Japanese High School Shoplifting Cover-Up

November 27, 2008

Twenty-one students, many of them members of the baseball team at Sakae High School, a private high school in Hokkaido, shoplifted during a school trip to the United States this month.

Eight students were caught by staff members at the store after stealing several expensive brand bags and wallets. The school apologized to the duty free shop from which everything was stolen and the items in question were returned. However, upon returning to Japan, the school found that thirteen other students had also shoplifted from duty free shops.

Someone associated with the duty-free shop that was targeted was quoted as saying that this was the first time they had ever fallen victim to such a large, organized “group shoplifting”.

Because of the involvement of baseball players, the school is required to file a report with their prefectural baseball federation. When members of a high school baseball team do something wrong, the team or individual members may be suspended or disciplined. This often just leads to a whole lot of cover-ups and tricky wording on disciplinary paperwork.

Some cover-ups also occur just to protect the name of the school and applicant numbers for the following year. It’s high school application time now for most private high schools in Japan so a big controversy could really hurt the application rates (and pocketbook of the school). Even if the schools fill the necessary spots for the following year, application fees are a big source of easy money for many private schools in Japan.

Kudos to whoever blew the whistle, and I hope for the sake of these kids that the hammer comes down on them. It may seem a little cruel to say that, but the education system in Japan right now offers no tangible way for teachers to discipline students.

… and what does it say to the students when a school decides to cover-up what they did?

  • It’s OK to lie and cover things up
  • What you did isn’t really that bad
  • If this happens again, we’ll cover that up too so that our original cover-up stays covered

So how will the school be disciplined for the cover-up? A slight drop in admissions depending on how well they keep this story out of mainstream media, and the baseball team will be forced to sit out the winter (least important in baseball) season.


1 Dave December 2, 2008 at 12:46 am

These kids were damn lucky not to be detained in the US. Instead they are basically getting a slap on the wrists (a 5-day suspension from school) and told not to do it again. This story was on the news websites in Japan but it wasn’t deemed important enough to be on the front pages for more than a few hours.

Would have loved to seen the uproar had the students been arrested and held in the US.

2 jay December 2, 2008 at 9:54 am

It happens a lot in Japan… an apology and letter always seems to suffice.

The next time I get stopped for speeding I’m going to ask if I can settle it with a written apology instead of the 15,000 yen fine!

The real problem though is the school trying to silence it all. That’s the worst example these “educators” could set.

3 Dave December 3, 2008 at 2:12 am

You’re forgetting the silent 35 degree bow taken while the camera shutters go off!