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Bullying – the problem that won’t go away

35 Comments

Bullying -- is it insoluble, human nature being what it is? Or are school authorities simply too busy, too pressured, too spineless, too concerned with their schools’ image, to face it squarely?

The suicide last October in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, of a 13-year-old second-year junior high school boy who had been relentlessly bullied by classmates while teachers looked the other way reminds us how little progress has been made over the past 30 years. “Schools,” says Chiba University education scholar Daisuke Fujikawa, “are not learning the lessons of the past.”

The education ministry officially recognizes some 77,000 "ijime" (bullying) cases a year – “the tip of the iceberg,” says Josei Seven (Aug 9). Should bullying be made a crime? In raising the question, the magazine reviews some of the tortures that apparently drove the boy to jump to his death from his family’s 14-story apartment building last October. They include routine beatings, the forced eating of dead bees, forced shoplifting, and, most notoriously, “suicide practice.” It certainly sounds criminal on the face of it, and Josei Seven detects a groundswell of feeling that the full force of the law is the only language kids who go in for that sort of thing would understand.

A counterargument is raised by Kinokuni Children’s Village Free School principal Shinichiro Hori. A “free school” is an alternative facility for kids who, whether because of bullying or for other reasons, are unable to cope with regular school. “Kids who bully others do it because their hearts are disturbed,” Hori writes. “With society foisting its ideals on them – good marks, for example – they can’t breathe. Their hearts don’t get enough oxygen. So you can punish them, or threaten them, and it might have some effect, but it doesn’t go to the root of the problem.”

What would? Nothing short of a fundamental reform of education, in his view.

“More important than anything is that children should be happy, absorbed, interested. For that to happen, teachers have to be passionate about what they do. But as it is, they’re too burdened with administrative responsibilities. Teachers need to be free to use their imaginations. Without a radical change in the top-down approach to education, I don’t see how the problem can be solved.”

Three boys in particular are considered ringleaders in the torments endured by the victim. Two have moved; the third remains in Otsu but has stopped going to school. From acquaintances, Josei Seven hears the three show no sign of repentance or reflection, no sense of having done wrong.

School kids tormenting each other must be as old as school, but "ijime" as a social problem – ordinary rough-housing getting seriously out of hand and drawing national attention – dates to the February 1986 suicide of a 13-year-old Tokyo boy who hanged himself in a shopping center washroom. He left a suicide note which mentioned, among other tortures he endured, “mock funerals” – complete with flowers and incense – with himself as mock corpse. The similarity to the “suicide practice” in Otsu 26 years later is unmistakable – a reflection of how little has changed.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

35 Comments
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time to stop the ridiculous senpai/kohai crap, time for teachers to be more involved with their students, time for parents to be more involved, time for the principals and vice principals to know each and every child`s name. in other words, it is time to stop turning a blind eye and get involved. everyone.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Sillygirl - Thanks for saying it. Bullying is rooted in the whole senpai/kohai culture. While I respect a certain about of respect given to people who have more experience and/or are "older" the majority of young people do not know how to use that authority and end up just turning to bullying.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

sillygirl and movieguy, couldn't agree more.

That's where the problem lies.

Bullying exists in every country, but it's usually because of problems kids/adults have in their own lives and then make someones life a misery by taking it out on them, which is bullying.

In Japan, bullying is part of this senpai/kohai nonsense. People rarely stand up for themselves because of the lack of face to face conflict, so they suffer in silence.

It's in the culture, and as we all know, Japan is proud of its culture, and won't change, so the problem will stay.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Bullying exists in every country

I think most kids around the world get bullied, or bully, or both.

These kids need some heavy duty punishment for what they have done. I'm glad I was never that stupid when I was their age. Nasty little turds.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Bully's usually stem from weak parenting or ignorance on the part of the parent, a strong father figure in a bully's life can turn them around.

I say send the bully's to work on a farm or go camping, something to show them the rest of the world.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Start talking people, i was bullied too as a kid, but i could talk to my parents about it, and to my teachers.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Where else but in Japan you would have teachers deliberately and systematically ignoring bullying because they're more concerned about their image?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Well said sillygirl!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Like MasterBape said, Japanese are proud of their culture, no matter what it contains. Low standards.

Sure, bullying exists in all countries. I see no excuse there to let it continue anywhere. And I'm pretty sure "funeral rehearsals" and "suicide practices" are quite unique to Japan.

