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Bullied junior high school boy commits suicide in Sapporo

49 Comments

A junior high school boy from Sapporo committed suicide on Wednesday by jumping from the roof of his apartment block, police said Thursday.

According to police, the 12-year-old boy was found on the ground outside of the apartment block in which he lived at about 7:30 a.m., NTV reported. He was taken to hospital where doctors pronounced him dead.

Police said a note was found in the boy's room, indicating that he was being bullied at school and had decided to kill himself. The boy's school reported that he had been an active member of his school club and had not been absent from school.

The Sapporo Board of Education has announced that it plans to hold a meeting to discuss ways of dealing with bullying in the future.

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What a world these kids live in to think that ending their lives is the only way out. Japan not only needs to stop bullying but they need to accept this as a real problem and give support to the victims. They need to keep it confidential too cuz that's probably another reason they don't/won't seek help. They don't want people to think they are weak.

It is wrong in so many levels for a 12-year old to even contemplate suicide. And parents really need to "enforce" family time at home so that they can see changes in their child's behavior.

I know this problem won't be solved overnight but I hope the number of child suicides decreases...

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Oh crap. Not another one. Poor kid. Now, this is getting out of hand. Something needs to be done urgently to the education system in this country! This is just unacceptable. To the Japanese public: now ain't the time for your tears or your shou ga nai BS - stand up, do something about it and bring about a change. Develop a new mindset about this: shou ga aru!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The Sapporo Board of Education has announced that it plans to hold a meeting to discuss ways of dealing with bullying in the future.

Ah, yes! Go ahead! Have another meeting, but nothing will change until the school system does. At most of the schools I have worked in over the last decade (30 or so) the teachers have been the biggest bullies of them all. Sad end for this kid and his family, but the blame does not lay solely on the bullies. The blame should be shared by the teachers, the BOE, the education system and the kid's parents. Talk to your kids people!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The guys that bullied him should be severely punished. It's time to revise the Juvenile laws.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I've made this point before.

Just punishing the bullies won't fix it.

Parents need to throw out their TVs and get back in communication with their children.

The teachers too need to get in real communication with the children.

And communication is NOT one way.

Communication means listening, as well as speaking. That is listening with interest without comment or criticism.

If parents and teachers could do this, it would solve the problem.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Kids this age should be playing soccer or baseball outside with neighborhood kids and enjoy their freedom, they shouldnt be even thinking about committing suicide. Is it hard for parents to pick up signals that their kid is in a bad place?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

There's not much provided in this case, but what IS provided doesn't seem to indicate, as in cases in the past, that parents had reported the problem or that the school was willingly ignoring it. Of course, that could be the case, but we don't know.

In any case, it's extremely sad to see someone, regardless of age, think this is the only way out of a tough situation, and feeling so utterly alone enough to do it. While I doubt the meeting they plan on having to discuss how to deal with bullying will deal with little more than trying to keep the media at bay on the issue, what a great thing it would be if they actually come up with something useful.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Not again! And this, while they are talking about the bullying problem on TV every day. I am glad I spent the outrageous tutition to send my kids to intl. school.... at least this is one issue we don´t have to worry about.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I am glad I spent the outrageous tutition to send my kids to intl. school.... at least this is one issue we don´t have to worry about.

What makes you so sure of that WilliB? From my experience in private schools, the teachers and curriculum are the bullies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Disillusened:

No my experience. Remember, the teachers in intl. schools are paid by the parents, so parents can really make their voice heard. But maybe we were lucky. Anyway, we have never heard of an intl. school student committing suicide because of ijimeru, and I doubt we ever will.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Government needs to focus on suicide prevention seriously rather than throwing money and AKB48 at the problem thinking it will go away.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When will it stop?!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Remember, the teachers in intl. schools are paid by the parents, so parents can really make their voice heard

I went to a fee-paying school, and there was bullying there. Also parents have to know about something to complain - many kids don't tell their parents when they're bullied. They just try to block it out - until they jump off a building, drink bleach or slash their wrists.

Anyway, we have never heard of an intl. school student committing suicide because of ijimeru, and I doubt we ever will

But how many children are taught in international schools and how many in normal Japanese schools? I'm guessing the former is a tiny percentage of the latter. It's not thousands of school kids are being reported as committing suicide over bullying ever year.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The government should be spending money on tackling this problem. Sod buying the bloody islands. Spend some time and money where it is really needed..

Reward teachers that spot and report suspected bullying. Punish bullies with immediate expulsion who are proven to be the bullies (no exceptions).

