Mainichi: Bullying of Filipina-Japanese grade schooler in Gunma leads to suicide: NHK ignores ethnicity issue in reports

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Hi Blog.  For the record, here are some of the Mainichi’s articles on a recent suicide of a multiethnic Japanese due to classroom bullying.  Uemura Akiko, a Filipina-Japanese grade schooler, was found dead by hanging three weeks ago in an apparent suicide, and evidence suggests that this was after being bullied for her Philippine ethnicity. Given the number of international marriages in Japan, I think we’re going to see quite a few more cases like this unless people start realizing that a multicultural, multiethnic Japan is not just something theoretical, but here and now.  We need an official, MEXT and board-of-education approach of zero tolerance towards kids (who are, of course, going to tease each other no matter what) who choose to single people out due to their race or ethnic background.

As submitter JK puts it, “This is why IMO, having a law against racial discrimination on the books is only part of the solution — what is really needed is a mental shift towards creating a culture of racial inclusion.  There is no future for a Japan whose modus operandi is 「出る杭は打たれる」.”

Articles follow.  Arudou Debito

UPDATENHK completely ignores issue of Akiko’s ethnicity as a source of her bullying in multiple reports.  See Comments Section below.

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Picture of classroom out of control emerges in wake of bullied 6th grader’s suicide
(Mainichi Japan) November 5, 2010, Courtesy lots of people

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20101105p2a00m0na005000c.html

MAEBASHI — Two weeks since the suicide of a sixth grader in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture, a picture of a classroom out of control has begun to take shape.

Akiko Uemura, 12, who was found hanged by a scarf in her room on Oct. 23, transferred from an elementary school in Aichi Prefecture when her family moved to Kiryu in October 2008. It was after her Filipino mother visited the school on parents’ visitation day in 2009 that Akiko’s classmates began commenting on her appearance.

After Akiko began sixth grade this past April, classmates started saying that she smelled bad and asked her if she bathed. Akiko appealed to her parents to let her transfer to another school, saying that she was willing to walk to school no matter how far. Her parents sought advice from the school on numerous occasions, and considered moving elsewhere once Akiko finished elementary school.

In late September, Akiko’s classmates began to sit as far away from her as possible at lunchtime despite their homeroom teacher’s admonitions to stay in designated groups. According to Akiko’s mother, Akiko asked a classmate to eat lunch with her in mid-October, only to be refused.

On Oct. 19 and 20, Akiko stayed home from school. Her homeroom teacher called her at home to encourage her to come to school on the next day, as the class was going on a field trip. On Oct. 21, however, some of Akiko’s classmates questioned her about why she only came to school when there was a special event and whether she was otherwise playing hooky, and Akiko came home in tears.

Akiko stayed home from school again on Oct. 22, and when her homeroom teacher visited her home that evening — when her parents happened to be at work — to report on the school’s decision to abolish lunchtime groupings, no one answered the door. On Oct. 23, Akiko woke up around 9 a.m. and had breakfast. When her mother looked into her room around noon, she was hanging from a curtain rail by a scarf that she had been knitting for her mother.

No suicide note has been found, but after her funeral on Oct. 26, manga entitled “Friends Are Great!” that Akiko appears to have drawn before her suicide was found. In a letter addressed to Akiko’s former classmate in Aichi that was found on Oct. 29, Akiko wrote: “I’m going to Osaka for junior high. So we might pass through Aichi. I’ll visit you if I can!”

Meanwhile, the faces of 15 classmates found in a photo taken during an overnight school trip when Akiko was in fifth grade were crossed out with what looked like ballpoint pen, and in response to a question from an autograph book asking what she wanted if she were granted one wish, she had written, “make school disappear.”

At Akiko’s elementary school, located among farms and new residential areas, the sixth grade students were divided into two homerooms. One classmate said, “There was a group of students who bullied Akiko. She looked really sad when they said things like ‘Get of the way’ and ‘Go away.’ No one tried to stop them.”

Another classmate said that other students had no choice but to go along with the bullying. “There were a few people who were at the center of the group, and the other students were too scared to defy them. The class was in chaos.”

ENDS

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Father of schoolgirl suicide victim says daughter was teased about mom’s nationality
(Mainichi Japan) October 27, 2010

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20101027p2a00m0na007000c.html

KIRYU, Gunma — A man who says his 12-year-old daughter’s suicide was triggered by bullying at school has told the Mainichi that his wife’s Filipino nationality may have been one of the reasons for the bullying.

Ryuji Uemura, 50, made the comment on the possible cause of the bullying of his daughter Akiko, who committed suicide in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture, in an interview with the Mainichi on Oct. 26.

“I think the fact that her mother was a Filipino was also one of the causes of the bullying,” he said.

