Gaijin Smash

Bullying

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on December 7, 2006

Gaijin Smash Original Content
When I was taking Japanese classes in university 6-7 years ago or so, I remember the teachers mentioning that bullying was becoming a big problem in the schools. At the time, I still thought that Japanese schools were pristine halls of finer education, so the only “bullying” I could imagine was everyone teasing Tanaka-san for only getting a 98% on his calculus test.
After having lived in Japan and worked in the school systems for over three years, I know better.
I’ve chronicled to some extent some of the problems I’ve personally seen at the Ghetto School. But lately, this shit has gotten out of hand. Lately, a lot of junior and senior high school students (mostly junior though) have committed suicide due to bullying. In one case I was following, a 14-year old girl had been viciously bullied by her teammates in the basketball club. She committed suicide, and in her suicide note, she named the four girls who’d, literally, bullied her to death. The school’s initial response was to say “We’ll, we don’t really have any evidence that bullying goes on at our school” and conducted a general survey of the students in which they found no particular signs of bullying. However, the girl’s best friend came forward and said, “Yeah, the bullying happened, a lot”, and then the school finally recognized that the victim had been bullied, which lead to her suicide.
And that’s just one case.
A few weeks ago, actor Beat Takeshi had a show on TV about the state of education in Japan. That sucker was 6 hours long, live, no joke. I didn’t watch the whole thing (I have better things to do with my time, like knitting) But from what I did watch, a lot of it was disturbing. Even elementary school kids are involved with bullying, some even having considered suicide. They brought about 12 elementary school kids and their mothers in, and separated the kids from the mothers – some guy interviewed the kids while the mothers watched in a separate room.
Most of the kids had been bullied. Many of the kids had also done bullying to other kids. When asked why, they said that it was fun. They said, “if a kid is being bullied, then there’s probably a good reason why. Like, something’s wrong with them.” Out of the kids who had been bullied, a handful had considered suicide (these are elementary school kids, I just want to make sure you haven’t forgotten that). They thought if they did commit suicide, they’d probably get reincarnated into something happier. Like, a butterfly.
For the mothers, and the celebrity peanut gallery who was watching, this shit was absolutely shocking. For me, it’s Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM.


Of course, I don’t need the news stories and a TV show to tell me that bullying is a problem in Japanese schools. I see it with my own eyes. Here are just a few examples of some things I’ve seen throughout the years.
— Stealing money. I saw this happen right in the middle of class. It was 4th period, before lunch, and one of the bad ninensei boys just walked up to another kid and demanded 500 yen from him. The boy immediately went for his wallet. Seeing that the teacher was going to do nothing about this, I went over and told the asshat to leave the kid alone. “No no, he WANTS to give me his 500 yen!” Asshat says. I told him to cut it out, but Asshat takes the 500 yen anyway, knowing that aside from glaring at him I really couldn’t do much about it.
— Stealing things. Bad kids will liberally take the other kids pens, pen cases, notebooks, erasers, etc, and just use them as they see fit. One boy decided he was thirsty, so he took another kid’s thermos and drank all of his tea. Keep in mind that this all goes on right in the middle of class.
— I saw one boy get up once during lunch time, and take his chopsticks and just pluck things from other kids lunches. And it wasn’t like a random side-dish either – he took pretty much ALL of one boy’s fried chicken, which was the main part of his lunch. The teacher was also present for this.
— In one class, I was asking sannensei what they wanted to be in the future. One girl near the front says “I want to be a nurse”. A boy in the back laughs. “A nurse! You can’t be a nurse! You’re far too ugly to be a nurse!” The entire class, INCLUDING THE TEACHER, laughs at this. Poor girl starts crying. I kneeled down next to her desk and told her I thought she’d make a terrific nurse.
— Lots of hitting/punching, of course.
— Name calling. Vicious/mean spirited nicknames.
As an ALT, there’s a lot I don’t get to see of course (classes besides English, break times, sports clubs), but from talking to students, I got the feeling that it goes much deeper/worse from the things I saw. These examples were all from the Ghetto School, as you might have surmised. However, that’s not to say that bullying doesn’t happen at the other schools. The students are just much more discreet about it.
I was translating a composition for Ultimate Sweetness once. In it, she mentions a part where in elementary school, all of the kids suddenly decided to just ignore her existence. She’d call their names, they’d pretend not to hear her. She’d chase after them, and they’d run away. This started from her 4th year and continued until she graduated. (Sweetness says that it was pretty rough, but luckily she had a loving family to go home to. Reading this, I just wanted to give her a big hug and an apple pie or something.) Ultimate Sweetness goes to the School of Peace. Granted, the School of Peace is strict, but considering that the same kids who went through Sweetness’s elementary school also came to the School of Peace, I’d hesitate to say there was no bullying whatsoever.
What drives these poor kids to suicide? For most of them, they feel like they have no allies. Teachers are of no use. The teachers are ultimately powerless. More than that, half of them join in on it! It’s not uncommon for a teacher to call a student by a mean-spirited nickname that some other student has engineered. Or, simply stand and watch as the bullying takes place right before their eyes (see the examples above). Parents are of no help either – a parent would more likely scold their child for being a subject of bullying than actually address the situation. Kids spend more time at school than at home at any rate, so that’s pretty rough. Appealing to the parents of the bullies is ultimately a dead end as well. Ms. Americanized’s predecessor once told me that she would try to tell parents about the bad behaviors of their child, only to hear as a response “Oh no, it’s not MY child. Surely it must be the other children, or YOUR poor teaching abilities. There’s nothing wrong with MY child.”
The Japanese school system is fucked up. It may never reach the level of a Boston Public, or Dangerous Minds or whatever, but it’s still fucked. I don’t think that bullying, or even bullying-related student suicides, is a new phenomenon at all. It just happens to be the controversy of the moment. The sad thing is, I figure people will acknowledge the problem, spin a few wheels for a little while, and then ultimately go nowhere with it. Recently, the government put together an emergency committee, that determined that bullies should be suspended from school should they be found to be interfering with other students right to an education. However, before that plan could even be put into action, teachers and education officials are already wringing their hands and making excuses.
Bullying, unfortunately, doesn’t stop in schools. No no, it continues well on into society, where they rename it the “Sempai/Kohai” system. Remember the story of Ms. Cinderella, who was viciously bullied by the Wicked Stepmother teacher up until she left that school. There is no equality in Japan – the “sempai” kick the “kohai” around, and when the kohai become sempai then they kick around their juniors. It’s a never-ending cycle, and apparently that cycle begins as early as elementary school these days.
And people wonder why I always say I’d never send any of my kids through the school system in Japan.

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86 Responses

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  1. BenGrimm said, on December 7, 2006 at 1:34 am

    I have to admit that its not surprising, as sad as that is. I’d say that I am more disgusted with the teachers who get in on it than with most of it.
    They are supposed to be professionals whose purpose is to educate and protect children (it’s part of the job even if we don’t get paid extra), and then to condone and participate in that kind of bullying…it’s ridiculous! I would be willing to says that if the teachers weren’t doing it, they could help a lot of kids in that situation…i know it a little too well.
    And to bully someone as nice as Ultimate Sweetness, that’s a crime against humanity.

  2. KMils said, on December 7, 2006 at 2:37 am

    I know I did the exact same thing to a girl that those people did to Ultimate Sweetness. Of course, I did it in Preschool for about thirty minutes, so I think I get a break. Four year olds don’t exactly have a great ethical compass. Nonetheless, it happens here too. And I’m reasonably young, so it was pretty recent.
    I think, while bullying is a similar problem in both countries, Japanese kids have much different reactions to it, possibly due to cultural differences. As you’ve pointed out many a time, Japan is a little fucked up.
    I’m still dealing with the romanticized view of Japan here, like the one you had before actually going to Japan, so going off of that, I think they take failure much harder. American children seem pretty resilient, while there are stories of the kids pushed to mental breakdowns, many kids are independent enough and have enough self confidence to make it through.
    I remember fifth grade, where we pretty much socially crushed this one girl, who was pretty cool in hindsight. Totally crushed. A drive by with a tank. She managed to find a few people not in our class to hang with, and she held on to those few kids for long term.
    Kids are all assholes, and bullying continues until at least 12 or 13 in schools. I came from a very affluent area, and I think that bullying is a measure of affluence. Look at Columbine. Very affluent, very white, worst school shooting ever. Does the Peace School have more of a problem than the Ghetto school?
    I don’t know, I think bullying is awful everywhere. I mean, look at America. For a culture that loves to celebrate the most creative and ingenious people, our kids sure do love to hate anybody who isn’t the same.

