Part 2 of a 2 part series. The first can be read here.
5) School Uniforms
Yep, school uniforms are a part of daily life here in Japan. It seems a lot of public Elementary schools (ES) don’t have uniforms and many private ones do. Of course, there are exceptions on either side. For Junior High (JHS) and Senior High (SHS) uniforms are the norm.
A lot of schools have a summer and winter variation on their uniforms. Also, in addition to the gym uniforms schools may have a kind of track suit style casual uniform. When I worked in Gunma prefecture it was the norm for most JHS to use this track suit as the daily uniform and keep the formal uniform for special occasions. This probably has to do with the high cost of especially the formal versions.
The articles also mentions restrictions on hairstyles, makeup, nail polish, and all that is pretty true. Although high schools do seem to be more relaxed on this than JHS. At JHS, if a kid dyes their hair, some schools won’t allow them to join regular classes until the hair is back to its natural color. Also, some schools categorize sun screen as make-up, which means it isn’t allowed for use. This can include sports day, where students spend the entire day outside. Obviously, this can lead to some terrible burns and pained kids the next day.
Sure, these exist and there is a little bit of training for them. I don’t really know what else to say.
There are plenty of things about America I miss. The prevalence of gun violence is not one of them. And while I do have a few rants about whether or not Japan deserves its reputation as a safe, crime free land, the murder ratios are drastically different and Japan is on the good side.
7) School Lunches are Actually Quality
Up through JHS I will stand on behind Japan’s school lunches. It does tend to be fresher and healthier than what I remember from my school days, even if it is made off site and delivered to the schools. (Smaller schools in more isolated areas might be made at school.) Everyone eats the same meal, although teachers will usually get a bigger portion, especially at elementary schools.
I’m trying to recall what happens with students who have allergies or other dietary concerns. Honestly, I’m not really sure. Maybe they are allowed to bring something from home, although normally this isn’t really permitted? Maybe someone will comment with some insight.
I left high schools out, because they seem to be on a different schedule. I know some provide a lunch, but many others just kind of let the kids fend for themselves. Some SHS kids basically choose to live off of convenience store food.
Now, about those picky eaters. It’s a tricky subject because kids are pressured to eat everything on their plate, but at the same time many schools and/or teachers allow students to share food, so if you really don’t like something, it might be possible to give it to a friend who does. As to waiting until, the last kid finishes, that depends. I’ve been in classes where everyone does a joint “itadakimasu” at the beginning of a meal and only then can they start eating. Also, there can be a communal “gochisosamadeshita” at the end of a meal, before which you can’t leave your seat. Some teachers are really strict on the before meal waiting, but let the kids finish and leave as they go.
One big thing, is that if there is unserved food remaining, kids are allowed to get seconds. You can tell how popular a meal is by how much is left over at the end of lunch.
Last, I don’t know why the linked article used that picture for the lunch. This is what a typical Japanese school lunch looks like (although slotted trays instead of plates are also common):
8) Daily Greetings are required
This one was pretty spot on. At the start of every class there is the formalize aisatsu (greeting). A common version is a student or two, alternating daily, will call the class to attention, have everyone stand, greet the teacher, have everyone sit, and the class begins. All in all, it generally takes between 5-10 seconds and is a nice way to get things started.
There are, of course, regional variants. What is said might change, whether or not standing is required might differ. In English class it could be more casually, or just a an English translation. Heck, some English classes still stat with the Japanese aisatsu.
The meditation mentioned in the article, well, that I’m not sure about. Most of my experience has been in ES and JHS. I will say that the only schools that I have heard of having daily meditation have been Buddhist schools. Again, maybe a kind commenter can clear things up.
I’ve lived in Japan for a while now and have developed a deep affection for it. There are some incredible things about Japan, and there are some really crappy things about Japan. On average things are, well, average.
Or, if we want to avoid average because it might sound pejorative, a lot of things that are written about Japan in lists on Facebook aren’t really representing the truth. They take complex, if everyday, systems, strip out any nuance, polish them up and throw them out there to get clicks. Good or bad, Japan is rarely simple. My birth country, America, can learn a lot from how Japan does things. Just like Japan can learn a lot from America. But reading half-truths does less to give insight and does more to just spread stereotypes.
Let’s continue to look deeper and find something to take away.