    I DOUBT you have the answers to this so don’t worry about it. i was just wondering if you’ve heard of similar stories or something I could go off of. Anything would be appreciated.
    Thank you~

    (As well links that have more info on the schools would be great if you have any)

  7. RK August 19, 2016 / 1:34 am

    Thank you for this, I really enjoyed reading this as my daughter goes to school in Japan and lives with her Japanese mother.

  8. DetectiveKeiji September 27, 2016 / 3:31 pm

    The only reason why I like schools at Japan is because they allow me to have boy short hair – I mean,a short hair which is at the same level of my nose,or eyes.

    Schools in America does the same to but I might gonna get bullied just for being an asian especially because I’m short.

    Schools in my country only allow me to do the Caesar haircut,that’s all – I f*cking hate that rule,seriously.

    I wouldn’t mind not being allowed to wear watches since I rarely looked at the time myself.

  9. xavier September 28, 2016 / 3:10 am

    I dont want to go to japan anymore DX

  10. Christina October 13, 2016 / 12:22 am

    Is it weird that after hearing all of these rules that I want to go to a school in Japan? Like I live in America and there are not like super strict rules. Really I feel like there aren’t even rules even though I know there are. I want to learn Japanese so bad and I want to go and most likely live in Japan but I can’t do that if I don’t know how to speak Japanese and my parents won’t put me in lessons.

    • James February 15, 2017 / 2:00 am

      Buy a textbook and study. Look up Japanese TV with English subtitles and listen to the same line over and over until you understand it. You can learn Japanese without your parents’ help. I did, and now I have JLPT N1 (https://www.jlpt.jp/e/about/levelsummary.html). I was also able to learn it without going to Japan (although I did go after I was already semifluent and got better)..

  11. Anonymous October 27, 2016 / 7:14 pm

    How do they expect to enforce those rules that apply outside of school?

    • Anonymous December 10, 2016 / 1:50 am

      fr these rules are out of control

    • Anonymous January 21, 2017 / 3:07 pm

      😳😳??

  12. Ann November 2, 2016 / 8:18 pm

    May I use this information in my thesis? If so, may I know the name of that school? Thank you.

  13. Rattatattata December 11, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    I was curious. XD but this is not very different from my school’s rules, the difference is only that at school festival you have to wear free clothes, and you can wear simple rings and watches but nothing fancy. And teachers can answer phone calls but they gotta go out to the hall first.

  14. Anonymous December 23, 2016 / 1:44 am

    Say you were a foreign student and you cursed in the Japanese school, what would happen?

    • James February 15, 2017 / 2:02 am

      Japanese doesn’t have cursing like English does. The only words that are frowned upon for being those words are racial slurs from WW2 or earlier.
      However, if you talk to your teacher like you talk to your friend (you are supposed to use specific polite language to talk to your social superiors and to people you aren’t close with), you may or may not be disciplined and punished. It depends on the teacher and the school.

  15. Devon May 14, 2017 / 8:03 am

    I now understand some manga thanks to these rules 😀 (Assassination Classroom, Bleach, etc.)

  16. Liz June 3, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    Wow. I live in India
    It’s pretty much the same rules except when we are out side of the school property we can do anything. But girls HAVE! to braid (girls) or have very short hair (boys).

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