  3. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2006 at 3:09 am

    I’m also teaching in Japan right now, and thankfully there isn’t *too* much bullying that seems to occur between my students, but I have seen it happen. Hell, I’ve sat in class twice while students outright mocked me for the entire class period and the other teacher did nothing about it.
    I just hope that something actually DOES get done about the problem. I think bullying is just as common in America (I’d say more from my experience, but I suppose that really depends on who you are), but the biggest frustration in America, and a common topic of conversation in my educational psychology classes, was the fact that in America instead of attempting to prevent the bullying, the focus tends to be more on empowering the victim, or helping the victim regain self-confidence. While this is necessary, I’ve always HATED the fact that the bullies are still allowed to be bullies. There is so little accountability. So few people who stand up and say, “This behavior is NOT acceptable, PERIOD.”
    At least what I’ve seen on tv here seems to indicate that they’re at least acknowledging that the bullying itself needs to be stopped and prevented. What’s going on here is tragic, but I think it’s tragic anytime a child feels rejected by peers and is made to feel worthless, or as if something is “wrong” with them.
    The lack of discipline is frustrating. The lack of power. But there are some things that I will not stand for, and cruelty like this is one of them. I’ve been on the wrong side of the stick enough times to know how it feels. I just hope that you’re wrong and that change really does start to happen, but you’re right. It’s going to take alot more than just saying things need to change. It’s going to take being able to give some kind of repercussions, to give teachers the right to discipline, and also for the teachers to realize that and really take control. It’s hard, and it might take alot of work (I hate to say anything is impossible), but I just hope that the deaths of these kids will bring the gravity that this situation deserves, and I hope that people do right by them and prevent this from happening to any other children.

  4. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2006 at 3:09 am

    I’m also teaching in Japan right now, and thankfully there isn’t *too* much bullying that seems to occur between my students, but I have seen it happen. Hell, I’ve sat in class twice while students outright mocked me for the entire class period and the other teacher did nothing about it.
    I just hope that something actually DOES get done about the problem. I think bullying is just as common in America (I’d say more from my experience, but I suppose that really depends on who you are), but the biggest frustration in America, and a common topic of conversation in my educational psychology classes, was the fact that in America instead of attempting to prevent the bullying, the focus tends to be more on empowering the victim, or helping the victim regain self-confidence. While this is necessary, I’ve always HATED the fact that the bullies are still allowed to be bullies. There is so little accountability. So few people who stand up and say, “This behavior is NOT acceptable, PERIOD.”
    At least what I’ve seen on tv here seems to indicate that they’re at least acknowledging that the bullying itself needs to be stopped and prevented. What’s going on here is tragic, but I think it’s tragic anytime a child feels rejected by peers and is made to feel worthless, or as if something is “wrong” with them.
    The lack of discipline is frustrating. The lack of power. But there are some things that I will not stand for, and cruelty like this is one of them. I’ve been on the wrong side of the stick enough times to know how it feels. I just hope that you’re wrong and that change really does start to happen, but you’re right. It’s going to take alot more than just saying things need to change. It’s going to take being able to give some kind of repercussions, to give teachers the right to discipline, and also for the teachers to realize that and really take control. It’s hard, and it might take alot of work (I hate to say anything is impossible), but I just hope that the deaths of these kids will bring the gravity that this situation deserves, and I hope that people do right by them and prevent this from happening to any other children.

  5. flash_fox said, on December 7, 2006 at 3:20 am

    Why is the school system afraid of admitting that bullying does happen? Is it a matter of reputation? Are they blind of what’s going on?
    (Az’s Note: Before, a school with no bullying was considered to be a “good school”. Therefore, schools tended to hide bullying in order to keep their reputation up, rather than admit it and confront the problem. …Remember that the Japanese are non-confrontational by nature. …For the most part, anyway.)

  6. jay said, on December 7, 2006 at 3:38 am

    dude, that’s really messed up.
    i know how ultimate sweetness feels, i was the only asian in my entirely white class in first grade… same thing happens.
    i get that teachers basically have no power what-so-ever, but joining in? slap those teachers, they’re not even CLOSE to being fit to teach.
    az, do they usually bully in ones or groups?

  7. Chris said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:08 am

    Hi Az,
    thats pretty shocking, its true, you really do get the impression that Japan is squeeky clean of problems. living in the UK you dont really see the truth of this counrty never mind anyone elses.
    The thing that must hurt you more is that you have to sit there and watch it go on, is there nothing you can do to help, maybe have a class for the kids that are in trouble (you know when u have free periods or something)
    anyways
    hope things get better
    catch u later
    chris

  8. dude8151 said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:32 am

    Az, you seriously need to get GTO on your ghetto school. Aren’t there *any* organisations who actually want to make a difference, intervene in bullying cases? If there aren’t why don’t you get concerned people together to start one? I’m applying to be an ALT next year and I’m really worried about the bullying. Assuming I get in, I’m going to make it my personal crusade to do something about any problems in my schools.
    (Az’s Note: Then you are going to have a very frustrating time in Japan.
    Who has the power in Japanese schools? The PTA. …End of the story.)

  9. Ron said, on December 7, 2006 at 5:10 am

    Unfortunately, this same stuff is going on in U.S. schools as well. It’s not as overt as what you describe. Mainly minor psychological things done to the target time and time again until the target snaps and gets in trouble by lashing out.

  10. Brad said, on December 7, 2006 at 5:34 am

    That’s all such a huge contrast to how Asian school life is portrayed to Western kids. We’re told that their students all study hard and have great work habits, they’re polite and respectful, and they can basically kick our collective asses in all things academic and deferential.
    How the hell did we get that idea in the first place?

  11. BrianfromNazareth said, on December 7, 2006 at 7:09 am

    Well the situation is pretty much the same here in Europe. Stronger kids bully the weaker ones, teachers turn the blind eye, while parents proclaim that their child is an angel uncapable of violence. Hells angel if you ask me. I was on the reciving end from the start of the elementary school and by the last year I snapped. However I tried to kill one of them instead of myself. He was better runner than me and the present teacher was a looser who didn’t dare to report, so only consequence was that I was tagged as homocidal maniac by the rest of school and was generaly avoided, enabling me to gather my sanity for the high school (still don’t try this at home). High school was much easier than elementary despite some harsh moments. When I got out from school it took me some to govercome get over it.
    I’m glad that it’s hard to get gun in our country as I shudder at the thought what could I’ve done at that time if had acess to firearms.

  12. Helena said, on December 7, 2006 at 7:14 am

    That’s really terrible – I could kinda understand the teachers standing by while you got kanchoed (though it’s totally unfair, I guess you can understanding their thinking that as a giant black man you can handle it yourself) but letting Ultimate Sweetness get bullied??? I’m about to start teaching over here in the UK, went into the school yesterday and they have all these buddy systems, including a handpicked team of “blue sweatshirts” who get extra credits for going round at break times stopping kids get bullied. You’d think that Japan’s eagerness to involve kids in extra-curricular programs would not only have meant they adopted this program, but made it uber-efficient as well…
    I guess Japan’s just weird. Talking of which, saw this and thought of you: http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/home-entertainment/the-japanese-wii-safety-manual-is-crazy-219119.php

  13. Rinda Zing said, on December 7, 2006 at 7:36 am

    That is terrible. I am amazed that Ultimate Sweetness has come through that and remained a nice person.
    I think bullying goes on a lot in schools across the world but I am shocked that the teachers do nothing about it when it goes on right infront of their eyes.
    I was never an active bully at school but I did do things I regret, including isolating one of my friends. I wish that at the time someone had stopped me and made me think about the consequences of what I was doing. I hadn’t set out to hurt anybody, I was just selfish and wrapped up in myself as young kids are. Had I thought it through I would never have done it.
    I feel very sorry for the kids who are being bullied, but I also feel a bit sorry for the bullies too. If nobody tells them what they are doing is wrong, or makes them think about the consequences of their actions, both to others and to themselves, it is no wonder they behave in that fashion.