Appoint a counselor to each school (or area) and provide all children with free unlimited access and all the information they need. Also, make this service strictly confidential (that includes keeping teachers out of the loop regards to the pupils names)... Educate the children that bullying is bad, talking is good... Educate and encourage them, that they can talk to a counselor about anything and at anytime.

Issue notices and/or training for parents on 'How to talk to your child, to prevent them from killing themselves'... Also, encourage the parents to report any suspicions they may have about their child being bullied...

That will do for starters.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I'm a JHS ALT here in Japan right now, and I was just told yesterday by a student that he was being bullied. I witnessed two 3rd year students chasing and yelling at him infront of me and another teacher, who did nothing. After reporting two separate incidents, I was told that because he had apparently caused trouble with these boys in earlier years, the teachers were not terribly concerned and weren't dealing with it in any way than to tell the boy I spoke to to tell them if it escalated. He told me that he felt bullied, and that he'd just sort of gotten used to it. Unfortunately, he is one of the special needs students, and it's difficult to tell his true emotions because he's always very chatty.

The idea that bullying as a form of retribution is acceptable kind of freaked me out. Haven't any of these teachers every taught their students the importance of taking the higher road? Since I first noticed what was going on, I've made an effort to spend more time with him and talk about what's going on just to make sure it isn't actually any worse than chasing and yelling insults. I teach fairly close to Otsu, so the case there is still fresh in everyone's minds, but it doesn't seem to be making all that much of a difference on the practical level. Just a lot of assemblies and more posters in the halls ("NO IJIME").

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The government should be spending money on tackling this problem. Sod buying the bloody islands. Spend some time and money where it is really needed..

Sadly, this is not a problem that can be solved by the normal "throw money at it" schemes. The culture of education must change. The parent-child relationship needs to be strengthened. The government needs to stop trying to be parents to these kids. The family and neighborhoods need to be reestablished as the core of society instead of the government.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The problem was pointed out on TV and has been proven to me over and over again. I have dealt with bullying in adult form from the Japanese, and it comes in the form of "Monster Parents!!!"

I have had mothers go nuts at me when they can’t get what they want from me in terms of teaching English to their little darlings!! Just forced a “Monster Parent” out the other day and they admitted to bully tactics with pride!

Teachers are too scared to discipline the bullies because of retaliation from "Monster Parents" and this will go on until the board of Education put their teachers first when dealing with these crazy people!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The problem was pointed out on TV and has been proven to me over and over again. I have dealt with bullying in adult form from the Japanese, and it comes in the form of "Monster Parents!!!"

So-called "Monster Parents" are merely a symptom of the problem. One must remember that these parents are also products of the Japanese education system. And despite the reliance on rote memorization and standard testing in schools, children learn best from observation and experience. Each generation that passes through the system produces more spoiled children of "Monster Parents" who then send their children into the same failed system.

The government would like to believe that it can do a better job of raising children than parents. This is taught to the children who become parents generation after generation until the society believes it as well. Unfortunately, the government makes a lousy parent. The system, like many government-run social programs, is failed. The problems of bullies, suicides, and Monster Parents - among others - are the result of the failure of the system.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Much of this starts at home. I know Japanese "salaryman" tend to go to the office early and leave late so their poor children don't have a father figure around except maybe weekends. Parents have to ensure they create an environment of open communication so that their kids can feel it's OK to discuss bullying. Parents of bullies should be punished to send the message to parents that they should educate their kids not to bully.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I guess its the mentality of the society. Japanese culture has allowed suicide (seppuku) which is considered as an honor. Death has been considered a way out of things...

Plus i might be wrong but most of the japanese I know around me dont have any particular religion they hold on to dearly. Islam, christian, jews believe suicide leads to hell (forever, no second chance in life) while buddhist and hindu believes suicide leads to bad karma (terrible life condition when reborn).

Are all the schools in japan has professional counsellors? they could listen to problems both students as well as staffs. A student body that are trained into peer counsel should also be made common in all education institution.

I have only limited experience of doing homestays in japan and cant comment much on how things work between japanese parents and children. However 2 way communication is important and each other needs to be an active part of each other's lives..

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

One important thing missing from the article, (according to last nights news broadcast) is that when he filled out the survey that his school passed out about bullying he replied that he had not been a victim of any bullying at school.

