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Japanese schools banning nicknames, mandating use of '-san' divides opinions

25 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

“-san” is often though of as the Japanese version of “Mr” or “Ms.” A difference, though, is that -san can also be used with a person’s given name. So, for example, if someone is talking with Yoshio Yamada, they might call him Yamada-san, or they might call him Yoshio-san.

Or they might just call him Yoshio, with no -san at all, or maybe he’s got a nickname, like Yosshi, that people call him by instead.

But at certain elementary schools in Japan, plain Yoshio and Yosshi wouldn’t be options, because some Japanese schools prohibit students from calling each other by nicknames or dropping the -san. There aren’t any official statistics about how widespread such rules are, but one Tokyo public elementary school principal, speaking with the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, said he thinks it’s becoming a more common rule at schools in the city.

Tokyo’s Kasai Elementary School, for example, has its teachers instruct students to use -san when talking with their friends. “If you foster a sense of respect for the person they’re talking to from a young age they won’t take actions that hurt others,” says Masaaki Uchino, Kasai Elementary’s 60-year-old principal.

Advocates of having even children call each other with -san tend to feel that way for two reasons. First, dropping the -san when speaking with someone, a practice called yobisute, can be interpreted in multiple ways. In a positive sense, it can be seen as a sign that there’s no need to stand on stuffy ceremony, and it’s not at all uncommon for especially close friends in Japan to yobisute each other. But on the other hand, since -san is, fundamentally, a polite form of address, dropping it can also be seen as a sign that the person isn’t worthy of respect, especially if the people in the conversation aren’t that close.

Another issue is that, at least among the educators who spoke with Yomiuri Shimbun in favor of mandating the use of -san, there doesn’t seem to be a clear distinction between ordinary nicknames and derogatory ones. “Many nicknames that are based on a person’s physical appearance, or a mistake they made, are insulting,” says Mitsuo Nobuchi, the 51-year-old vice principal at Mito Eiko Elementary, a private school in Ibaraki Prefecture whose conduct rules for students include “Use -san when talking to your friends.” “We don’t believe that rules for how students should address each other will completely stamp out bullying,” admits Nobuchi, “but we do believe it’s a component of deterrent measures.”

However, some believe that forbidding yobisute and nicknames entirely negatively limits their ability to establish their own communication norms with their peers. “By prohibiting nicknames, I worry that they might be making it difficult for children to communicate smoothly and openly with one another,” said a 40-something elementary teacher from Saitama Prefecture. Many Twitter commenters also feel like such rules are going too far, with some citing nicknames as a potentially positive force.

“Such a dumb idea. What’s next? ‘Please call your classmates by their student ID number?’”

“Instead of stopping kids from using nicknames, how about if we stop them from bullying?”

“There are kids who feel embarrassed because their parents gave them a weird, flashy name…but with rules like this, they can’t ask their friends to call them by a nickname instead.”

“There are people whose nickname helped them create an outgoing persona and make friends, and there are people who got saddled with a hurtful nickname they don’t like. It’s pretty complicated.”

“In the third grade, my teacher just had us tell the rest of the class how we wanted them to call us…Worked out great.”

It could be that schools that don’t allow nicknames or yobisute are aware of the benefits that can come from those more casual forms of address, but feel the potential negatives outweigh them. Still, it’d be nice if they could find a way to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, in regulating how kids communicate with each other.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun via Livedoor NewsTwitter

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© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

25 Comments
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Ah yes, when in doubt about freedom of personal expression, Japan always goes with "MORE STRICT RULES" that'll teach them not to express themselves. Japan is really trying to kill any and all personal identity a person may try to develop, and replace it with the hive mind mentality. From hair colors, to school uniforms to now even names and nicknames. Japan needs to watch Frozen and just LET IT GO.

7 ( +21 / -14 )

*Japan is a seniority ranking society, You have to call an older person's name with san on the end. If you call the older person with kun on the end, you insult the person. Boys aren't called san until they turn adult but girls are called san even when they are 7 years old, which means how girls are respected and boys aren't. Many foreigners don't know how disrespected men are in Japan.*

> > > >

-15 ( +6 / -21 )

This is stupid.

15 ( +22 / -7 )

Everyone, every bully included, knows you can mock someone or give an empty apology just by changing your tone of voice, facial expression, etc.

There is far more to respect for others and sincerity than certain words and honorific titles like "san". The biggest bully in my son's class is also the best spoken when adults are present.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

The parents of a kid in my son's class demanded that the elementary school force the kids to call each other "Tanaka-san." Kids being kids, they just started using different intonations for their friends. Non-friends were a cold "Tanaka-san" but close friends were "Tanaka-saaaaaaaaan."

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Yup, making life more difficult than it should be, Japan.

Nicknames, like life are organic. If it happens, it happens. If not, whatever. Let the kids use whatever name they want.

What should be banned is the ridiculous kohai-Sempai nonsense. THAT is a waste of time.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

This is a great idea - school is the best time for kids to develop a healthy dislike of petty authority figures. It will stand them in good stead for the workplace.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

1/ You're dealing with LANGUAGE which has a habit of ignoring attempts to restrict and control.