  14. A said, on December 7, 2006 at 8:14 am

    Hey, I’m a new JET in Yamagata Prefecture this year and I have to say it also breaks my heart and angers me to see bullying going on.

  15. Heyward said, on December 7, 2006 at 8:22 am

    “Oh no, it’s not MY child. Surely it must be the other children, or YOUR poor teaching abilities. There’s nothing wrong with MY child.”
    I wonder if that’s the front the parent puts up in front of the teachers to save face and then wails the shiznnit out of their kid back at home. “(slap) How DARE you make me look bad in front of your teacher?!” Then those kids take it out on the ones that they’re bullying “How DARE you make me look bad in front of my PARENTS?” and so on.
    (Az’s Note: …Not really. Sometimes, the parents come to the school, and upon seeing them, you realize exactly how these kids came to be so fucked up.)

  16. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2006 at 8:27 am

    Ugh, this one gave me goosebumps. Almost too chilling to think about.

  17. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2006 at 8:27 am

    Ugh, this one gave me goosebumps. Almost too chilling to think about.

  18. dude8151 said, on December 7, 2006 at 9:58 am

    (Az’s Note: Then you are going to have a very frustrating time in Japan. Who has the power in Japanese schools? The PTA. …End of the story.)
    End of story my ass. I really can’t understand how so many people teaching over there say ‘oh, it’s so terrible this is allowed to happen unchecked’ and then they don’t seem to do anything past asking ‘isn’t there anything that can be done?’ and just accepting the negative answer. If the PTA’s got the power then why not appeal to them? Do they have power over the police? How about the government? International child protection agencies? Wouldn’t kicking up a stink force them into doing something to save face? Sorry to sound pushy but I believe that if you aren’t happy with something, if injustice is being done, then you should do something about it. Whether you’re unhappy with something or not, standing by while it happens is adding to the problem.
    (Az’s Note: I understand your feelings, I really, really do. The problem is that as an ALT, at the school you rank slightly lower than the school secretary, and the lady who tends to the garden. Even if you do speak Japanese, so imagine how far down you go if you don’t.
    This is one of those times when you have to realize that this is Japan, and you’re not Japanese. We’re visitors here. Visitors don’t go into somebody’s home and start re-arranging their medicine cabinets. Even if we know for certain that there is a problem, it’s up to them to fix it, not us. We’re not in a position/we don’t have the power to do so.
    Schools aren’t the only frustrating part about Japan. My friends and I have gone over them at length over many a beer. But ultimately, all we can do is talk. Anything else just sets us up for a lot of frustration and disappointment while we’re here.)

  19. Maikeru said, on December 7, 2006 at 10:38 am

    Hey Az. You also forgot to mention the reason case in Gifu-ken that blew this event wide open. A junior high student had killed himself because of the bullying, as was with other cases, however this time it was a little different. His homeroom teacher was also responsible for a lot of the bullying as well, and the kid wrote a suicide note telling why he killed himself, and who caused him to feel soo bad. The school found this note in his desk and hid it from authorities and his parents until it was discovered by police doing some interviews.
    I’ve seen some of this bullying myself, both as a student here and as a teacher as well.
    I just hope that they take some actual steps to resolve this instead of treating it like a fad as they do with everything else.

  20. Kashif said, on December 7, 2006 at 11:04 am

    I live in the UK and it is the same here, I was the only ‘brown’ kid in my class. I dread to think what would happen to a kid who was asian (chinese, Japanese). I got names like APPLES (all Pakis please leave England soon!) Teachers ignoring is universal.
    If i was a teacher and I saw bullying happen I would tell that kids parents instantly, video it if they don’t believe me. Threaten with suspension. These are the only tools you have I guess. But I guess it’s not so simple.

  21. Zantetsu said, on December 7, 2006 at 11:50 am

    Wow… Just wow.
    I’ve had my shares of bullies when I was little, but not so much for me to even consider suicide (I was too naive to understand what it meant). Frankly it rather being shunned considering I was the only one sticking up for the bullied or boycotted classmates (namely one being known for his family being poor, and my childhood best friend). Even worse, the teachers… How DO teachers in Japan pass their university graduation?
    Not just Japanese mothers, but ANY mother does not want to appear she is a bad mother to anyone even if a child’s attitude says otherwise.
    Moral: Japanese schoolers don’t value life and need to think less of themselves as cattle, even when poked with a fork.

  22. Crazy european guy said, on December 7, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    That is the price for ultimate harmony. humans are not that harmonious, ordered or coherent as the japanese, northern europeans and such civilisations believe to be.
    I actually think it is a steam-valve for frustration. With life, with everything, with being poor, with being inadequate, with wanting and such.
    It doesn’t make it right. But to combat a problem, you must even knock on the devils door and ask all the questions about pandoras box.
    This is the price to pay. Is it an ok price? Those who are in power think so. We slaves have nothing to do but to take from the behind and smile at the same time.
    People fear that which is different, they despise it and make fun of it. This is not an enlightened way to deal with such things. It is not civilized.

  23. Jennifer said, on December 7, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    …that’s just sad. Even after knowing that students are committing suicide because of bullying, nothing is being done.

  24. Genibibiou said, on December 7, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    That’s just terrible. I know how Ultimate Sweetness feels. I changed schools in the 4th grade, and I got the same treatment. At first, it was a lot of teasing- everything I said or did was “stupid” or “weird” and I was laughed at a lot. I wasn’t good at sports, and I was kind of chubby, so that made it worse. Eventually, they just ignored me, and I became really introverted. It continued in much the same way for the following four years. When I got accepted into my high school though, I made a promise to myself. I swore that I would not be bullied, and that I would have lots of friends and good memories of high school. So- for the rest of that year and throughout the summer, I went on a diet and did a lot of excersize to get rid of my baby fat. I read every beauty magazine I could get my hands on, and looked up all kinds of information on how to be charming and more outgoing. I spent all of my pocket money on cosmetics and learned how to use them. By my first day of high school, my hard work paid off. I made a great start, and I made loads of good friends. Now I’m a senior. I am really active in my school, and I do modeling on the side. I still like to talk to middle school girls who remind me of the way I was back then. I tell them that they can be anything they want to be, and that they have the power to change themselves and the way others look at them, if only they are willing to try.

  25. ketsueki Ame said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    well, my parents grew up in asia, and basically, this kinda stuff happens all over asia since the like…1960’s except for the fact that backt hen if something was lsot no one was allowed to go home until it was found.
    But because of how society is like nowadays, teachers are less lenient and jsut go home once they can, sick f**kers who don’t care shit for the next generation of the society :/
    its almost as ifthey stopped trying :<

  26. IvanTheTerrible said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    The parts that stick out like a sore thumb from the above post, as you likely intended:
    “Seeing that the teacher was going to do nothing about this…”
    “Keep in mind that this all goes on right in the middle of class.”
    “The teacher was also present for this.”
    “The entire class, INCLUDING THE TEACHER, laughs at this.”
    “More than that, half of them join in on it! It’s not uncommon for a teacher to call a student by a mean-spirited nickname that some other student has engineered. Or, simply stand and watch as the bullying takes place right before their eyes (see the examples above).”
    Kids will be kids, and bullying happens in every culture. But what hope in hell is there for preventing bullying when the teachers are ignoring or participating in it?
    You say they’re mostly powerless, and I don’t doubt that’s the case when it comes to really imposing any kind of meaningful penalties. But shouting at a bully or imposing a meaningless penalty is still one hell of a step up from sitting there in blissful apathy or laughing along with the class when a little girl is called ‘ugly.’ If your experience is common, I’d say meaningful reform in this case would have to start with the adults.

  27. Wayland, GA said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    Az, are you not able to do anything about the PTA to get a fire under their butts and stir them into action? Are you really that powerless? What would happen if you did discipline one of those little terrors?
    (Az’s Note: Then *I* would be disciplined for “not understanding the needs of the students”.)

  28. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    This is pretty common in American schools too–teachers might call on the more overt stuff, but if they don’t have 100% proof they turn a blind eye, and they tend not to do anything about the stuff that happens in the halls (a student might not be able to demand money from a student in the middle of class, but they can right in front of a teacher in the hall). And the more subtle things, like everyone not talking to a person for years, go on all the time without anyone doing anything. Kids who are bullied are actually often told they should feel sorry for the kids who bully them and be nicer to them, because the bullies obviously have emotional problems.
    The book Odd Girl Out, by Rachel Simmons, is a good book that shows how it works in the culture of girl’s relationships, and it’s just as devestating to boys. This is a universal phenomenon that no one seems willing to do much about.