This is a hard one really, I am sorry he died, I feel sorry for his parents and friends, and yet I wonder what really forced him to think that taking his life was his only option.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Victoria Maude

That's a very revealing post. I can tell you that in Australia there is now a system called 'Mandatory Reporting', which requires teachers and school administrators to report, and act upon the exact kind of exchange you have witnessed. Failure to do so may end up being a criminal offense - teachers are legally bound to take the appropriate steps to resolve these kinds of problems. I can promise you from experience that there is nothing to stiffen the back a little like the threat of legal action or criminal negligence in matters like this. Teachers suddenly take those kinds of reports very seriously indeed. Perhaps Japanese teachers need a little.....incentive.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A large part of the trouble is the system and the unbending nature of the Japanese.

Even though they go to junior high, they are still stuck with the same kids most of the day because there is no individual schedule. Eventually someone becomes a target, and the target is totally trapped. And its hard to make friends in other classes who would at least support you and give you strength just being there.

And while the bullied kids could be moved to another class, the teachers don't want to do that because everything is already decided on paper. I sort of understand because the teachers are overloaded with paper and pointless duties.

What Japan needs is flexibility and a focus on basics. Too much fluff and a system designed to integrate all that fluff has made it so that the kids cannot take care of their own problems and are at the mercy of teachers who don't have the tools or energy to help.

This kid probably had a small circle of friends and none to fall back on, thanks to the system. He fell out with the only friends he had and the rest is history.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I should probably sum up: the system needs to change. The large groups (classes) need to be broken up so that kids can make more real friends elsewhere in the school and spend more time with others. In this way they can find their own support instead of needing to alert a teacher who probably won't be much help anyway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why, God, why? Please, stop this madness. How many kids have to commit suicide before changes are implemented in the way bullies are punished?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All schools in Japan should be closed indefinitely, until the national government comes up with a workable plan, and all schools present a plan of implementation. This darwinian system is too cruel for words, and has to stop.

As for this comment: "send my kids to intl. school"--this is NOT an option outside of major metropolitan areas, nor for 95% of students in Japan. So why throw it in our faces?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Tamararama

It seems as if the teachers who work with him at least are aware of the situation, and have been for several years. I don't know if the principal knows, but the teacher I told (my co-teacher who works in his class with me) was not aware. It sounds like this kid did a lot of dickish things in the past, but he's changed a lot in recent months. Regardless, these boys should not be allowed to do what they're doing to him, since two wrongs never make a right. It's worth noting that the two bullies that I saw are kind of "lost cause" kids. They're rarely paying attention in class, when they're there, and right now, they're making a real point of not participating in the sport's day preparations. I have to wonder if this has something to do with it? Maybe they think that even if they talk to them, the situation won't change. But hell, they're not even trying. And the guy they're bullying made me clearly aware of the fact that they haven't been reprimanded by anyone, he's just been told to grin and bear it unless it gets worse.

I don't know how much I can do, as I'm not a full teacher at the school, but I do intend to keep a close eye on him and the two bullies. I don't think anyone should be made to "get used to" being bullied, and I just don't understand how this is being allowed to happen with all these high profile stories going on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It really is hard to get a grip on all this.

Japan is ranked 7th in the world for suicide rate, and does have a history of ritual suicides.

Unemployment, social pressures and depression are common reasons. Social pressures probably means bullying.

Schools just keep having meetings and coming up with ideas, but it is little use.

I think it is a cultural problem involving this whole concept of Sendai/kohai and obligations; people don't express themselves easily and don't question superiors.

People can't talk to each other cus they don't want to hear bad news.

The PTA is useless.

Parents don't take responsibility for the child's actions and point the finger at schools to raise their kids.

Schools don't know what to do other than have another meeting.

It's cultural, so don't expect things to change...unfortunately.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Above, I meant "senpai" not "Sendai". Damn iPad predictive text.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My son was raised as a bi-culture kid in Sapporo. He went through the Japanese public education system from Kindergarten through high school. Although he was half American, he was never bullied. By my observation, this was partly because he never perceived the situation to be threatening. Japanese kids would see this American looking kid, come running over, and, sometimes even shoving him a bit, ask, "What are you?" Brandon would playfully shove back, sometimes a bit stronger than the other kid was expecting, and cheerfully respond, "Brandon desu. Asobo?" The Japanese kids would gasp, "Ah, hai" and the entire potential bullying situation was permanently defused. Brandon had friends but he was basically independentally minded, never depending on membership within some clique for his self-identity or social insulation. There is plenty of blame to go around as to the causes of bullying: pressures from parents, teachers, school administrators, and peers to conform and academically excell without seeming nerdy, all at the same time. By my observation, Japanese fathers don't interact with their children not primarily because they don't have time, but because they don't know how.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@ Victoria Maude - I'd start documenting it. Keep a notebook and write down the incidents, times, dates and what was said. It could be useful if things develop. If things get worse you'll have a record that doesn't rely on just memory. And if the school ever requires your notebook, well call me paranoid but make a photocopy before you submit it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I went to a fee-paying school, and there was bullying there. Also parents have to know about something to complain - many kids don't tell their parents when they're bullied. They just try to block it out - until they jump off a building, drink bleach or slash their wrists.

