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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on November 8th, 2010

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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.

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    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

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    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

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    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

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

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

    1. Dan Kirk Says:

      Agreed, “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.”

      However, working within he government school system to fix a problem endemic to the government school system is unlikely to produce a fix.

      Bullying is endemic to institutions where those institutionalized (military, prisons, schools) are forced to associate. Government schools must be dismantled, and children/parents given the choice of educational opportunities.

      From School and Health 21, 3/2008, Social and Health Aspects of Health Education
      BULLYING IN SCHOOLS
      Marie BLAHUTKOVÁ, Michal CHARVÁT (collected 2010/11/8 at 13:35)
      http://74.125.155.132/scholar?q=cache:8W-1OLadHrAJ:scholar.google.com/+bullying,+institutions,+prisons,+military,+school&hl=en&as_sdt=2000

      “Fifth stage (totality, so called complete bullying)
      The fifth stage of bullying may be found in prisons, military institutions and educational institutions for youth.”

      There is one theme common to all school bullying, and that is school.

    2. Allen Says:

      This is just horrible…this makes me wonder what is going on psychologically in the world to explain the rise of bullying within our societies. A grade-schooler of all people…my heart is with the parents. And speaking of parents, the parents of the bullies need a good long chewing out. Dang, I’d fly over and tell them off myself if I had the money!

      – Bullying happens. It’s something hard to stamp out when kids are naturally cruel to one another. However, that should not stop people from trying. A case like this provides an example of what symptom to target.

    3. Ken Says:

      I do not think that dismantling the government schools will eliminate bullying. You will find bullies wherever you go. It happens in private schools just as often as public schools.

      I do however agree that choice is important. The parents should have options on how to educate their children. I think that the public school system however should remain one of those options.

      The children need to be educated on the subject, and monitored. Just telling them that it is wrong is not always enough. Rules need to be in place, and enforced strictly. Opportunities for bullying need to be minimized. I am not saying that the schools should be on a total security lock down, but there is no reason that children should be given the opportunity to abuse each other during the school day. The adults that are entrusted with their care need to take responsibility (teachers and parents).

    4. Tacit Blue Says:

      Good God… this is easily among the most disgusting cases I’ve ever read here. I was bullied my fair share in school, but I can’t even fathom the kind of abuse that would drive a 12-year-old to suicide…

      I think the quote by JK put it best. They can make as many laws as they want, (though this would at least be a step in the right direction) but this is a much deeper problem. I know Japan generally seems to pay little mind to the plights of foreigners, but I should hope nobody’s cold enough to turn the other cheek when a 12-year-old has hung herself because of racism.

      Japan as a society needs to take this case (and others like it) very seriously, and take a good long look in the mirror and realise that something is very wrong with this picture. Enough is enough.

      Without genuine societal change, laws would only treat the symptoms, not the disease.

    5. Johnny Says:

      I saw a bit of this when I was living in rural Japan. One Filipino-Japanese boy in particular used to cop it big time from other kids at school for ‘looking different’.
      From talking to the mother, the school itself basically didn’t want to know about it.

      Frankly I’m hardly surprised to see an article such as this one appear.

    6. E.P. Lowe Says:

      I had a similar experience teaching in a small town in Tohoku – save that the kid being bullied had learning difficulties. I seemed to be the first to draw attention to what the kid was going through. The school tried to counter it but pretty ineffectively – the most important thing was never done: they didn’t punish the ringleader at all. It wouldn’t have surprised me that this was not done so as to not offend and bring shame to the bully’s parents.

      I, as an over-paid JET, was at least able to interact with the bullied kid, and was able to prevent him being harassed in activities by foiling attempts to trick him.

      Japanese society seems to allow bullies to get away with things too easily, as heaven forbid a parent gets shamed by the activities of their child.

      – More on my experience using the Power of Bullies here.

    7. betty boop Says:

      and i have something to add in regards to bullying. i am not sure if you know this but teachers (yes, even elementary teachers) are known to leave the room for long periods of time – for what exactly, i am not sure – and that there is no one to supervise on the playgrounds even during the school day. this, IMHO is a huge factor in bullying. let`s not leave those children alone in classrooms or on the playgrounds.

    8. debito Says:

      NHK 7PM this evening had a brief blurb about this case.

      The local BOE has acknowledged that bullying has occurred. But they will not officially say that this is a cause of Akiko’s suicide.

      Akiko’s father was upset about this decision and said that he couldn’t accept it.

      No mention was made of any connection with her ethnicity and the bullying whatsoever.

