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Tokyo public schools will stop forcing students to dye their hair black, official promises

53 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

The overwhelming majority of middle and high school students in Japan are required to wear uniforms, and so it’s no surprise that Japanese schools tend to have lots of other rules governing students’ personal appearance. One that’s been attracting controversy in recent years, though, is a requirement at some schools that all students must have black hair.

The ostensible reason for the rule is that almost all Japanese people have naturally black hair, and so they’ll only have non-black hair if they’ve chosen to dye it a different color. Such willful, discretionary standing out from the norm is seen as a distraction and/or lack of earnestness according to orthodox Japanese values, and thus counterproductive to the collective student body’s academic development.

However, an incident in 2017 sparked debate when it highlighted that requiring students to have black hair and forbidding them to dye it aren’t always one and the same, and in fact can sometimes be complete opposites. You’ll notice in the last paragraph that we sad almost all Japanese people have naturally black hair, and that’s because some of them don’t. While it’s relatively rare, some Japanese people are born with hair that has a natural brown tint to it, and one such girl who was attending high school in Osaka was forced to dye her naturally brown hair black, resulting in damage to her scalp and prompting a 2.2 million-yen lawsuit against the school.

While the lawsuit is still ongoing, opponents of school policies requiring students to dye their natural hair in order to look more like it isn’t dyed to unaccustomed eyes can celebrate one victory. On July 30, Hiroki Komazaki, head of children and family advocacy NPO Florence, presented a petition to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. The petition, which had collected 19,065 signatures since May, asked that schools be prohibited from instructing naturally non-black-haired students to dye their hair, and the board gave its word that the request will be met, with High School Educational Guidance Section head Seiichi Sato saying:

However, the board stopped short of complying with the petition’s request that municipal high schools be required to mention on their official websites that students with non-black hair will not be required to dye it, saying that the primary purpose of the websites is for each institution to communicate what makes its school unique and special.

While the petitioners are obviously upset by schools which require students to dye their hair black, Komazaki doesn’t place the blame entirely on educators. “Students are encouraged to have black hair to serve as a visible signal that they are willing to adapt to society,” he recognized, “and so educators may recommend it when thinking about their students’ future employment prospects. Companies and society must also change their way of thinking.”

While Sato’s stance is a welcome step in the direction of greater tolerance, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s public schools that the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education has administrative control over, and so the board’s promise to prohibit educators from forcing students to dye their hair black may or may not carry much weight at private schools in Tokyo.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese high school teacher in hot water after forcibly giving male student a buzz cut

-- Japanese high school teachers forcibly cut off hair that was “too long” from 44 students

-- Naturally brown-haired Osaka student sues government for forcing her to dye her hair black

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

53 Comments
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Ridiculous idea that you have to have black hair to be educated in schools. What about skin color? Are my "Hafu" children not Japanese enough looking, are they too white, should they get cosmetic surgery to alter their "Gaijin" shaped eyes? I love Japan but some of the rules and social mores are just silly.

29 ( +35 / -6 )

While it’s relatively rare, some Japanese people are born with hair that has a natural brown tint to it,

Once again kick Okinawa out of Japan when it's convenient! Brown hair is NOT relatively rare down here.

Tokyo public schools will stop forcing students to dye their hair black, official promises

This is NOT an official policy and it also is not about allowing students to dye their hair, like the girl in the picture. The inference being that dying one's hair will be OK, but that is NOT going to happen, it's just about forcing kids who have natural hair color other than black.

That girl in the picture will still be forced into dying her hair to it's natural color, black!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Celbrate one victory? Wow neber heard it described like that. So sad for Japanese individuality.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"min-na chigatte, min-na ii, min-na chigatte, min-na ii"

(we're all different and we're all good, a song sung in pretty much every pre-school in Japan)

Hope this spreads to inaka. If a class is taken as 35 kids, we're getting close to one kid in every class across the country having a non-Japanese parent. Apologists for discrimination can't claim that the system is fine but only hurts "a few people".

I agree that the photo is inappropriate. The rule change would not affect that girl. The rule change is about preventing schools from harassing people with naturally non-black hair. Hair dying will still be banned (unless its blond/brown to black of course, in which case it will be celebrated).