But isn't lack of communication part of Japanese society? I mean real, human communication. They do well at the basic communication to keep the wa, and have plenty of set expressions for interactions and understandings of when what is not said is as important as what is, but anything to do with feelings seems to be a taboo, except, of course when it is a social requirement like at school graduation ceremonies. When the tsunami happened noone seemed to be able to talk about it. It was just a no-no and 'let's pretend it didn't happen by not mentioning it'. It's similar to the ganbaru thing. You don't want to do something and know you are going to fail, but you mustn't show any sign of that and just keep on keeping on. The more I've seen of Japanese attitudes over the last couple of years, the less I like the place. I'm just glad I'm not one of them. I'm not afraid to be human.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I disagree with shiofuki's view of japanese attitudes, like in most countries it takes time to warm up to a foreigner.

Have many japanese friends and J-Family, yep, there were some bumps initially but on average they are very helpful and supportive. Granted there is stuff that crates on my nerves but also counts for back home and other countries I have visited.

As for the Tsunami, we all had a good chat at the evacuation park and plenty of phonecalls like " You short of anything", "Need anything".

I spend 2-months recently in Hospital for gall-stones, neighbours and friends brought round fruits, etc to the apt as a friend stayed over to look after my son. Also had nearly daily visitors in the Hospital, some guys I only met once.

Like everywhere there is a certain barrier you need to breach. Helped out at the Yakiimo-taikai at sons school at the end I was begged to attend next Year.

And I found the Japanese just the same as my foreign friends/family.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Child suicides as a result of bullying appear to be an element that goes along with being a highly developed nation. This is a global issue, not just Japanese. I am sure that there are cultural idiosyncracies that make some aspects of what happens in Japan contextually defined in very Japanese terms but the phenomenon is more overarching in an international sense.

There might not be a tidal wave of these deaths but all levels of society should consider that the fact that even one child would resort to suicide is too many.

There should be a more comprehensive and coherent response by all levels of the community, government, business and social to what is happening. It should not be a matter of one generation shaking its collective head and thinking ... back in my day, we toughed it out, etc. Kids are kids.

Some concentrated and unpredisposed attention needs to be applied to figuring out why suicide entered in the minds of these children as a viable option in the first place.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I see your point, It's ME, but I am not talking about the superficial things. I, too, have been warmed by the helpfulness and friendliness of the Japanese in many situations, but part of that is the social necessity to support your own 'in group'. How many of us have had Japanese friends we think are our bosom buddies, only to leave the area and not hear from them again? How many of us have had the frustration of friendships that only reach a certain point with Japanese people and yet go no further? It's not just to do with being foreign, either, because their friendships, relationships and even marriages with each other seem to be just as superficial, to my/our western eyes at any rate.

As regards the tsunami, I understand from your post that you were in the area and displaced. Well, again, you are part of the in group there, and so people helped. I was in Kansai when it happened, and people just didn't want to talk about it, as though doing so was a taboo. It bothered me a lot because I wanted to talk about it because that's what 'we' do.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

tokyokawasakiSEP. 06, 2012 - 04:30PM JST The government should be spending money on tackling this problem. Sod buying the bloody islands. Spend some time and money where it is really needed..

Reward teachers that spot and report suspected bullying. Punish bullies with immediate expulsion who are proven to be the bullies (no exceptions).

Appoint a counselor to each school (or area) and provide all children with free unlimited access and all the information they need. Also, make this service strictly confidential (that includes keeping teachers out of the loop regards to the pupils names)... Educate the children that bullying is bad, talking is good... Educate and encourage them, that they can talk to a counselor about anything and at anytime.

Issue notices and/or training for parents on 'How to talk to your child, to prevent them from killing themselves'... Also, encourage the parents to report any suspicions they may have about their child being bullied...

That will do for starters.