Uemura said that when his daughter was in the fifth grade in 2009, her 41-year-old mother went to her school for a class observation day for the first time. At the time Akiko’s classmates teased her about her mother’s appearance, and after that she started to be bullied.

The 12-year-old’s memorial service was held at a funeral hall in Gunma Prefecture on Oct. 26, with about 90 people from her school and others in attendance. All 38 students in her class attended the funeral, complying with a request from the school.

“We’re very sad that she suddenly passed away. We hope she will rest in peace,” a boy representing the students said in a speech at the ceremony.

Speaking in a wavering voice, Uemura told participants, “Akiko got lonely and she always said she wanted to make lots of friends. I believe she is being watched over by her classmates today and is happy.”

ENDS

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Original Japanese stories

馬・小6自殺:願いは「学校消す」 学級崩壊、孤立深め
毎日新聞 2010年11月5日
http://mainichi.jp/select/jiken/news/20101105k0000m040124000c.html

群馬県桐生市の市立新里東小6年、上村明子さん(12)が自宅で首つり自殺をしてから間もなく2週間。「臭い、あっち行け」。一部の同級生からそんな言葉を投げつけられていた彼女は、6年の2学期になると給食も独りで食べるようになっていた。担任がほかの児童に決められた席で食べるよう指導しても状況は変わらなかったという。両親や学校関係者の説明を基に過程を振り返ると「学級崩壊」の中で孤立を深めていった彼女の姿が浮かぶ。【喜屋武真之介、塩田彩、鈴木敦子、角田直哉】

明子さんの家族は派遣社員の父竜二さん(50)と母(41)、小4の妹(10)。家族によると、父親の仕事の都合で転居を重ね、08年10月に愛知県から新里東小に転校した。4校目の小学校だった。

■         ■

09年4月 5年生に進級。父親によると、フィリピン出身の母が授業参観に訪れてから一部の同級生に容姿の悪口を言われるようになった。

今年4月 6年生に進級。「臭い」「風呂に入っているのか」などと言われるようになり、両親に「どんなに遠い学校でも歩いて行く」と転校を訴えるようになった。両親は学校側にたびたび相談し、中学進学を機に引っ越すことも考えていた。

9月18日 運動会。以後、明子さんのクラス(児童数39人)では授業中に児童がふざけたり、私語にふけるようになった。

同28日 担任(40代の女性教諭)は席の間隔を広げれば私語などがやむと考え、縦8列の席を6列に減らした。しかし児童たちは給食時、給食の班(5人程度)ではなく、席を移動して友達同士で食べるようになり、明子さんは孤立した。

10月14日 担任は校長らに相談の上、再び席替えを実施。給食の班替えも行った。

同18日 再び明子さんが給食で孤立するようになった。

母親によると、勇気を出してクラスメートに「一緒に食べよう」と頼んだことがあったが「また、今度ね」と断られたという。

同19日 明子さんが学校を欠席。

同20日 再び欠席。担任が「あすは社会科見学があるから、出てくれるかな」と電話をする。

同21日 社会科見学に出席した明子さんは一部の同級生から「なんでこういう時だけ来るの」「普段はずる休み?」などと言われ、泣きながら帰宅。

同22日 再び学校を欠席。学校側はこの日、給食の班を廃止。全員を黒板に向かって食べさせた。夜、担任が上村さん宅に報告に行ったが、共働きの両親は留守で、インターホンの呼び出しに返事はなかった。

同23日 明子さんは午前9時ごろ起床、朝食を食べた。正午ごろ、母が部屋をのぞくと、母のために編んでいたマフラーをカーテンレールにかけ、首をつっていた。

■         ■

明子さんの遺書は見つかっていない。しかし10月26日の告別式後、自殺直前に描かれたとみられる漫画が自宅で見つかった。タイトルは「やっぱり『友達』っていいな!」。同29日に見つかった愛知の元同級生にあてた手紙には「中学になったら大阪に行くんだ。だから愛知県を通るかもしれない。できたら会いに行くね!」とつづられていた。

一方、自室に残されていた5年の林間学校時の集合写真には、同級生15人の顔にボールペンの先のようなもので「×」印がつけられていた。「もしもひとつだけ願いがかなうなら?」との質問が書かれた市販のプロフィル帳には「学校を消す」と書かれていた。

明子さんの小学校は学区内に農村と新興住宅地が混在する。6年生は2クラスだけで、児童の一人は「上村さんをいじめるグループがあった。上村さんは『ちょっとどいて』『あっち行って』と言われ、悲しそうな顔をしていた。注意する人はいなかった」。別の児童はこうも言う。

「いじめの中心になる子が何人かいて、ほかの子は何をされるか分からないから逆らえない。クラスはバラバラで学級崩壊みたいな感じだった」

ENDS

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桐生・小6自殺:同級生が母の悪口 いじめのきっかけか
毎日新聞 2010年10月27日
http://mainichi.jp/life/edu/news/20101027k0000m040121000c.html