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japan is extremely slow to change.... it is almost 2020 but Japan still has some very archaic rules on the books. Things that us foreigners, because we come from multi-ethnic countries, just could not fathom. I say, yes, of course change the rule but the rule in itself and it's existence in the first place is not surprising. You know "the nail that sticks out". When I first got to Japan back in the early 80's, I heard that saying all the time, now, very rarely. Japan has changed massively in the last 40 years but, again, some things have not. Over the more than 200 years of "Sakoku", up until 1853, which historically speaking, was not that long ago. During that time Japan must have really developed a "norm" whereby people had to look and act a certain way. Those days are quickly fading... young kids are getting a lot of international exposure by watching the internet and not watching Japanese TV, which has not changed for the last 50 years. It is still controlled by those that do not want change.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The ostensible reason for the rule is that almost all Japanese people have naturally black hair, and so they’ll only have non-black hair if they’ve chosen to dye it a different color. Such willful, discretionary standing out from the norm is seen as a distraction and/or lack of earnestness according to orthodox Japanese values

Brown hair is lack of earnestness... good grief.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Such willful, discretionary standing out from the norm is seen as a distraction and/or lack of earnestness 

Guess these old farts have apoplexy every time the HS aged girls from AKB or any other "teen idol" group performs!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

My kids are both Japanese citizens and both have light colored hair which they got from my side. They aren’t in high school yet but this is one of those things that really makes me second guess our decision to raise them in a country where such blatant discrimination against them is accepted as a matter of course. Outrageous.

20 ( +22 / -2 )

"Students are encouraged to have black hair to serve as a visible signal that they are willing to adapt to society,”

Ah! ha! I'm glad this was mentioned. This is the real problem in society, the "rules" are just to illustrate conformity (beautiful harmony) to the elders. It's good to see there is some discussion now how these types of rules to adapt are actually bullying.

19 ( +20 / -1 )

A lot of anger out there! Wow!

Anyway, this is good news.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

This is both silly and sad. No student should ever be forced to dye their hair any color whatsoever, never, ever.

What would these geniuses behind this rule think if their child went to, say, a Nordic country for an exchange program and was forced to dye their hair blonde/fair? They'd have a fit, as they should.

I wonder how do albino children fare? Are they forced to dye their whitish hair black because somehow it is offensive to the majority and shows they have no desire to conform?

What a joke.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

educators may recommend it when thinking about their students’ future employment prospects. 

Let me get this straight, a Japanese company may not want to hire a candidate because their hair is not naturally black? I would argue that why would you want to work for a company that doesn’t want you based on your merits but more so because your hair isn’t a naturally a certain color.

Students are encouraged to have black hair to serve as a visible signal that they are willing to adapt to society

So wearing the uniforms, respecting the culture and traditions doesn’t show conformity with the society. You must also dye your hair black if that isn’t the natural color of your hair? I think schools are more so portraying an image that you are inferior if your hair isn’t naturally black or you shouldn’t love yourself for your natural appearances.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

● Our School has a no-dye policy, so you must dye your hair

Lawyers for the defense argued that, “For example, even blonde foreign students are required by the rules to dye their hair black.” It bears repeating; the absurdity that they are required to dye their hair by a rule intended to prohibit dying of hair.

Instead having that kind absurd statement, I think that schools need to have "black hair" policy, if only they willing to admit.

However, the board stopped short of complying with the petition’s request that municipal high schools be required to mention on their official websites that students with non-black hair will not be required to dye it

It's pretty simple request just ask them to state their "black hair" policy, in their website, that's it for a start.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Japan's preposterous schools have reached their nadir in forcing students to dye their hair black. This is a form of enforcing a racial uniformity that does not exist.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Hilarious just one story about a girl with natural brown hair at Osaka school got upgraded to the story of national racism

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

Japan's preposterous schools have reached their nadir in forcing students to dye their hair black. This is a form of enforcing a racial uniformity that does not exist.

You gotta be kidding! 20 years ago it was a hell of a lot worse. I personally know teachers who forcibly dyed the hair of students before school wide events, whether they liked it or not!

At least now, more people are openly admitting that this rule is ludicrous and some are trying to change it!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It's about bloody time. Without freedom of expression, youth cannot take up the banner of a country's purpose.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Let me get this straight, a Japanese company may not want to hire a candidate because their hair is not naturally black?

I knew a Japanese woman who was searching for a kindergarten for her young daughter. She visited 4 or 5 schools, took the tour, met with the staff, etc. There was one school that she and her husband really liked....except for the fact that the teacher had brown hair. She immediately crossed that school off the list. She said the brown hair indicated that the teacher was "not professional enough." Her husband couldn't understand, but realized he wasn't going to win that point and gave up.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This should be illegal.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I wonder if this will be a problem for my daughter. She was born with jet black hair but when her hair grows out a bit and gets in the sun it lights to a dark brown. So she always has sortof black roots and a little bit lighter hair. Actually my hair is mousey blonde so the roots are dark blonde and the sun bleaches it lighter blonde the longer it grows out so I guess that's from me.... but I wonder if her school will think she's dyed her hair?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Let me get this straight, a Japanese company may not want to hire a candidate because their hair is not naturally black? I would argue that why would you want to work for a company that doesn’t want you based on your merits but more so because your hair isn’t a naturally a certain color.