2/You're dealing with children who also have ways of avoiding restriction and control by adults .It's part of forming your identity as a child.

3/Old fuddy duddies advocating compulsory "San " when addressing others of your age {remember these are school kids } are so off the mark they should be addressed as "Chan ", just to annoy them.

4/ Let kids be kids, nick names are part of childhood....is "childhood " something to be afraid of ?

9 ( +12 / -3 )

This is slightly different, but in my home country, I had various teachers in high school and junior high call students "Mr./Ms. ---." I always liked it. I felt that it gave some respect to the things we said and did, especially since we were at an age when we started to resent being treated like children, the way some other teachers handled us. And I think it held us to a higher standard as well - I wanted to live up to the respect that was given.

But that's from teacher to student. From student to student (as this article is talking about), I think it's ridiculous.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

What language is this article talking about?

My children, and their friends, call each other "- chan" if female and "- kun" if male.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As long as the ‘other’ pronouns don’t start appearing in Japan then all is good…

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

@Hiroshi Kanoya

Japan is a seniority ranking society, You have to call an older person's name with san on the end. If you call the older person with kun on the end, you insult the person. Boys aren't called san until they turn adult but girls are called san even when they are 7 years old, which means how girls are respected and boys aren't. Many foreigners don't know how disrespected men are in Japan.*

*

Nice story Hiro-chan.

>

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Again not complete and only half-hearted measures. Let’s really accomplish it with court-like majestic bows and curtsies.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

kids should be kids, not brainwashed robots.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Just leave it and let kids be kids. No administration is going to force me to be myself. It seems like kids less being kids and more being "yes" kids or robots. No thanks!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Surely this is only when in class or the presence of a teacher. Break time will be business as usual. Much ado about nothing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Schools in Japan are like prisons anyway right? Why not do away with names altogether and just give every student a number? Then the teacher can just go, "Number 32567, have you handed in your Math homework yet?"

Japan, ladies and gents. The land of convoluted absurd rules and suppressor of individuality and self-expression.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Every person is due respect based on the simple fact they are imbued with intrinsic value, the Imago Dei. If using “-san” helps teach students to recognize and affirm human dignity, all of us will benefit.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

An honorific assigned to everyone is no honorific at all, only a useless phoneme.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Another example of the old guard focusing on something not relevant; they should deal with real problems such as bullying, promoting students to think freely. Dumb idea as usual from principals who are living in the past who have not a pulse on what is going on. What a shame.....so old minded.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Schools in Japan are like prisons anyway right? Why not do away with names altogether and just give every student a number? Then the teacher can just go, "Number 32567, have you handed in your Math homework yet?"  Japan, ladies and gents. The land of convoluted absurd rules and suppressor of individuality and self-expression.

then schools in their countries are paradise? Thats why their teen agers have the freedom of random shooting to kill students indiscriminately in their schools, which never happened in Japan. Typical example of arrogant foreigners who always impose their narrow standard on Japan and invalidate the variety of each country. Their mentality hasn't changed since the slavery period.

>

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

One less chance for kids to exercise judgement and develop their own moral compass.

Ah, Japan, sweeping the genkan while the house burns...

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Totally agree, too many rigid rules which make no sense. I am Japanese and also American, and Japan needs to move away from this nonsense and following the "manual." Ever notice in banks, shops or government offices, the staff cannot think outside the box and even slightly bend the rules when it makes perfect sense to do so.....because it is not in the rule play book.

I was at a McDonald's and my nephew is allergic to nuts so asked for the ice cream sundae with no nuts. All the staff behind the counter needed to do was to not push the button to dispense nuts, but instead had to go ask for the manager since it was not in the rule book.....I left and got ice cream elsewhere because it was a waste of time for what could have been a simple, quick and easy fix.....Same with this "San" nonsense and sempai BS. Base not on rank or seniority but on individual merit!!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

then schools in their countries are paradise? Thats why their teen agers have the freedom of random shooting to kill students indiscriminately in their schools, which never happened in Japan. Typical example of arrogant foreigners who always impose their narrow standard on Japan and invalidate the variety of each country. Their mentality hasn't changed since the slavery period.

"Their countries" what their countries are you talking about? From your ignorant statement about foreigners and your comment about school shooting you're talking about USA. What you don't seem to realize USA is not the WORLD, in EU countries for example schools don't have mass shootings, but they also don't have dumb rules that Japan has about hair color, uniforms and now even speech. "Narrow mind of foreigners" says a man who's country is 98% Japanese, has the worst immigration in the world, is stuck in the past and is afraid of children having their own free mind. That's just sad. Japanese man talking about "Variety of each country" while gatekeeping xenophobia in Japan. "Their mentality hasn't changed since slavery period" again referring to USA. So ignorant, rude and arrogant. Typical jingoist.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Great !!..

Treat people by name and respectfully, no nicknames..

I love you Japan..

Please don't change..

Let Japan be Japan !!..

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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