The Rulez of Japanese Schoolz


The z makes it edgy and hip.

I was reminded the other day of just how strict the rules for Japanese students can be.  I was out to lunch with a few of my co-workers at my favorite sushi place in town and we saw three students there eating.  This was to be expected because on half days all cheap restaurants that are relatively close to the school are going to have at least two students in them.  The convenience store across the street is also going to be all but cleaned out of the prepacked bentos and bread.  Most of the students will still be in their uniforms because they don’t bring other clothes to school with them unless they are clothes for club activities.

The fact that they are still in their uniform limits what they are allowed to do.  One notable rule is that they cannot be seen using their cell phones while in uniform.  This means that even if they are walking home from school or hanging out with a friend at the mall, so long as they are still in their uniform, they cannot have their cellphones out.  You can see why this is the most frequently broken rule.  Technically speaking, if a teacher catches a student with their cellphone out while in uniform, the teacher can take away their phone for one week.  The student gets their phone back when their parents come to the school to meet with the teacher.

This is a rule that impacts not only the student, but also their parents who might live several hours away.  (For those who did not know, a small, but not insignificant, number of my students live in the city’s dorms with other students from various high schools in the area.  This might be for a variety of reasons such as: it’s cheaper to have the student live here than pay for the commuting train ticket or there are problems at home and it is better for the student’s wellbeing.  It’s easy to see how the cost of commuting can stack up when one remembers that majority of students come to school seven days a week for either classes or club activities.)  On the train, I think the rule is largely ignored.  The few teachers who commute around the same time as the students (most try to avoid it at all costs) tend to look the other way.

Other than the rules about their physical appearance,

  • Boys’ hair cannot touch their colors
  • No student can wear makeup or double eyelid tape
  • Nails cannot be painted
  • Hair cannot be dyed
  • They aren’t really supposed to pluck their eyebrows (I think this rule is to prevent them from shaving their eyebrows off which is definitely a fashion thing here) but it unfortunately means that some of them have to live with unibrows.

students cannot change from their winter to summer or transition uniform until a certain date, regardless of what the weather is actually doing.  Some schools also do not allow their students to have part-time jobs and they can face expulsion if they are found out.  My school, thankfully, does allow part-time jobs, but the students must get approval from the school and they can only work on certain days.  I believe they can only work on the weekend and during school breaks.

My school is more relaxed than a lot of them, I think, but when one of my co-workers caught those students at the sushi place using their phones she had to stop and give them a lecture.  The teachers at my school are divided into different offices depending on their responsibilities and the teacher who gave the students a lecture is in the discipline office, so I think she felt more obligated than the other two teachers.  I make it a general policy to pretend I do not see the students’ cellphones outside of school, because otherwise I would be a huge hypocrite.  Sometimes I am ok with that (do as I say, not what I do), but the cellphones feel like such a small thing that it isn’t worth it.



2 thoughts on “The Rulez of Japanese Schoolz

  1. Hmm, pretty strict rules, Jodi. Then again probably reflect the local cultures & customs. I wonder if the enforcement is a problem especially for the teachers and parents.

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