Wow you should run for office tokyokawasaki, If I could vote, it be for you! Excellent suggestions. Too good and easily doable if people could make such an effort!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Wow, this is unfortunate. I think the kids parents are part to blame and how they are brought up. Japanese parents do not communicate well with their children or even with their spouses. I had many Japanese girlfriends that told me their parents do not talk to each other but still live in the same household together. Many of Japanese girlfriends held their feelings back when they disagreed or when they were angry at me. I always told them, if you do not like something that I do or anything please tell me and do not hide your feelings! If you do not tell me than I cannot improve or know your true feelings. I since than made my J gf more "American" and now she opens up much more. I guess this is the Japanese way. They hold their feelings back so they do not upset anyone. This poor kid did the same and probably never told his parents that anything was wrong. Japanese parents need to change.. But I doubt it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Reward teachers that spot and report suspected bullying.

Reward teachers for doing the right thing? Have we devolved so far as a society that we can not even protect the lives of children without being compensated? Perhaps we should give these teachers who do the right thing a gold medal to wear around their neck, as well.

The government forces children into the education system. By this law, the state takes responsibility for those children while they are in the care of the schools. Bullying and suicides are an indication that the state is either unwilling or unable to protect these children.

So, you want to reward state employees with greater compensation because they have failed at their most important responsibility? This is insane.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

In Finland, even without bullying happened, the teachers invite parents for a special evening to discuss how they are dealing or planning to deal with this particular problem if it happens. This problem is so wide-spread that it must be thought of and discussed in advance, prior to the event, in every school. Every school, which does not recognize and discuss this problem in advance and regardless of the atmosphere, must be graded down. Because even one death is enough.

The same with bullying kids of different nationality.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What about home-schooling? Can't be bullied in your own home...except by your siblings, maybe.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Better yet, until this is fixed, pull your kids out of school and hire a private tutor.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

But isn't lack of communication part of Japanese society?

Err, no - it's not part of Japanese society. There's plenty of communication. If anything Japanese society is based on discussion and reaching a consensus.

When the tsunami happened noone seemed to be able to talk about it.

Really? Then how on earth did all those people think about volunteering and decide to cross Japan to help out in Tohoku?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

All readers back on topic please.

Reward teachers for doing the right thing? Have we devolved so far as a society that we can not even protect the lives of children without being compensated?

Since they are so often punished for doing the right thing, off the record mind you, compensation will only balance it out. When people get the idea that the right thing is to be rewarded instead of punished, then the compensation can be dropped again.

Teachers already have so many duties that acting on suspecting bullying is enough to push them over the edge. That is another good reason for compensation.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think one big proble of kids in Japan is COMMUNICATION... Communication with parents, with friends, with teachers... Like real open communication. Thing is Japanese usually hold back and never talk how they feel...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Since they are so often punished for doing the right thing, off the record mind you, compensation will only balance it out. When people get the idea that the right thing is to be rewarded instead of punished, then the compensation can be dropped again.

You've simply made my point that the government is ill-suited to educate the population. What system which punishes right action is worth having?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When the tsunami happened noone seemed to be able to talk about it.

Really? Then how on earth did all those people think about volunteering and decide to cross Japan to help out in Tohoku?

They just went and did it. Doesn't mean they discussed it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And while the bullied kids could be moved to another class, the teachers don't want to do that because everything is already decided on paper. I sort of understand because the teachers are overloaded with paper and pointless duties.

Moving bullying kids to another class does not help the situation at all, it just transfers the problem to a different class room. A bully will be a bully no matter the class he or she is in.

Removing the bully from the classroom is an option that schools here choose not to take and there is where a majority of the problems occur, particularly when the bullies parents complain that their child is being singled out for punishment and the school is obligated by law to include to student in regular classes.

To totally remove them from a class takes, as you mentioned, tons of paperwork and recording of all events to justify the removal, and even then BOE's could shoot it down. It is a process that most schools would rather not take.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very sad story, I am very sorry for the family and for the school, it will affect everyone..and there is nothing any of them can do now. I was bullied in school myself and know how hard it is. I was not able to speak out much, did a bit but it never really changed as i was not a joiner and did not play sports ..but i was a different kind of kid, didnt believe competitiion was good even at a young age.

The culture that bases value on winning and devalues the losers is setting up tragedy in small and later large scale, for people will become disheartened and unhappy and not know why as it is in the very fabric of their daily lives and is impossible to see because it is so common that it becomes normal.

We can all change, be more patient, and more caring and such things can be changed if we care..it starts at home and with each of us. No differnt in Japan than anywhere i believe and I have a great admiration for Japanese schools and much about them having studied education and my family started a school that continues to operate almost a century later. Many thoughtful and insightful posts thanks to all. And again, deep sorrow for the family and compassion for his teachers who must be going thru a very hard time now. I hope good can come... even the bullies will be sorrowful and sad, and I will pray for them all and peace and healing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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