Schools are supposed to teach their kids to work with the world as it exists, not as they wish it to be. Not everyone wants to be an activist - some just want to get a job and the school is supposed to teach them how to get it.

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

@Kazuaki Shimazaki

There seems to be a disconnect with what you mentioned.

Schools are supposed to teach their kids to work with the world as it exists, not as they wish it to be.

In the world I come from, it is extremely common to see people that don't have black hair. Clarify if you mean world or Japan? The world and Japan are two completely different things. Its not being an activist by simply not choosing a company because the values of the company is different from yours. That has always happened and is still happening today. Some companies are considered "black companies" there are people in Japan that avoid those companies. Are they activist for avoiding those companies?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Ridiculous idea that you have to have black hair to be educated in schools. What about skin color? Are my "Hafu" children not Japanese enough looking, are they too white, should they get cosmetic surgery to alter their "Gaijin" shaped eyes? I love Japan but some of the rules and social mores are just silly.

Well said Hawkeye, and I am amazed you got downvotes on this!!!! Can you imagine the sh-tstorm if some administrators told some Japanese students that their eyes were too slanted, or their skin to yellow, and to use some whiting lotion, so that the student body can help work towards orthodox American values, and thus be productive to the collective student body’s academic development. HAH! THAT would make national news. I remember the daughter of my Norwegian friend and his Japanese wife, that she had to dye her hair black (which is naturally brown), when she worked at Space World in Kitakyushu. And to think they do not recognized this underlying racism. And then they will wonder why they will have no immigrants applying to work here in the future too!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A lot of anger out there! Wow!

well they expect non-black hair students to dye their natural hair black, at the same time forbidding black hair students to dye their hair any other color other than black. I mean other than the blatant discrimination and stupidity of the rule what's not to be angry about!? especially if you're a parent of one of these non-black hair students. discriminating against any person over their natural state is just plain wrong. Imagine if Japanese were banned from basketball/volleyball because theyre average height was too short.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Hair colour issues in the 21st century. I'm just stumped how some think this is just silly given absolutely no other democratic G7 countries would actually do this. Appalling really.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

savethegaijin

It'll vary school to school, but I have heard that some schools issue half kids or other kids with non-black hair "passports" that they can present if their teacher starts harassing them. The basic position at those schools though is that a teacher should still assume all kids with non-black hair have dyed it and therefore discipline the child for breaking the rules.

fwiw, my home town in the UK now has a publicly funded sixth form college called an "academy" for top performers. It has a host of rules parents have to sign up for, including ones about dying hair. My mother told me she knew a lady whose daughter was sent home for having blonde highlights done. She was excluded until she had them taken out. So anti-dying itself is not exceptional. Forcing kids to all look a model version of the same race is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There was one school that she and her husband really liked....except for the fact that the teacher had brown hair. She immediately crossed that school off the list. She said the brown hair indicated that the teacher was "not professional enough." Her husband couldn't understand, but realized he wasn't going to win that point and gave up.

Some Japanese women are very quick to judge each other. I see it as a barrier to the kind of solidarity that would push forward on women's issues. Some women would rather snipe about female politicians for superficial things like their appearance, clothes, or the sound of their voice than vote for them as a fellow sister fighting the good fight.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Don’t get too excited folks. This is just one official making a promise. It has to go through many other heads before it gains approval.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Schools are supposed to teach their kids to work with the world as it exists, not as they wish it to be.

Are they? I don't really know what any of that means, or what you imagine it means. Sounds like a conveniently flexible concept for any occasion though.

Cutting through the bullsh*t, are you saying you support requiring children to dye their hair black, or against the idea?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

All Japanese visiting or living in northern climes should be required to dye their hair blonde!

That would be no more asinine than this rule.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So, if you dyed your hair away from black, you were supposed to redye it back again?

You Only Dye Twice.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

As of when?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Until they go for job interviews in their black uniforms.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My take. Most commentators here are missing the issue. What the regulators wanted is, school children not get distracted by things like dyeing their hair, etc, just concentrate in getting good result. So, if you have naturally red hair, leave it as it is, DO NOT DYE. Obviously, the implementation, and rule was written badly. Remember the part of the article? that states most Japanese have naturally black hair.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Japan please STOP being so damned PRIMITIVE!!!!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Interesting how "educators" see their role as forcing children to submit to mindless (ethnic) dominance in order to get used to being totally miserable. You must be crushed. Nice to know the heart of Japanese education is a kind of sadistic socialization. What an utterly brutal and nihilistic society.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

What the regulators wanted is, school children not get distracted by things like dyeing their hair, etc, just concentrate in getting good result.

