On Tuesday, the Osaka district court ruled that a woman who was removed from her school roster in 2015 for refusing to dye her naturally brown her black is entitled to $3,100 compensation from the school. However, this is not on the grounds of being bullied by teaching staff for her hair colour, but for the illegal act of removing her from the roster. In fact, earlier court cases around similar issues of students with naturally light hair being forced to dye it black have gone all the way to the Supreme Court which has found such measures to fall “within the range of educational guidance”. While schools in Japan are known for their regimented nature, this raises questions for how students who naturally do not fit the stereotypical Japanese appearance are expected to conform. It could well be argued that these cases expose the crushing conformism imposed through Japan’s homogeneity myth of nihonjinron, or ‘Japaneseness’. It is this fixed notion of what it means to be Japanese, enshrined and enforced by laws and regulations, that creates such circumstances where a young girl is forced to alter her natural appearance by her own school teachers.
How far should a school shape a child’s image? While school uniforms are fairly standard, what if the required uniform is made by Giorgio Armani? Can a student with blue eyes be forced to wear coloured contact lenses? Let us know what you think in the comments below.