  29. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    This is pretty common in American schools too–teachers might call on the more overt stuff, but if they don’t have 100% proof they turn a blind eye, and they tend not to do anything about the stuff that happens in the halls (a student might not be able to demand money from a student in the middle of class, but they can right in front of a teacher in the hall). And the more subtle things, like everyone not talking to a person for years, go on all the time without anyone doing anything. Kids who are bullied are actually often told they should feel sorry for the kids who bully them and be nicer to them, because the bullies obviously have emotional problems.
    The book Odd Girl Out, by Rachel Simmons, is a good book that shows how it works in the culture of girl’s relationships, and it’s just as devestating to boys. This is a universal phenomenon that no one seems willing to do much about.

  30. Otohiko said, on December 7, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    yep……seen it,it was much worse in the past,trust me,bullying is a form of protection from other bullies,gives you a sense of authority..

  31. John said, on December 7, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    As far as the denial goes, Japan still won’t admit that what went on in Nanking was wrong.
    I am getting the impression that Western society is the only culture that is willing to examine itself with a critical eye.

  32. MistyKoopa said, on December 7, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    Its in American schools too. When I moved to Arizona, I ended up going to the two wrost Middle and High schools in the town, and was heckled pretty badly, phsyically AND verbally even through my Senior year. Teachers didn’t stop it either…. Just blamed me for it. And people always wonder why I have such poor self-esteem. ._.
    And no, I couldn’t go to different school. Middle Schools are done by location, and since we JUST moved and were still settling down into our house, we weren’t going to get up and move again. And high schools…. Although they’re also done by location, you can ONLY go to a different school if they’re a magnet (specialized) school, and none of them would accept me due to being all full up. A real shame, since I really wanted to go to the school specializing in art…

  33. Kosetsu said, on December 7, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    …I’m still going to be a JET. I’m still going to try and do this thing. I’m going to try and get a few of those kids to respect me as a teacher, and maybe even as a friend and/or confidant, and pray that maybe I can teach, through my actions and advice, that there are a lot of things that THEY can do, individually, to make the world a better place.
    Japanese culture is great. But sometimes, it produces some pretty horrific people.
    …Say, Az, did YOU ever have to deal with that “Senpai/Kohai” shit when you first arrived in Japan? Like when they were getting you used to the schools and/or faculty?

  34. Richard. said, on December 7, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    I didn’t expect any bullying whatsoever in Japanese school life. I guess it’s something to watch out for before I begin my teaching career there…I want to make a difference.

  35. Saben said, on December 7, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    I never worked in the actual school system in Japan. I only ever worked for private English schools when I was there doing after-school extra curricular English teaching. Most of my students were Elementary school age. A lot of the problems you’ve spoken about Az, I think are the result of poor discipline during Elementary School years.
    Japanese parents (mothers, I mean, Japanese fathers have no input) seem to think that they can let their kids do what ever they want from the ages of 1-12 and then as soon as they hit Junior High School they are going to reform and become a polite perfect member of Japanese society. This is even seen in language when Junior High kids are expected to start using keigo when previously they use total slang. I’ve seen all kinds of behaviour going unpunished because “they are just a kid”, including 8 year olds hitting their own mother. But there is only so many times you can reprimand a child with them ignoring you before you need to take action (“Ta-ku-ma! Yamete!” only does so much).
    I remember one incident where I had one of the most troublesome kids at my school going crazy and not sitting still or behaving, I was trying to get him to sit down and he hit me in the face. Well, that was it, this kid needed some discipline, so I grabbed his hands, held them together, looked him straight in the eyes and said in English “don’t hit me, EVER again.” He didn’t understand the words, but he knew my intention as he said “hai” in about the most subserviant voice I’ve ever heard a Japanese kid use.
    I think bullying has to be stopped before it starts. Bullying isn’t acceptable in Elementary School, it isn’t acceptable in kindergarten! It doesn’t matter how young a child is, they need to learn from the moment they engage in behaviour destructive to another person that it just isn’t on. If you ask a Japanese mother the first lesson they teach the child it is “to be respectful to others and think how they feel when you do something” well, that isn’t enough anymore. A social conscience isn’t always an ethical conscience, sometimes you need to stop assimilating with the main stream and stand against it. But I’m sure there are very few Japanese kids that would ever stand up to one of their friends who was bullying. Going against the status quo is not Japanese.

  36. Kenjii said, on December 7, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    This article left me thinking. Bullying has been indeed one of the biggest crisis in schools. But to me, it’s pretty strange how such young kids can cause prejudice to other kids. It’s silly. The only way a child can learn prejudice is from another. So I’m blaming the parents on this one.

  37. Ania said, on December 7, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    I’ve written something on one of your posts before so I’m not new to your blog but this is really truly sad. I’m almost seventeen and a junior in the IB program with a lot of really smart people. However, this does NOT exclude us from bullying either. The boys call the girls fat, ugly, sluts, etc. Honestly, the girl who ways the most weighs 125 and is about 5’8. I’m 5’3 and weigh 105 and hear the same things. There’s eleven girls in my class and none of them are even remotely fat or ugly but they all hear it too. The boys will tell us about how gorgeous some girl is and how we can’t even BEGIN to compare. And they just continue to hammer it in. I’ve been lucky to have a very supportive family but some of these girls take it to heart. It hurts to hear it constantly. And it’s not just the boys bullying. Girls will call each other fat, whores, bitches, etc. Bullying exists everywhere and it’s extremely disappointing that it occurs in places that should be left for learning. I’m sorry this comment’s been so long but this is something that really, truly sucks.

  38. mal said, on December 7, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    As I understand it, AZ you are a trained monkey there not to educate but to be seen educating. Like most professional teachers, I to have felt powerless with regards to bullying. However, I took matters into my own hands to stasmp out bullying in my class. I decided not to care whether I kept my job or not and told the students that if I saw them ill treating someone else then they would deal with me. I teach in an all Boy high school so some of them are bigger than I, but I backed up my words with actions. The parents came in to complain and when they were confronted with the news of what their child was doing, they told me to punish the student in any way I saw fit. If you don’t care if you lose your job or not and the school knows it then it makes things a lot easier.

  39. Mr. Bomberman said, on December 7, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Mother of god. Watching anime (TokiMemo ~only love~ specifically) and then reading this, also comes as a great shock to me. It’s funny how it twists your mind to make a sweeping generalization/stereotype of Japanese schools that, as proved by this article, is VERY wrong.
    I would like to say that I endured that torture during middle school too… I talked “slow” because of a defect from birth (that is for the most part, gone now).
    I was automatically relegated to Special Ed. from the 2nd grade-7th grade, even though I was a very smart kid. and all then, kids used to tease me calling me “Retard! Retard!” and I always got beaten up all the time by groups..
    That was only some of it.
    And I guess the anime generalization/stereotype that schoolgirls wear almost non-existent skirts is wrong too, right?

  40. SirGir said, on December 8, 2006 at 12:57 am

    Az is doing everything that he should be doing; he’s no crusader, and he shouldn’t have to be. While the crusader gets fired, Az will still be there, quelling the tears of those who need it most.
    On USA bullying, I’m from Wisconsin, and despite me being the quiet, shy kid, I was hardly ever bullied. In fact, for 3 of my 4 high school years I didn’t receive any bullying at all. Maybe my piercing stare scared them off.

  41. Sam said, on December 8, 2006 at 2:00 am

    I’ve actually been wondering for a while if this was something you were going to comment on, and I was really glad to see that you did.
    In terms of amount of bullying, I don’t think that it’s any worse in Japan then a lot of kids in the US seem to have it these days. It may be a little more structured, but I would bet that there’s a similar level of bullying activity across the states. Where I think Japan is worse though is how often the kids will group up to pick on someone based on the cultural tendency to form us against them groups. As a result, in some cases, the bullying is probably much more intense, especially since other students don’t want to get involved.
    I was really surprised to read that the teachers have a tendency to encourage the bullying. I mean, over here, you do hear every once in a while of a teacher accidently using someone’s demeaning nickname, not realizing it was made to make fun of the kid, but it’s usually not malicious.