群馬県桐生市立新里東小6年、上村明子さん(12)が自殺し、父竜二さん(50)が「学校でのいじめが原因」と訴えている問題で、竜二さんは26日、毎日新聞の取材に「母親がフィリピン人であることもいじめの原因の一つだと思う」と述べた。

竜二さんによると、明子さんが5年生だった09年、母親(41)が初めて授業参観に訪れた。その際、明子さんは同級生から母親の容姿について悪口を言われた。その後、いじめられるようになった。

一方、明子さんの告別式が26日、同県みどり市の斎場で営まれ、学校関係者ら約90人が最後の別れを告げた。同じクラスの児童38人も学校の呼びかけに応じ、全員が参列した。

児童代表の男児が「突然亡くなってしまってとても悲しい。安らかに眠れるよう願っています」と弔辞を述べると、竜二さんは「明子は寂しがりやだったので、友達をたくさん作りたいといつも言っていた。今日は学校の同級生に見守られ、喜んでいると思う」と声を震わせながらあいさつした。【塩田彩、角田直哉】
ENDS

57 comments on “Mainichi: Bullying of Filipina-Japanese grade schooler in Gunma leads to suicide: NHK ignores ethnicity issue in reports

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  • steve schmandt says:

    Mark, thanks much for the reply, esp for helping keep my head of the twilight zone wrt Guest. He is pretty wierd. He responded to me with insults and rants against Debito. He totally misread the Mainichi article – the girls father very clearly stated with quotation marks around it that the ijime started because her mother is Filipina, but MG took the sentence with no quotation marks, i.e. mainichi’s statement that the ijime “may have been because of race”, attributed the “maybe” to otosan and went into a rant that the father himself only said “maybe…”, so Debito-tachi made up the racial aspect where none existed. MG is emotionally overwrought for some reason i can’t understand. Pretty strange for an English Language daigaku kyouju not to be able to even read an english newspaper article, if you ask me :).

    WRT the US, we still love it here – we have a large house with lots of LAND, 9 acres in the Sierra Foothills. But the public discourse here is just so crazy, you have that 100% correct. The political dynamic is ‘see who can give away the most tax cuts’. The ‘center’ moves further and further towards the ideology that government is bad & will always waste all the money it takes in taxes. But nobody has the political will to pay for the tax cuts. State and local governments are beyond broke and laying off teachers and cops, but we still have too much governement, somehow. The discourse is shrill, largely completely irrational.

    I’m not ready to move back to Japan, but it sure was a relief to get to a place where people don’t want to tear down all govt institutions and throw away science. Getting away from that into a relatively sane athmosphere was a great relief, I admit.
    Really a remarkable and pleasant change.

    Japan is still totally corporatist, run by and for the large financial interests. But at least you have less of our huge and growing income disparity with more and more wealth going to the top 0.5% as it is here. Here you also have some of the super rich pouring huge $ into right wing media and fake broadbased groups agitating for giving even more money to the super rich. etc. Things are likely to get worse and worse here for the middle class with more falling down and never able to get back up. Both US and Japan likely face long slow financial decline with no way back up.

    Maybe in Japan nobody cares that much about most political issues so that keeps a damper on harsh and divisive rhetoric.
    The non-caring part does not seem ideal, but it beats the heck out of the contention and craziness that seems to be seeping into everything here.

    I hope the above comments don’t cause any adverse reaction. on a non-political US blog, a would never post like that because a
    it would draw lots of flames.

    — I’ll approve this (‘cos I’ve had a long day already and I’m tired), but let’s leave out further discussion about any specifics about the direction of debate in the US unless we’re relating it somehow back to Japan (which arguably you are).

  • steve schmandt says:

    – I’ll approve this (‘cos I’ve had a long day already and I’m tired), but let’s leave out further discussion about any specifics about the direction of debate in the US unless we’re relating it somehow back to Japan (which arguably you are).

    Debito, fair enough. I certainly did not want to drag your thread down into US politics! It’s hard to talk about how crazy politics have gotten in the US without exposing a political point of view. It might be interesting to discuss Japan in this context, namely the tradeoff between avoiding ideological strife in public eg on message boards vs people just not having *any* opinion or interest in politics, social problems etc.

    In the US I find it very irritating that even say a stock trading message board can and often will get taken over by completely irrelevant abusive political commentary. That has helped me understand how my own political common sense is far from common. i.e. in non-political context don’t thoughtlessly say anything that will cause an reader of opposing ideology to
    react with flames.

    The internet is a pretty nasty place, esp unmoderated discussions! I wonder if people here get involved in any general discussions in japanese and if so how often ideological strife raises it’s ugly head.

