On January 21 this year, during a free study period at a junior high school in Ibaraki Prefecture, a teacher (and head of the grade level) walked into a classroom to yell at two kids for going home too late the previous day. The two students were in their third year and had just returned from a high school entrance exam, and one student was wearing a name tag in a different name from the one he used in junior high school.
This may require a little explanation and a little extrapolation but this is an important article because it touches on the ever present and unspoken problem of racism in junior high schools in Japan.
The article never states the reason that the student is applying to high schools under his official registry name, but kept the official name secret and used his mother’s maiden name in junior high school. Often this happens when a student’s father’s name is of Chinese or Korean origin. The students are sometimes advised to enter junior high school using a Japanese name (the mothers maiden name in this case) in order to avoid bullying or prejudice. However when applying to high school, especially more open-minded private high schools, the student may opt to use their real name.
Junior high school students in Japan often wear name tags on their uniforms. In this case the student had carelessly left the name tag with his real name on his uniform. When the bad teacher came into the room, he decided to use this to embarrass the kid by repeatedly yelling out the kids officially registered name, adding comments such as, “Why did you change your name?”, “This isn’t your name!”
Students who were present also verified the incident, and that it seemed that the teacher was trying to embarrass or make trouble for the student by yelling out his name. The school initially denied that the incident took place, but after pressure from students and parents of students who witnessed what happened the school finally admitted to the allegations.
The school finally admitted to the allegations in APRIL!
This is yet another incident of schools refusing to admit they’ve done wrong until the students involved have graduated and are out of their hair. Its a very common strategy employed here to just wait and hope that the people involved will give up.
There are no hate crime or anti-racism laws in Japan, so there is not much the family can do for legal recourse. In April, the school finally apologized to the parents and student saying that the teacher was too strict with the student and should have taken more care.
My personal reaction to this is that I’ve seen it happen before. I have known plenty of people of Korean or Chinese descent who have grown up in Japan, but still feel a need to hide their official names. Many of them get the courage to attend high school or university using their real names, but risk facing racism from professors, classmates, and prospective employers.
As Japan’s population decreases, more people are going to come from nearby countries to work here (if the entire economy does not just downsize into oblivion), so the society is going to have to come to terms with non-Japanese working here. In the meantime, some kind of hate crime or anti-racism legislation is a must.
I will end on a positive note by saying that at least a few people of non-Japanese descent that I know who have “come out” have gone on to law school specifically to fight racism in Japan.