  42. Ale said, on December 8, 2006 at 3:01 am

    Bullying is a problem everywhere. It just takes different forms and different shapes. Personally, I wasn’t really shocked to hear of bullying in Japanese high schools, perhaps just the forms of it. In the end, you have to realize that this is the same country where kids have random outbursts in class, lock themselves up in their rooms for a year or two because they cannot handle the pressure and these things have their own terms! That’s right. Locking yourself up for six months or more is so common in Japan that they need a word for it. High pressure in school, high pressure out of school and virtually no way out. If you are below average intelligence and don’t have a future of anything other than construction work, you stop caring about whose face you’re shoving into the dirt. Acceptable? No. But understandable. For all you people reading this is shock: Stop looking at Japan through some happy-go-lucky-lets-all-join-hands-vision. Japan is sweet to the fortunate and cruel to the unfortunate. In one way or another.

  43. Amanda said, on December 8, 2006 at 6:52 am

    Hi Az,
    Kids bullied each other at the language school I taught at, too. In one of my worst classes the mothers sat in and watched (Argh) and came to the defence of the naughty boy who was hitting the crap out of a little girl when I raised my voice and told him to sit down and be quiet!
    Upon mentioning this to the headmaster he said it was none of his business. Mind you, he also refused to belive me when I refused to teach his son after being kanchoed …. errrrr… round the front….. by him. Apparently his innocent child would never do such a thing.
    Something not right at all with all this.
    la la la

  44. Kudilu said, on December 8, 2006 at 9:27 am

    Posted by: Saben at December 7, 2006 07:16 PM
    This article left me thinking. Bullying has been indeed one of the biggest crisis in schools. But to me, it’s pretty strange how such young kids can cause prejudice to other kids. It’s silly. The only way a child can learn prejudice is from another. So I’m blaming the parents on this one.
    i have to disagree – it’s actually the opposite. a child must be taught NOT to be prejudice – the automatic way that most peoples first reacted to people that didn’t look like them when people were first finding each other was prejudice, it’s human nature. Unless a child has been taught otherwise from the very beginning, all children shun and harass those that they percive as different from themselves and thier family. we don’t see it as much in America for racial reasons anymore, because there are so many mixed-race marragies anymore, resulting in children that have seen people that have different hair, skin, and basic facial features since birth, so it’s not strange to the child.
    the problem with saying that children have to learn to be predjudced is that it assumes that humans by nature are a benevolent, happy, inclusive race – and we’re not. we are seeing more and more that children that are not brought up with the foundation of parents that care and instill that caring in thier children via behavior and some form of education such as religion are holy terrors. yes, some children come out ok from really bad situations, but that makes sense – SOMEONE had to come up with the ‘morals’ and such that tell us what is acceptable and not in society.
    just my 2cents

  45. Ted said, on December 8, 2006 at 11:39 am

    “– Name calling. Vicious/mean spirited nicknames.”
    Like Cherry Boy, Velma, Bastard etc?

  46. anonymous1 said, on December 8, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you for the excellent post.
    The insight into japan is why I keep coming back. Much better than the (worn out) kancho stories. I almost stopped visiting your site, but it’s stories like the stuffed owl gift and the bullying, where you offer insight into Japan that make me return. Keep up the great writing!

  47. Caitlin said, on December 8, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    Bullying is a huge problem in any culture.
    When I was in year 7 (6th grade) a boy in my class began to bully me, grabbing me by the arm hard enough to hurt, saying nasty things to me and once even trying to choke me. I had always been taught by my parents to stand up for myself and I made sure to tell the teachers what was going on every time he started to bully me. Most of them listened and believed me (apart from one who told me it was just because he liked me and made me sit next to him). The problem was that they had no power to do any more than make him sit on the opposite side of the room and once we were in the corridor they couldn’t do anything at all.
    I became introverted and went to great lengths to avoid him. I was at a new school and had no friends to turn to. I have no doubt that had I been less resilient or had the bullying continued I would have seriously considered suicide. As it was I eventually broke down in the middle of a lesson. I was lucky that the teacher saw that it was serious and made me tell her everything that had happened. After that the boy was moved to another class and eventually expelled for other reasons.
    Although the bullying stopped I lived in fear of being caught on my own with him and even now that I live in another part of the country and six years later it is still painful for me to think of what I went through.
    The point is that even though the teachers knew about it there was little they could do and schools on the whole are unwilling to expel pupils as it’s something that they are judged on.

  48. sajustne said, on December 8, 2006 at 1:52 pm

    Az you might hate me for saying this but that bullying might have made her into the ultimate sweetness. Don’t get me wrong bullying is a horrible thing. In my school there was almost no bullying but a large part of that was because my class would do what happened to the ultimate sweetness to anyone who started being a bully. The bullies tended to turn their behavior around after that.
    Does Japan have anti-hazing laws?

  49. Patrick said, on December 8, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    This is yet another reason I would be a horrible teacher. I was bullied through school, and I think I’d be whacking kids left and right. And by whacking I mean cutting in half, quarters, however many pieces I felt like at that moment.

  50. Jules said, on December 8, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    Yowza. As someone who’s actually aspiring to be an English teacher (and maybe one day join the JET Programme) this is really sad to see.
    I mean, I’m not going to act like I thought bullying doesn’t go own in Japanese schools, it has to, it happens everywhere, even worse: the fact that nothing is really done about isn’t even that shocking.
    In 8th grade there was a kid that basically the grade punching bag. During our mid-day break kids from other classes would just wander in and smack him around. I specifically remember an instant where he got yelled for being slammed into a bunch of a lockers.
    I guess I’m really fortunate that bullying doesn’t seem to be a problem at my highschool (of course when you’ve got 85 minute classes there isn’t really much time for it)
    Gotta say though, hearing that Ultimate Sweetness was once bullied broke my heart.

  51. Matt Metford said, on December 8, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    I was at a new elementary school yesterday and ate lunch with the sannensei. One of the kids kept spazzing out and screaming or growling (yes, GROWLING) because the teacher told him to eat his vegetables. Eventually the kid throws his bowl across the room, stalks up to the teacher, grabs her milk and throws it in her face. She does nothing. Later, a kid gets up from his table and accidentally knocks his neighbour’s empty bowl to the ground, where it doesn’t break. Teacher just lays into him for 10 minutes.
    I know the first kid probably has behavioural problems, most likely tourettes and/or ADD, but that’s not how you deal with these kids. Growing up, my best friend was OCD and tourettes, and my brother is heavily ADHD. Backing down from every confrontation just doesn’t cut it.
    That kid was also, of course, a horrendous bully to the other kids.

  52. Wayland said, on December 9, 2006 at 12:28 am

    You would be disciplined for “not understand the needs of the students”? Holy crap…I think if you punished them to instill some discipline I think it would be totally justified as a way of understanding what they need *evil little grin* I’m sorry that you have to deal with that mess. Hopefully, changes will happen soon!

  53. Gabe said, on December 9, 2006 at 2:32 am

    Az, I have only one comment. In the case of the 500yen theif, what was stopping you from telling that kid “You will *not* take his money, he does *not* want to give it to you, and if you don’t want to volenteer to help me clean the school grounds, (and by me I mean you) I would not do this to *any* kid because I will find out.”
    I am sure that you have the ability to intimidate that or any Japanese kid into the straight and narrow.
    And if the PTA gave you crap then all you would have to say is “the other teachers let this go on and I am fixing the problem. Or would you rather have this happen.”
    This makes you the good guy who is fixing the problem that the *other* teachers are ignoring for a better reputation. And if that does not work, you have the Gaijin Smash aproach.

  54. patrick said, on December 9, 2006 at 7:55 am

    Can relate to this. I’m a Junior High student here in Japan, and everyday I see people being bullied (Also got bullied for some time here but kindalessened to an extent. Gaijin smash, I guess.)
    [Aside though, I’m Asian, half-Japanese but not born in Japan. Is my Gaijin smash stronger or weaker? (Sorry for this rather stupid question)]

  55. patrick said, on December 9, 2006 at 7:59 am

    P.S. I am to be distinguished from the ‘Patrick’ who posted above. He’s the Uppercase, I’m the Lowercase one.