    — Well, some of the message boards in Japanese can get pretty heated with similar ideological invective. As long as there’s someone people love to hate, there’s going to be Never the Twaining in discussions…

  • “I wonder if people here get involved in any general discussions in japanese and if so how often ideological strife raises it’s ugly head.”

    I believe Debito was the center of that a few years ago with 2Chan?

    Anyway, it is sad to see that we as foreigners can’t even get together and agree this is an issue that needs to be dealt with. The fact that this has turned into a political debate among foreigners is quite upsetting indeed.

  • They just had a five minute story on this on NHK 7. Once again absolutely no mention of the mother’s ethnic background.

    The good news is that the meetings and deliberations will continue.

  • This is all so sad. Racism exists in every country and apparently seems to be so atavistic
    that it is all but impossible to eliminate. The variety here is especially deadly because the
    very people who should deal with it, deny it exists at all. As with any psychological problem,
    the first step is to admit it exists. I am leaving Japan after 33 years here; I began by loving
    the country and people but now I have predominately negative feelings for many of the people
    here, especially those with any sort of power over others, bullies of all ages, especially.
    Pondering this, it appears that this country was taken over by bullies in the 1930s. We all
    know what that led to.

  • In the news today there is another suicide stemming from race-related bullying.
    An Indian student at a university in Osaka who committed suicide 3 years ago was called “Bin Laden”, had his pants pulled off and fireworks shot at him.

    http://sankei.jp.msn.com/affairs/crime/101227/crm1012270130003-n1.htm

    インド人学生自殺 ズボン脱がされ、あだ名は「ビンラディン」 親友が“いじめ”証言  (1/2ページ)
    産經新聞 2010.12.27 01:30

     追手門学院大学(大阪府茨木市)に通っていた在日インド人の男子学生=当時(20)=が大学でいじめを受け続けたとする遺書を残して自殺した問題で、男子学生が複数の学生から人前でズボンを脱がされたり、イスラム過激派テロリスト「ビンラディン」とのあだ名で呼ばれるなどの嫌がらせを受けていたことが26日、分かった。男子学生の親友が証言した。大学側はこれまでいじめの事実を強く否定してきたが、男子学生が、こうした嫌がらせをいじめと受け止め、自殺を図った疑いが強まった。
     いじめとみられる嫌がらせの具体的内容が判明するのは初めて。男子学生の友人らが結成した「自殺事件原因追及の会」に対し、男子学生と特に親しかった友人の1人が証言した。
     それによると、男子学生がたびたび嫌がらせを受けていたのは、遊び仲間だった複数の学生。人前でズボンを脱がされたり、花火を直接向けられたりしたほか、本名ではなく、「ビンラディン」と呼ばれるなどしていたという。
     また「お前をいじることが最近一番楽しい」「お前を見ているとなんかイライラする」などの暴言を吐かれることもあったという。
     男子学生は親友に対し、「最近、パシらされる(使い走りをさせられる)ことが多い」などと打ち明けることもあったという。
     親友は男子学生が自殺を図った後、「もっと彼を守ってあげることができればよかったと悩み苦しんだ」と話している。
     当時3年だった男子学生は平成19年6月、神戸市の自宅マンションから飛び降り自殺。遺書やメールには大学でのいじめを強く示唆する文面が記されており、遺族は調査を要望したが、大学側は3年以上放置。このため、遺族は今年8月、大阪弁護士会に人権救済を申し立てていた。
     大学側は産経新聞の報道を受けた8月の記者会見で、いじめの事実を強く否定したが、10月に弁護士らでつくる第三者委員会を設置し、自殺の原因などを調査しており、27日に記者会見を開き、調査結果を公表する予定。
     この問題をめぐっては、男子学生のゼミ担当教授が産経新聞の取材に対し、「大学はいじめ自殺の可能性が高いことを把握しながら調査せず隠蔽(いんぺい)した」と証言している。
    ENDS

  • One of the earliest documentaries I saw here was one of a mother whose daughter had committed suicide attempting to just find out from the school what happen, what went on to her daughter. She did not want compensation. She did not want to accuse anyone. She just wanted to know … I guess she was look for closure.

    She went back to the school with the cameras to show the stonewalling that he been going on. The headmaster refusing to talk to her. Other teachers just hanging their head down and not saying anything. She was left to walk the corridors like a ghost but she might as well have been in a different dimension.

    It was pretty harrowing. Doubly so because no other parents would support her either. That I cannot understand. The family were all Japanese.

    My kid brother was badly bullied at school because he was too tall and lanky until one day he threw a lucky punch and laid out the biggest bad guy. From that time on he was respected. I thought the laws in Japan allowed kids a little bit more lenience in their misdemeanours.

    I think we should start a national wide “Scary Gaijin Agency” and hire our a 6″ advantage to the kids who are being picked on.

    — What was the name of the documentary?

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