lifestyle

Japanese school uniforms can be an expensive hassle for parents

12 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

While some public schools allow pupils to choose what clothing they’ll come to class in, once they reach junior high almost all students in Japan wear uniforms. Proponents of uniforms point to a number of claimed advantages, such as fewer distractions for young minds, decreased chances of bullying based on perceived differences in economic class, and instilling a sense of unity and pride throughout the school. There’s also the cultural phenomenon that, in Japan, a crisp, snappy school uniform is the ultimate symbol of innocent vitality and youthful dreams.

But there’s also a huge downside to uniforms: their cost. Japanese schools with a uniform system don’t just dictate what sort of blazer, slacks, or skirt the students have to wear. Many institutions also designate what style of bag that students are allowed to use to carry their books to and from class. If they want to bundle up with a vest or sweater in the winter, those are often required to be a specific design which bears the school’s crest. Once summer rolls around, most schools let students leave their blazers at home and switch to short-sleeved polo shirts, but these again must be the designated model which includes the school emblem. Oh, and for P.E. class, odds are there’s not only a school athletic uniform that has to be purchased, but also a specified pair of athletic shoes to be worn with it as well, as chosen by the school.

Making things worse is the fact that sellers have a captive market. Parents have to buy a school’s uniforms if they want to send their kids there, and there’s little incentive for retailers who sell the uniforms to lower their prices since it won’t significantly increase their sales volume. In a recent study on parental attitudes about junior high uniforms by Asahi Shimbun Digital, many parents reported spending around 100,000 yen for the complete set of winter, summer, and athletic uniforms which are mandatory at their children’s schools. And since these are all being bought for kids who are just about to hit a growth spurt, uniforms can be a yearly expense as their wearers’ grow out of them every 12 months.

The burden is especially large on families with multiple children who differ in ages such that they enter new schools in the same year. Some families are able to curb their expenses by having younger children wear hand-me-downs from their older, same-sex siblings, but even that plan can run into a number of potential problems. For one, the younger sibling may differ in size from the older one was at that age. Also, having to wear a uniform every single day at school means it only gets dry-cleaned during extended vacation periods, and all of that wear and tear is definitely going to stick out next to wealthier classmates’ brand-new uniforms, which negates any anti-bullying effect of wearing a uniform.

Most frustrating of all, the school may decide to update or otherwise alter its uniform, meaning that an older sibling’s is suddenly in violation of school rules. One mother in the survey said this happened with her second son, who’d been accepted at the same junior high her eldest had graduated from. Six months before the start of the school year, parents were informed that a new uniform was being implemented, so everyone who’d planned on using hand-me-downs had to shell out for the new version instead.

A few of the study’s respondents pointed out money-saving strategies. One women said her school’s PTA gathers uniforms that graduates no longer need and provides them to financially struggling families. Certain uniforms can also be tailored in a way that allows for alterations so that children can continue wearing them for all three years they’ll be at junior high.

All the same, many parents expressed a desire for schools to relax regulations and allow their kids to at least wear non-official sweaters or polo shirts, as discount clothing shops sell such articles of clothing at far more affordable prices than their school crest uniform versions command. “Isn’t is enough to say that the shirt has to be white, or the slacks or skirt has to be navy, and leave it at that?” asked one women, but it looks like Japanese schools will be sticking with detailed uniform regulations for the foreseeable future.

Source: Asahi Shimbun Digital via Jin

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japanese graduates rush to make a little extra cash…by selling their school uniforms online -- Japanese retailer releases three cute & comfy high school “uniforms” to wear around the house -- In the name of the moon, do nothing! Sailor Moon pajamas arrive to help you loaf around the house

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12 Comments
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You should see the students at the night high school where I work, bare midriffs with belly button rings, cleavage, green spiked hair...

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

@ Sensei258 Cleavage in Japan ??? !! You're jokin right

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

I forgot to mention the short shorts and stiletto heels

@ozziedesigner You don't live in Japan do you? There are many many many women who are well-endowed, and even over-endowed here.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

What? Private businesses profiting from a system that prevents customers from making decisions for themselves? Who could have possibly predicted that?

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I know many schools these days have more lax guidelines - type of clothing and color, allowing the parents to buy uniforms from a wider selection of places, at lower costs.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I guess you're always going to run into problems of cost when it comes to uniforms with a single design. I guess there isn't really any solution besides subsidies

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Night high school is the rare exception in Japan and not the norm. At my high school, uniforms are a little tent like and strictly adhered to.

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While some public schools allow pupils to choose what clothing they’ll come to class in, once they reach junior high almost all students in Japan wear uniforms.

It's more than "some." At least in Tokyo kids in public elementary schools do not wear uniforms. If you see a very young child in a school uniform, that means they are going to a private school and for parents who can afford to send their kids to private schools, the cost of the uniforms is probably not a big problem.

Proponents of uniforms point to a number of claimed advantages, such as fewer distractions for young minds, decreased chances of bullying based on perceived differences in economic class, and instilling a sense of unity and pride throughout the school.

This is what is said in the US. These claims were part of the push for uniforms that started during the Clinton administration.

There’s also the cultural phenomenon that, in Japan, a crisp, snappy school uniform is the ultimate symbol of innocent vitality and youthful dreams.

Maybe the case for elite private schools but not for generic public schools.

Most of the rest of the article seems to be a case of conflating private school requirements with those of the public sector. I've got two boys in very generic Tokyo public schools, one in middle school and one in high school. The uniform requirements and expense are much less than this article claims.

I also suspect this article was written by an American. Uniforms are ubiquitous in the UK much more so than Japan although there is real price competition in the public (aka state) sector. Uniforms have also proliferated in the US. The usual claim is that now about 20% of US public school students wear uniforms and they have been the norm in parochial schools.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Works out for everyone then. The uniform suppliers have a constant, yearly stream of new customers and the schools' owners / administrators get nice fat kickbacks in return.

Well, everyone except the poor parents who are financing the whole affair. Oh, and the underpaid, overworked kids in the sweatshops who make the things.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

An exchange student in one of my high school classes in the mid-nineties told me loved the uniforms. Didn't have the hassle of getting up every morning and deciding what to wear !

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Can be? You are joking! They are expensive!!! And growing students blow through at least 3 or 4 in 6 years.

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RiskyMosaic, "Oh, and the underpaid, overworked kids in the sweatshops who make the things."

I don't know about other places, but the school uniforms in this city are purchased through several different locally owned shops and made in local factories. No kids working in them at all.

I really question whether the uniforms are overly expensive. All I've seen are designed to grow and seem to be sufficient for normal growth patterns. And without uniforms you're likely to have kids that want to wear something different each day of the week and then there's different seasonal requirements, need for new things due to growth, not to mention the kids that will be whining for the latest fashion. It could easily add up to the same cost as the uniforms or more. The main difference is maybe that with the uniforms you pay in a lump sum, whereas with regular clothes the costs could be spread out over time.

I remember in public junior high school in the US in the 60s we were required to buy through one of two local shops a white twill cotton gym uniform and specific type of sneakers for PE classes. They were designed to be roomy and most kids didn't need to buy a new one throughout the three years. I remember having to wash and iron the uniform every weekend. Don't remember the exact cost but they were made to last and weren't cheap. Out of curiousity I checked the school's web site and found they have their own online shop where parents can purchase the current required gym uniform: black nylon shorts with at least a five inch inseam.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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