  56. Neil said, on December 9, 2006 at 10:40 am

    This is what the term “In School suspension” is for.

  57. Katie said, on December 9, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    That’s awful. It definately seems like it’s more mental bullying in Japan compared to the more physical bullying in the US. But I think mental bullying is the worst. I’m a Junior in High School right now and every day there are fights and stuff but the times when (usually) girls break down because of rumors started by ex-best friends is the worst.
    A few weeks ago my class had an anti-bullying assembly with a huge ass Italian ex-mobster guy. He kept screaming at everyone and switched between english and Italian like every 5 sentences. He told us that he killed people, raped people, sold drugs and was basically not a Mr. Rogers type of guy. Then he started yelling at the black kids for calling each other nigga.
    Finally, he concluded by starting to cry and saying to our vice principal (who is supposedly an ex-crack dealer) that this would be the last time he would be seeing us and ran out of the building. It was a very strange assembly.
    Maybe if the Japanese kids got this kind of thing, they’d shape up a bit. Any ex-Yazuka’s giving inspirational speeches these days?

  58. Gennai said, on December 9, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    Wow, a lot of people commented on the subject of school bullying. Most were appalled at the severity of the bullying in japanese school. The worst part it seems, based on people’s responses, was that teachers sometimes join in on the bullying. I think many schools around the world have school bullying. The amount of bullying, how students, parents, and the school system deals with it seems to (or may) vary within these schools.
    But in my opinion, Japanese schools seem to have it the worst. Teachers should not participate in bullying, schools should not be more concerned with their reputation than the kids. The kids should not be able to get away with it especially because of its destructive effects.
    (“At the time, I still thought that Japanese schools were pristine halls of finer education, so the only “bullying” I could imagine was everyone teasing Tanaka-san for only getting a 98% on his calculus test.”)
    I must admit that I had this thought too. I dunno where I got, but I started to question it once I started reading your Journals.
    I’m just pointing out but, I don’t think you’ve gotten more replies on any one Journal/Article before this one. You’ve hit a nerve on your Fans since almost everyone can relate to bullying. Except for me, I was home schooled from 1st grade through high school. I am now in College and have been spared the effects of bullying.

  59. V.M. said, on December 10, 2006 at 12:06 am

    Kudilu wrote: “Like Cherry Boy, Velma, Bastard etc?”
    Az doesn’t call the kids these names to their face, dumbass. He just refers to them that way to protect their identity.

  60. V.M. said, on December 10, 2006 at 12:11 am

    My apologies to Kudilu, I misread the comments format: the above was targeted at user “Ted”. As an off-topic aside, I humbly suggest adding some sort of line separator between the comments so that it’s easier to know who wrote what.
    Thanks.

  61. Jack said, on December 10, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Sounds like these kids need a teacher like Onizuka to foil their suicide attempts and teacher their bullies a lesson.

  62. Dan said, on December 10, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    They have doing something. They had a whole 2 hour presentation at my school and handed out cards with a help hotline on it. Seems worthless to me, but whatever.
    My schools are pretty nice(I am quite rural), but I still see it a bit. When a kid is different(slow, fat, small, big, whatever), they often get the brunt of stuff. My Japanese is crap but often I understand what they are doing. Sometimes their form of bullying is telling me(in front of the victim), some kind of secret or lie that is meant to embarass. I normally take this as a cue to embarass the bullies. Actually, I often seem to get involved to defend someone. Especially when it is physical.
    JETs can get away with a lot of things, even though we are told by CLAIR/AJET/MEXT/BoE/Schools not to do them. While not black, I am also a big guy(about 270 lbs), so there isn’t a single kid(or even two combined) who could actually pose a challange to me physically. Because of this, I often jump into the fray when fighting is going on. Most of it is just playful I think, but I know they shouldn’t be fighting either way. I don’t normally hit the kids…more like block hits and restrain them in holds.

  63. Jamie said, on December 11, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Azrael, I just have to say that I agree with your post 100%. I was an ALT too and I saw numerous examples of in-class bullying. As far as teachers’ reactions went, most of the teachers I saw were content to passively observe the bullying in their classrooms and do nothing to stop it. I did see one prime example of bullying by a teacher that was very shocking, however. A teacher I was team-teaching with called on a boy to answer a question. The boy answered the question correctly. Instead of praising him (which I would have done, because we all know how difficult it is to get Japanese kids to answer a question in class!), the teacher called him “Deppa”. Immediately the whole class started laughing. The teacher used the word “deppa” a few more times to refer to the kid. Then he turned to me (I know he did this purely to highlight the kid’s embarrassment) and asked me in English if I knew what “deppa” meant. I said I didn’t. He then wrote the kanji on the board — “de'” as in “deru”, and “ha” for “tooth”. So basically “deppa” = “bucktoothed”, which explained why the boy he called on had clapped his hand over his mouth. So for no apparent reason at all, this teacher had made a point of humiliating this boy in front of the whole class by calling him “bucktoothed” repeatedly, and THEN on top of it, he took time out to make sure that the gaijin (me) was in on the joke as well. I couldn’t believe a teacher would purposely be so cruel to a student.
    Oh and I’ve seen a “Ms. Cinderella/Wicked Stepmother” situation happen in one of my schools as well. The thing is, the Ms. Cinderella in my situation actually had to quit her job after experiencing repeated bullying by the Wicked Stepmother (who in this case was actually a man). I went to my supervisor at the Board of Education and complained about her situation, and he went and spoke to the vice-principal at the school. He then told me that all agreed it was best for my Ms. Cinderella to quit because “there was nothing that could be done” about the other teacher. Apparently they had spoken to him several times about his bad behavior and gotten nowhere, so they were at a loss as to what else could be done about him. Therefore it was better for Ms. Cinderella to quit just so she could get away from him.
    Totally fucked up. I would never EVER send my kids to school in Japan either. I’m not saying American school isn’t totally wacked, because I know it is, but at least there is some kind of recourse for victims of bullying or other social problems here.

  64. Chowman said, on December 12, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    As a foregin who came from HK to America four years ago and went through high school here.
    I have to say bullying is definitely a huge problem around everywhere because I was one of the victim too.
    Well, I had experience bullying when I was back in HK. Like being make fun of the bodysize, or push around. But it was all in physical. School in America (It’ a white people school) was way frustrated because people bullying you in terms like: Eggrolls, fried rice or even “IMPORT”
    and teacher don’t even do a shit even they said it to me outloud. It’s something I will never think I will experience back in my own place.
    I would say I am pretty much as laid back and as nice as Ultimate Sweetness and I still don’t get it. Don’t nice people deserve to be treat nice by the others???
    Those were long tough four years (being no body in school and living with my bastard aunt and uncle) and I can’t believe I made it througt. After all those craps, my prespective change so much. (in both good ways and bad ways) But at least I become stronger and gain more confidence in myself. If I could go back time, I would definitely stand up for myself and blast those bullying bastard face till they are on the ground.
    (Okay, kidding about the beating bastard up part, I am not an angry person)

  65. rubbav1 said, on December 12, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Japanese kids are quiters. I mean in the end even if they do do suicide the bullies will just feel bad for a couple of months and then graduate and probably live normal lives and forget about you like a bad date. But our kids make sure they don’t live on and have a life. I mean it’s almost poetry. and for you japanses kids: 日本の子供はquiters である。私はついに次に彼らが二三ヶ月の悪い状態および卒業生およびおそらく生きている通常の生活は及びあなたについて忘れるために悪い日付を好むことを bullies がちょうど感じる自殺をすれば意味する。しかし私達の子供は確かめる住まないし、生命を過すことを。私はそれが詩歌ほとんどであることを意味する

  66. Tyra said, on December 14, 2006 at 10:02 am

    They aren’t quiters.
    Suicide in Japan has been seen as a honorific(ish) way out. Think of the Samuria and Harakiri.
    Imagine you spend your entire day with the same group of people, from 7am to 6pm each day. Each class is in this room, including lunch.
    You don’t have time to make friends outside of school because school is your life. The only other people you socialize with – when you’re not at cram school or other lessons – is your family.
    Now, imagine that you are the one who is being bullied. There is no way out. You can’t change classes, see your friends who are in other classes at break times or after school (you probably don’t have other friends outside of your class).
    The people who are bulling you are the people you must live with. You don’t want to dishonour your family or your name so you take it in till you break. You don’t want to be considered weak, so you don’t speak out.
    Suicide has been used in the past when shit has gone down. There really isn’t any way out for these kids.
    anyways.
    It’s true there really isn’t anything Az can do but give moments of encourage ment when needed, like he did with the nurse girl.
    the teachers didn’t help when Az was being molested by hordes of young boys, they probably aren’t going to step in with their students.
    plus they have learn to Gaman.
    But you know Az, there is alway the kancho.
    What is the PTA going to say about an 1000 Years Of Pain kancho given to those who you see bulling?
    😛 probably not the most mature route to take.
    When ever I see a kid being bullied I pay more attention to that kid, play with them or talk to them about whatever, cause it seems to help that someone is paying positive attenion to them.
    I work with young Japanese kids, though, I found that it works with the older kids too a bit.
    though that’s hardly going to solve the problem.
    We have to remember that unlike North America Japan is an old old country with roots that run deep.
    sigh.