The three Otsu devils are said to feel "not having done anything wrong". There is a medical term for that, y'know. And now they're allowed to walk among our children. I really don't think so.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Sillygirl et al.

Senpai/kohai has little if anything to do with bullying. Most bullying occurs between classmates, who are doukyuusei (same grade).

It has everything to do with the fact that some kids either by nature or by nurture have evil tendencies.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

From acquaintances, Josei Seven hears the three show no sign of repentance or reflection, no sense of having done wrong.

Didn't they have to attend any counseling or anything? Were they just allowed to go on with their lives, more or less? I don't get that.

More important than anything is that children should be happy, absorbed, interested. For that to happen, teachers have to be passionate about what they do. But as it is, they're too burdened with administrative responsibilities. Teachers need to be free to use their imaginations. Without a radical change in the top-down approach to education, I don't see how the problem can be solved.

Mr. Hori makes a lot of sense.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

More important than anything is that children should be happy, absorbed, interested.

Uh, no. They need to be learning skills that will help them in life. Learning is often frustrating, time consuming, and anything but interesting.

But since everybody's got to work for a living, you gotta learn the skills so you can work. You have fun on your own time, when you're relaxing.

I've seen too many teachers lose ALL credibility and authority in the classroom when it was clear that "making the students happy" was their main goal.

That's just their cover story, anyway. The REAL reason they say that is because deep down they are terrified of commanding REAL respect. After all, they might get rejected, and the students wouldn't think they were "cool."

But back to thebullying issue. Scrap the law that says all kids get an education Make an announcement. Give kids, parents and teachers a chance to get ready.

New Law: All bullies are kicked out of school and become the parents problem.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Its not just in schools, Im sure it happens in the workplace a lot as well. New recruits get a very raw deal over here from what ive seen.

People are too afraid to do anything about it for fear of losing their jobs.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Bullying occurs everyone around the world -- it's not just a Japanese problem -- and while it exists in many other facets of life in Japan moreso than in the same facets elsewhere, it will continue to exist no matter what happens.

The DIFFERENCE is in how it is tolerated, and that's where Japan outweighs other nations in terms of failure.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Uh, no. They need to be learning skills that will help them in life. Learning is often frustrating, time consuming, and anything but interesting.

Ooer, big no-no on that. If learning is 'frustrating, time consuming and anything but interesting', then someone somewhere is doing something wrong - either the teacher (who let's face it, in a class of up to 40 doesn't really have the resources to involve all the kids at the level they should be involved) or the parents, who send their kids off to school with the preconception that it's going to be uphill and boring all the way. I've been amazed at the number of parents I've met - the majority, I feel, though I haven't actually counted - who make a point of telling junior that the fun stops when they leave kindie, that school is all slog.

I've seen too many teachers lose ALL credibility and authority in the classroom when it was clear that "making the students happy" was their main goal.

It's a question of attitude, I suppose. Not so much 'making the students happy', which I agree, doesn't work; more 'making the content interesting'.

New Law: All bullies are kicked out of school and become the parents problem

So then you have groups of kids with no structure in their lives, no education ie thrown on the scrap heap - parents aren't going to be much help, since they're the ones who raised the little monsters in the first place....the little monsters will be set to grow into disaffected adult monsters; a problem for us all

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The DIFFERENCE is in how it is tolerated, and that's where Japan outweighs other nations in terms of failure.

You must be joking. I don't know about these days because it's been years since I've been in school, but in my day it was overlooked more often than not. Teachers would blame the bullying on the victims because they didn't try hard enough to be like eveyone else, especially in the Catholic system. In fact, the kind of bullying that goes on in those schools is so disturbing and most people in authority could care less, and often contribute to it thereby making it worse...I find it interesting that many people who leave their country for Japan are so ready to forget the bad they left behind and are so willing and eager to to point out the bad they find here. There is no such place as a utopia on this planet. Where you find humans, you will find atrocity plain and simple.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

dorami23: "You must be joking. I don't know about these days because it's been years since I've been in school, but in my day it was overlooked more often than not."