Education boiled down to absolute inanity. Well explained.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They absolutely will not stop the practice, and there will be no punishment for continuing to do it. Hell, they still literally sometimes beat students and get off with it, like the volleyball coach who has a good team record.

Kazuaki Shimazaki: "Not everyone wants to be an activist - some just want to get a job and the school is supposed to teach them how to get it."

Activist?? Some people just like to dye their hair... like their moms do, and probably their dads to a certain age.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

And some native Japanese are darker than others. Should they have to put on light makeup so everyone is uniform?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

”The nail that stands up must be hammered down!” Even if they do make this a law it will still be left to the scrutiny of individual schools and there will be no penalties for schools that continue to insist on it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yubaru: Yeah, 20 years ago the schools were pretty bad and its good that parents are less afraid of naishinsho, etc. and are speaking out. But things are still not good.

Tokyo has finally put a stop to hair-dying. But Tokyo is not all of Japan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If a Japanese teacher dared bully one of my children for such reason, he would face my own bullying rule he deserves and teach him a lesson.

Parents are responsible for the sake of their kids too.

That rule is just a show off of authority, a remain from the past.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Hair... I grew up in a culture where some people have 'good' hair and some 'do not'. Japan unfortunately only has two ways of doing and understanding most issues. 1) the Japanese way 2) the wrong way.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

JustMyThoughts

Japan unfortunately only has two ways of doing and understanding most issues. 1) the Japanese way 2) the wrong way.

Yep. And ironically, about half the time, the Japanese way is the wrong way. They're just too stubborn to admit it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Actually in Kansai, I see kids in school with dyed yellow hair. It is like the rule of parents having to pay the lunch money, you are supposed to do it but no one will stop if you don't.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Schools are supposed to teach their kids to work with the world as it exists, not as they wish it to be

Okay Kazu, then let's actually do that. Let's teach children that the world is filled with a plethora of variations in the human condition.

Some people are tall, some people are short, and there are hundreds of variations in between. Sometimes people want to adjust such a piece of data, so they wear high heels, or platform shoes, or they'll dress in vertical stripes to try and create the 'illusion' of height. None of these things affect their ability to be a contributing member of society, or their worth as human beings.

The same can be said for just about any physical characteristic, and many mental ones as well. Gender, fat/thin, eye shape, skin color... and yes, hair color.

That is the world as it exists, with people naturally having a plethora of colors, and people who choose to dye their hair colors a plethora of more colors.

You can 'wish' the world was different, that everyone existed in a homogeneous straight black haired bubble, but that's not how the world really exists.

So dropping the hair color policy is, in fact, just what you want. Let students be natural, whatever that hair color is.

I'd say really teach them how the world works... and let them dye their hair whatever color they want.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Some companies are considered "black companies" there are people in Japan that avoid those companies. Are they activist for avoiding those companies?"

You said it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Don’t get too excited folks. This is just one official making a promise. It has to go through many other heads before it gains approval.

Rephrase that to It has to go through many other heads before it becomes toothless.

In the spirit of eliminating hypocrisy, that ridiculous rule should apply equally to all principals, school and school board staff who are dying gray to black. Just sayin'.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tokyo has finally put a stop to hair-dying. But Tokyo is not all of Japan.

You missed the point of the entire article. Tokyo is NOT putting a stop to hair dyeing, this is one official trying to get the policy changed that forces students with natural hair color other than black to not be forced into dyeing their hair black to conform to their stupid arsed rules!

Students with already black hair will NOT be allowed to dye their hair! They will still get into trouble for it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

From the point of view of someone living in the West, this black hair rule is truly weird.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

From the point of view of someone living in the West, this black hair rule is truly weird.

Believe it or not, even among many of us living here in the East, this "rule" is truly weird too!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is going to be fun... as when my Kid goes to the local Public school here... he ain't dying his hair black (or any other Colour, whilst he's living under my roof).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They aren’t in high school yet but this is one of those things that really makes me second guess our decision to raise them in a country where such blatant discrimination against them is accepted as a matter of course. 

“second guess” means to try to predict what the other person is going to do, especially when their behaviour is erratic or inconsistent. I think you mean “think twice” which means to re-evaluate your own previous decision. It’s kind of hard to second guess yourself unless we’re getting into schizophrenia or mind altering substances.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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