  67. Max said, on December 16, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Wow… I never knew the Japanese school system is so fucked up… and i thought the singaporean school system was bad… This is so much worse

  68. dutchguy said, on December 17, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    didnt expect that coming, makes me feel angered and as I am i would make the bullies there life a hell for as long as they ve done it to the others. The best is to make the real bullies feel just as lost as the others, and then say it loud in there face they got totally busted in front of rest. Should make them think smth up at least imho

  69. Stevo said, on December 19, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    Unfortunately, this kind of stuff happens in America too. I used to be suicidal, and it started in elementary school. I was interrogated by two teachers every morning before school for two weeks (and I’m talking crooked cop style interrogation) for supposedly calling a kid a name, when people called me names on a daily basis. I was suspended for “wildly attacking” two classmates when all I did was try to get away from them while they were slamming me against a fence and trying to beat me up for calling them bastards for not letting me play QB in tag football. In middle school, I was harassed on a daily basis by a kid who would hit me with his metal lunchbox and slam my head into lockers among other things. My teachers not only threatened to have me suspended for inciting trouble, but addressed the class and called me a whining crybaby and told them to ignore me so I wouldn’t bother them anymore.
    It’s fucked up in Japan, I’m sure, but it still happens here.

  70. gem said, on December 19, 2006 at 10:32 pm

    You know I think it’s worse with girls, though I’m sure guys are capable of it as well. In my experience the guys are more direct about it so it can be openly dealt with. The girls tend to be sneaky, manipulative. It makes it harder to deal with for the victim because they can’t retalliate and feel like they can’t speak up because other people don’t realise it’s happening. Girls also tend to ‘recruit’ and get a whole bunch of people to join in on it, ultimately isolating the vicitm. The otheres just follow like sheep because they’re afraid of being the next victim if they don’t.

  71. Runs With Scissors said, on January 2, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    I too have fallen victim to bullying even in America, and I think there needs to be something done about it. It’s extremely detrimental, no matter if you’re an elementary school student or out of high school. The fact that kids are committing suicide over it does not surprise me at all. Look at the Columbine shootings. This is obviously a world-wide problem that people sweep under their rugs just because it’s concerning the kids of the world, and not the adults. I agree wholeheartedly with your essay, and hope that some it can be helped in the future. Please keep supporting your students, I’m sure they appreciate it!!

  72. J said, on January 22, 2007 at 8:25 am

    i think the teachers think its ok to ignore cuz they have gone thru it themselves or just think its “a way of life”.
    different values.

  73. Eeyore said, on January 23, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    I haven’t been to Japan yet, I’ve just been studying what I can about it in university, but bullying was one of the subcategories we discussed in our Ethnology of Japan class. My professor studied the Japanese education as an anthropologist and what she has learned is that the way they see bullying is that it’s a flaw of the victim, not the bullies. I don’t believe that’s a valid argument [it’s completely dismissing the situation], but it also doesn’t justify the fact that some teachers join in either.
    We watched a small documentry film on pre-schools in Japan and it was quite the eye-opener. The teachers don’t punish children for cruel or destructive behaviour. They expect them to learn it on their own through life, which is a nice idea, but only in a perfect world where everything is made of chocolate and cheese. Perhaps it’s my Westerner point of view. :/
    The thing is, as sad as that is, I have to hold back my shock of the sircumstances because bully-victim suicide happens in many other countries too, and it’s also been “the flavour” of the current times. [although it’s not on the TV as much as it use to be.] Japan also has one of the highest suicide rates, but that also counts the suicides commited by men who feel they have failed to look after their family financially, or other reasons perhaps, and there are also suicides committed by elderly who live in the country and have children in the city. Some of them may choose to commit suicide instead of being a burden on their children. It’s very sad. 😦
    In your position I would have done the exact same thing. It’s so heartbreaking for a child, and for anyone to feel they can’t be something because their “ugly” according to their peers. I’m sure what you said to her gave her something positive that she could hold on to. 🙂

  74. Ljufa said, on February 23, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Reading over this post, I knew there would be a lot of comments…
    My little brother has been getting bullied at school since first grade. He’s quiet and doesn’t get in anybody else’s way, just like I was…but I’m a girl. Nobody ever bothered me, they either respected my calm attitude or simply feared me as the creepy quiet girl. However, my brother’s meekness is preyed upon daily. Both boys and girls beat on him, steal his food, blame him for things they did, cheat off his work, tell lies about him…everything. Elementary school kids. Incredible fucking bastards.
    The most infuriorating thing happened last year – the teachers and counselors at his school got him and other kids who were being bullied together and forced them to TAKE A CLASS TO LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH BULLIES. This happened because of repeated instances with the worst kid. They did not punish that kid.. not at all. They took the weak, submissive kids and made them take a class about dealing with bullies. The asshole kid was never touched. And we know why. Because the school fears the bully, and his parents. They know neither him nor his parents will submit to them… but the kids he beats on will.
    My brother tells me about getting in trouble with teachers because of things he doesn’t do, because the teacher believes the other kid. Someone will steal his pencil, or pester him to get him to talk during class, steal his food, write something bad on his homework paper.. blame it on him, the teacher believes whoever blames him. But I realize what the case really is now… the teacher isn’t that stupid. The teacher knows who’s doing those things, but they can blame the good kid because the good kid will take it. Good kids won’t get mad. So that’s how it is.
    I’ve explained to my brother various times that those people are wrong and to not let them get him down. Those teachers are the weak ones, and the bullies are the ones doing things wrong. They should feel shame, not him… They should be the ones punished. So many times I’ve wanted to go to his school and beat the crap out those kids. Honestly, growing up I didn’t respect anybody other than me…but I never treated them badly because of that. Never. I didn’t get any attention, but I didn’t act out… It’s hard for me to understand them, I really think a lot of them just need a swift kick to the rear.
    I’ve never let anyone be bullied in front of me. Never. It hurts me just hearing about it.

  75. ; said, on February 25, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Eeyore, there are countries whith MUCH higher suicide rates than Japan! Google the rates. Do you know that maybe 10 years ago FRANCE had a higher suicide rate than JAPAN? Actually the Japanese themselves were suprised about the increase in suicides lately. Yet you never hear anything about suicidal French… But then France is not the richest country after the USA, so the media slams the country less.

  76. Josephine said, on May 10, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    It’s really sad, bullying I mean. In elementary school all my teachers cared about the bullying and then when I got into high school it’s like no one cared.
    One day when I was on the bus in middle school, I heard this boy tell this girl he was going to kill her as in a threat. Later I heard the girl tell the bus driver that the prinipals weren’t going to do anything about it cause he was “just kidding”. I told my parents all about this, my dad, being the asshole that he is, called the school about this whole thing. I got called in later that day and I was told that I shouldn’t tell my parents about such worthless things.

  77. Anonymous said, on June 7, 2007 at 11:51 am

    maybe not many will like it, but people need to get hurt to know how fucking bad that feels… that’s part of the socialization process. without kids hurting each other maybe the world would be full of people without a shred of empathy. now that would be scary. I got through all the shit because I learned to be strong, and also learned people are animals – it was a good lesson, I just couldn’t appreciate at the time.
    i think the parents are the real ones responsible for this misconception… the world is not as shiny and safe as they would like it, and they send out their kids with false ideas what they can except from life… the whole idea of “no violence for kids” really fucking unnatural. and when they face it they can’t handle it. the whole just give the kid some comfort and be nice to them doesn’t worth no shit. you can teach them how to stand up for themself, that might help.
    the whole ‘but the bullies are bigger kids’ thing is only scary while you are kid… when you grow up and realize – too late – that it matters not, you can teach that to your kid at least.