Do they overlook all the suicides that are the result of bullying in those schools, then try to hide the knowledge of the bullying when the cops come to investigate? Of course a small amount of bullying can be overlooked, but any fights or what not in the schools I attended, which had zero tolerance policies, let to suspension at the very least, and expulsion at its most strict (or if it's a repeat offender). What's more, there's no real discipline plan to deal with unruly kids in the classroom in Japan, which is more often than not why, I think, teachers and Admin. are more inclined to turn a blind eye -- what can they do besides hope it will go away?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

dorami23: "You must be joking. I don't know about these days because it's been years since I've been in school, but in my day it was overlooked more often than not."

Do they overlook all the suicides that are the result of bullying in those schools, then try to hide the knowledge of the bullying when the cops come to investigate? Of course a small amount of bullying can be overlooked, but any fights or what not in the schools I attended, which had zero tolerance policies, let to suspension at the very least, and expulsion at its most strict (or if it's a repeat offender). What's more, there's no real discipline plan to deal with unruly kids in the classroom in Japan, which is more often than not why, I think, teachers and Admin. are more inclined to turn a blind eye -- what can they do besides hope it will go away?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

what can they do besides hope it will go away?

That's precisely the tactic that Canadian teachers use, especially if they don't feel too warmly toward the student being harassed. Bullying doesn't always manifest as fighting, it is a daily torment and often quietly done. Just because your schools in particular were a beacon of justice doesn't make them the rule. There were a number of suicides among my peers when I was in school, the reasons were often never discovered and honestly if bullying was cited as a reason, there is no precedent to prosecute parties responsible anyway. Too subjective, difficult to prove beyone a shadow of a doubt. I don't know if it's a Catholic problem or not, but in my experience with them (extensive, I assure you) they love nothing more than to ignore problems they are not inclined to care about. Let's not pretend that all adults are responsible and caring.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Besides which, in my parents school days they had more to fear from the nuns and monks teaching them than their fellow students. Some of the stories they told me would pin your ears back.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The local communities, parents, teachers and students should individually play their roles and tackle the problem together.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While it's good that they're finally(?) trying to do something about bullying, again, it appears that they don't really quite know WHAT to do, and I'm not surprised, not one bit.

Disturbed hearts, stress? Free school? With the right education you can identify possible bullies and bully victims already at pre-school level and take action from there. Taking actions when the kids reach jr- high is way too late... Another problem is that I don't really think most teachers actually 'know' what bully is, and that a lot of if is thought of as "childs play" or "fooling around". Also, I'm not surprised one bit that the bullies don't show any remorse. Ask them in another 10 years.

Having both been bullied and a bully I got quite absorbed in the whole thing while I lived in Japan, and eventually wrote a thesis for those who are interested in a more in depth analysis of bullying, especially how it might differ culturally. http://w3.crimsonsakura.net/sites/thesis2/ "The Emergence of Bullying among Adolescents in Japanese and Western Cultures: A cause and impact study"

There is also a Japanese version available should anyone be interested.

Abstract, I concluded that the Japanese bullying is thought of as a group phenomenon (contrary to west where bullying can be carried out by a single individual) and focus on the mental oppression, i.e. ignorance, lies, rumours etc. This was done by using the survey which I carried out in Japan, together with my own bully and bully victim experiences which I fortified with research carried out by renowned scholars. In Japan special importance is also given to ‘stress’ which is considered one of the main factors behind bullying, implying that anyone can become a bully. Whether someone becomes a bully or bully victim depends heavily on the parentage. Overprotection, domestic violence etc. might trigger such behaviours. As children are unaware of the devastating and long term effects of bullying it is pivotal that teachers and other adults who come into contact with children possess an adequate understanding of bullying. If these problems are not addressed suicide due to bullying, so called ‘bullycide’ might occur.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Bullying – the problem that won’t go away

Exactly, as long as there are people who lust for power over others, whether it be a school aged child to an 80yr old mother-in-law, bullying will always, always, always, be a part of society and growing up ANYWHERE in the world.

How to identify one, what steps to take, how to prevent becoming a victim of one, and most importantly BEING OPEN about the issues about bullying and bullies are only a few of the numerous ways we can EDUCATE not only children but adults as well regarding issues associated with bullying.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

MasterBapeAug. 03, 2012 - 09:05AM JST

sillygirl and movieguy, couldn't agree more.

That's where the problem lies.

Bullying exists in every country, but it's usually because of problems kids/adults have in their own lives and then make someones life a misery by taking it out on them, which is bullying.

As one who has been bullied myself I can tell you you are spot on. This problem is usually not solved by the teacher trying to intervene too much publicly. It usually makes the problem worse. The person bullying then sees that what he is doing actually has effect and in effect encourages him to bully more. Punishing won't help either. They will take their battle "underground".

The problem is seldomly looked upon from both sides. The person bullying is, for some reason feeling bad himself because he/she doesn't have control of his own life (I've seen no exceptions in my life) and tries to feel better by wielding power over somebody else. The person bullied is usually a quite sensitive person. When being bullied he/she is going to immediately show that he doesn't like so the person bullying immediately sees that he is having power over that person and is encouraged to go on.

Punishment seldomly brakes this cycle.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Bullying doesn't always manifest as fighting, it is a daily torment and often quietly done.

Very true. It can be hard to prove in some cases.

The focus should be on setting up bullying policies, educating children, parents and teachers on how to prevent and deal with bullying.

Keeping kids 'happy and interested' won't matter a bit if the child is not getting proper parenting. It all starts at home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Punishment seldomly brakes this cycle.

Then expel him/her. The problem is that they are together within a closed system.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

relentlessly bullied by classmates while teachers looked the other way

Do they really "look the other way" ? Or are they actually "enjoying the show" ?

a strong father figure in a bully's life can turn them around.

As I mentioned before, in Japan, children are brought up to "view only their father's back" - fathers are hardly better than complete strangers to their children.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Punishment seldomly brakes this cycle.

Then expel him/her. The problem is that they are together within a closed system.

Thus making him/her feel even worse and in the other school everything is simply going to start over. Chances are that the bullied pupil is simply going to be bullied by others.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Whether you like my comment or not is beside the point... I am speaking from experience - here in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Please agree if it's meant to be punishable as homicide in first degree, in any described way, including aggravated tentatives of it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Again this entire "bullying" problem is a social, community and family issue before political, educational, legal, police and institutional issue.

Obviously, the moral ethical standards are high in Japan, regardless of religious beliefs or orientation. There is a semblance of general "awareness" of the problem by the people. At least everyone like to talk about it and criticize everyone and every other institution they can point a finger at.

However, it appears that there is a "lack" of real "concern" or "involvement" by anyone, including the parents of children who are bullying or being bullied until it is too late. They all point a finger at others and expect others to make "changes" according to what they believe is best for themselves and not for the family, community or society.

No one can "force" a change in a person in a situation, condition and environment where bullying occurs. A person must decide and then take action to change him/herself.

So what could we all do to make it better?

The situation starts with how we raise our children and not how the community and educational system / institution, or the police "monitor" or influence or children. Sad to say, much of the problem may lie with parents and grand-parents of those involved. Our sociologists and historians along with the entire community must find the "causes" behind what is happening and address them together with the parents. It may take several generation, but there may be a meaningful solution to all this.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There used to be something called discipline. In the homes, the schools, society. It still exists in the armed forces, in 'real' life in the work place, but the homes and schools? Out of the window. Kids today are pretty sure they can get away with about everything and anything. Teachers may or may not know about what's going on, or about the severity of the bullying taking place. They lack the courage, power or authority to do something about it. Even a harsh talking to to a youngster is risky. Discipline or criticism are dirty words and evoke the wrath of the parents who will conveniently forget it concerns their own offspring and blame the schools.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bullying is a cowards practice as their intended victims are selected for their vulnerability. It was said "sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!" How stupid is that . Sticks and stones, break bones, name calling is verbal abuse, causing serious mental anguish.Nip the bully tactics in the bud, name and shame, whatever it takes,their powers need to be curtailed before they escalate

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan needs to institute punitive measures that resonate with parents, teachers, and more importantly the wayward child. It seems parents are taxi drivers or blind defenders of their kids; even grandparents, in the case of single parenting, take on this role. The teachers seemed more occupied with who's "kawai." The PTA does wonderful parties. Principals and vice principals only seem to work hard to apologize rather than to attack the problem. No one wants to take the role of disciplinarian. This is a tough situation especially in a culture that "bows" to age rather than knowledge or ability. There are wonderful counselors with a bagful of new and effective modalities, however with the culture as is makes it a really difficult challenge. I know of a reform school (boarding) school with a tough love approach that is very successful, consequently sending the so-called "trouble child" off to college in other countries. Regardless of parenting, I think some of these "troubled kids" are just bored with a system that is inflexible and not very innovative. I strongly believe that kids test limits because they really want us to give them guidance and discipline.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bullying is a crime.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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