  78. Anonymous said, on June 7, 2007 at 11:51 am

    maybe not many will like it, but people need to get hurt to know how fucking bad that feels… that’s part of the socialization process. without kids hurting each other maybe the world would be full of people without a shred of empathy. now that would be scary. I got through all the shit because I learned to be strong, and also learned people are animals – it was a good lesson, I just couldn’t appreciate at the time.
    i think the parents are the real ones responsible for this misconception… the world is not as shiny and safe as they would like it, and they send out their kids with false ideas what they can except from life… the whole idea of “no violence for kids” really fucking unnatural. and when they face it they can’t handle it. the whole just give the kid some comfort and be nice to them doesn’t worth no shit. you can teach them how to stand up for themself, that might help.
    the whole ‘but the bullies are bigger kids’ thing is only scary while you are kid… when you grow up and realize – too late – that it matters not, you can teach that to your kid at least.

  79. Emily said, on August 18, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    I’ve always wanted to become an English teacher in a foreign country — yes, Japan. (here everyone’s probably reading this saying “what the HELL are you thinking.”) Actually, that’s why I started reading this archive.
    But it freaking DISGUSTS me that teachers join in on bullying. God, I was bullied in school, and if teachers would’ve turned a blind eye to it, I don’t know how I would’ve handled it. But, damn! At my school you could barely glare at a kid without getting scolded. Somehow, I don’t think that was such a bad thing anymore.
    Bullying is something that happens everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. And yes, most of the time it happens behind teacher’s eyes. But when teachers turn a blind eye or join in, I can’t help but hope something very painful happens to them someday. Then I realize, they were probably bullied as children. It’s something that’s like a cycle, and it needs to stop.
    Damn, sometimes humans seem to be the worst living things on this planet.

  80. McG said, on September 24, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    are there school counsellors in japanese schools? perhaps this should be considered. it certainly isn’t a remedy, but it’s a start.

  81. Ceri Cat said, on September 26, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Depressing part is I’m not at all surprised by this. First time I saw the anime Great Teacher Onizuka I was rather appalled because I realised it was actually a toned down account of some of the bullying that happens, of teachers by students, and students by teachers, not to mention TBT and SBS and precisely how big a shake up would need to happen for anything to change. And yes schools in other countries are little better, NZ and Australia both have a lot of serious bullying issues with nearly powerless teachers, and parents not accepting their responsibility for their children. We all need a shake up, I just wish I knew what it would actually take to improve things. A girl I work with is about 27, in high school when her bullies were questioned about the grief they had been giving her they responded ‘because she breathes’ as the reason they bullied her, mind you this is not an unattractive girl, she’s a bit sarcastic but that’s largely because of how screwed up her school life was with few friends and everyone who felt like it trying to make her life hell by stealing her bag as an example, flipping up her skirt (gotta love mandatory uniforms). Can’t say my own school years were much better, if I had a more sensitive nature I reckon I’d have visited the morgue in a bag before getting the hell out of dodge, 13 years of nearly constant trouble isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. Just most of them don’t do it in front of teachers.

  82. Cameron said, on August 9, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I really can’t believe the number of things you find surprising after growing up in San Fran. I have a feeling I’m going to repeat this a lot while reading through this blog, so here’s the first official utterance: “If you’ve grown up in one place your whole life, it doesn’t matter if that’s the most metropolitan city in the world or under a bucket in the Ozarks, you don’t know what another world is like.”
    I guess confirming that this goes on in Japanese schools too is good psychological preparation for actually encountering it, but it’s still the same things going on in the best and worst schools across America. Granted they aren’t all warzones, and it’s no exaggeration to say that some are, but surely you didn’t forget somewhere between your diploma and your BA that high school and jr. were places that could knock the hell out of you?

  83. NeN said, on August 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    To be honest, I could never accept the situation. Even recognizing the nature of the problem, and my own position, I can’t accept a situation that tears down human beings. It’s just…I’d rather be considered a fool, and I’d rather pursue seemingly childish ideals than live with the alternative, considering what it is. The sheer pain of loneliness and repudiation can be unimaginable. There is just..simply no fibre of my being that can come to terms with that. It’s straight forward enough, accepting what the situation IS, but simply accepting the situation, that is a very different matter for me.
    I can’t possibly blame you for your decisions, Azrael, and neither can I say that you are wrong. Someone else mentioned that while the crusader gets fired, you’ll still be there quelling the tears of those who need you the most. I don’t know how much exactly you seriously butt heads with these kids (I’d be involved in those kind of conflicts a lot), but I can’t say I’d really choose a course of action that much different from your own. I’d need to be there, if for nothing else but than to extent an open hand and offer my consolation, and show that I care. However, I’m the kind of person who believes that if you make enough noise and don’t ever give up, something will eventually give in and break down. I’d probably have to get involved in something outside of the school, disappointing or not. Because, if I spend my whole life pushing something I care about it, and die without having made any waves, that’s okay. If anything I had to say ever got through to one person, not only is there hope for the future, but it was worth it for that one person too.
    I recognize how ridiculously dramatic this sounds. Ugh, I tried to word it as best I could. It’s honestly hard to express your thoughts on dramatic situations in a way that does so properly and fully without sounding over-dramatic yourself – or at least I think so, anyway.
    I’m kind of uncomfortable looking at it as a Japanese problem too, that is the business and responsibility of the Japanese. Well, yeah, it is, but I really hate to categorize like that, even if people are already categorizing themselves. I look at more like, it is my concern, since the problems of humanity are the business of a human. From what I do understand of Japan though, I don’t think this is actually that easy for most of them to grasp, though, is it?

  84. Anonymous said, on April 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    This just breaks my heart. I can’t attest to this problem being as severe here in the US, but it does exist too. I’m in college now, but I remember when I was a freshman in high school a boy at my school killed himself because of bullying and being made fun of or just generally being ignored and excluded. I didn’t know him, he was a few years older, but one of my teachers taught him in another class. The day after the story hit the news apparently some of his kids in that class asked “Oh, who is this kid? I never saw him or met him.” He was in their class and they never bothered to learn his name or meet him. Most people ignored him, and those who didn’t made fun of him.

  85. Anonymous said, on April 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    This just breaks my heart. I can’t attest to this problem being as severe here in the US, but it does exist too. I’m in college now, but I remember when I was a freshman in high school a boy at my school killed himself because of bullying and being made fun of or just generally being ignored and excluded. I didn’t know him, he was a few years older, but one of my teachers taught him in another class. The day after the story hit the news apparently some of his kids in that class asked “Oh, who is this kid? I never saw him or met him.” He was in their class and they never bothered to learn his name or meet him. Most people ignored him, and those who didn’t made fun of him.

  86. Pineapple said, on July 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    It happens in Finland, too. There were a few of us in my class that were bullied by the boys in our class. And our teacher. He might sit across a timid boy, mimic his gestures in an exaggerating way and make up thoughts that the boy could be thinking. Once the boy got really nervous because of the teacher bullying him again and started to bite his upper lip a bit. This was a mistake, as the teacher got exited and shouted “Hmm! If I bite my upper lip until it swells, might the girls like me more?” This was backed up by everyone’s laughter and some girls’ comments like “Eww, I’d never like (bullied kid’s name)”. I was the only one not to laugh as I was the other one to get bullied as much as that poor boy was. We were all 10-year-olds.
    Once a girl in my class whispered me something funny and I laughed (rather quietly, I’d emphasize). The next thing I know was the teacher yelling us both to get out of class. That wasn’t bad until I heard afterwards that the teacher had openly started complaining about me and how he’d probably give me a max 6 for biology and math. We had a grading scale from 4 to 10 so 6 isn’t good. And we hadn’t even had tests yet. This upset me and I started crying. I was 11 or 12 at the time. I ran to the only person I thought I could talk which was the school nurse. She listened to me and called my teacher there. The only thing he said was “Have you calmed down already?” in an annoyed voice. The look on the school nurse’s face then was the only thing to comfort me as I got some confirmation that my teacher wasn’t acting properly.


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