    9. amaenbou Says:

      This is really sad. I myself was bullied daily from 6th to 8th grade. I was an immigrat to the US. It affected me a lot psychologically even now as an adult my human interactions are not quite how they should be.
      Ironically, in my Japanese class the Japanese teacher ignored it when I was bullied in class and never addressed it. In American Lit class, the teacher told me to “Just ignore it.”

      It is sad this happened with this girl, but school officials have a lot of blame in this. My mom talked to school authorities so many times regarding the threats I was receiving, and the bullying. They never did anything.

      The Shikata ga nai exists here in the US, too.

      – As it did with child abuse back in the seventies and eighties. I know. I hope it’s better now.

    10. ken44 Says:

      Years back while working as an ALT I noticed one girl in the class had lost a lot of weight over the summer. She was skin and bones. I also began noticing how she seemed ostracized by the other students. I brought this to the attention of the J-teacher I worked with but he did nothing. He wasn`t interested at all and just ignored the fact the girl would often sit alone during class exercises.

    11. AJ Says:

      I’ve been working in public schools here for five years, and before that eikaiwa for three, and have found Japanese kids to say and do beastly things to each other, while teachers, parents are left wanting when it comes to intervene.

      I’ve fostered great relationships with children in my classes by accepting them when their teachers and peers will not. Not because I found them to be inspiring, at all, but cos every troubled kid can do with an adult mentor to give them a bit of self worth, especially young Japanese kids too accustomed to being a nail that gets hammered down.

      And then there’s the elephant in the room, race, mixed with bullying. The powers that be and the so called adults at every level have their heads buried in the sand on this issue nationwide. It is a disgrace.

      That there is every chance this girl was targeted, and killed herself because of race based bullying, is staggering to me. A similar case occured in Australia when I was in grade school and the issue was dealt with swiftly, strictly and sensitively.

      No such luck for students here, with backward thinking teachers and patents setting ignorant and overtly racist examples for their youngsters to follow. There are some good eggs in the box, but they are few.

      The next generation will suffer the same way, as the twenty somethings of today are setting the same ignorant examples. The stares, the gaijin das, not taking the empty seat on the train, GETTING UP and moving if you sit next to them!!the obnoxious comments about you, or foreigners that they think you don’t understand at the office, on the train, at family restaurants, pretty much everywhere, show no signs of abating. It’s an unending cycle and no cracks are appearing.

      Not even an appalling case like this, a race tinged bullying related suicide of a 12 year old JAPANESE girl, shows the slightest hint of setting off alarm bells. No mention of hints of guilt by bullies, teachers, or parents of bullies at all. They should be dying inside of shame and guilt.

      The most guilty figure is the weak home room teacher. So little control that basic rules of seating arrangements went unenforced. Clearly had no respect from her children, nor the courage to stand up to twelve year olds.

      And what is it with the abolishing of group seating rules? What kind of toothless non solution is that? Option A; deal with the racism and bullying. Option B; change the rules so we don’t have to confront anyone. This whole case stinks of what not to and the worst case scenario that could result.

      Some might think I’m drawing too long a bow in pointing fingers of blame at school system, parents and society for this girls death. I don’t. Theyre all guilty as sin. How many more kids have to die before the powers that be take the blinkers off and do something sensible?

    12. John Says:

      NHK’s 9pm broadcast tonight was no better. In the seven minutes they devoted to the story, they managed to avoid mentioning her ethnicity or the nature of the bullying at all. They emphasised that her death has not been formally linked to the bullying, despite the evidence.

      – Sniff sniff, I’m beginning to smell official coverup of the issue by the GOJ-run sectors of the Japanese media.

    13. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Aj@11

      “The most guilty figure is the weak home room teacher. So little control that basic rules of seating arrangements went unenforced. Clearly had no respect from her children, nor the courage to stand up to twelve year olds. ”

      In my situation the homeroom teacher was also useless – but to be honest, it didn’t seem like there was anything solid being done by the higher-ups.

    14. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Debito

      “– Sniff sniff, I’m beginning to smell official coverup of the issue by the GOJ-run sectors of the Japanese media.”

      Or just extreme nationalism – it may be the flip side of what I witnessed when the two Japanese nationals, Professors Negishi and Suzuki shared the 2010 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Professor Richard F. Heck of the US – no need was seen to honor Prof. Heck with a name – he was just ‘an American scientist’. Disgusting.

    15. Rachel Says:

      I find this story saddening beyond words. My heartfelt condolences go to Akiko’s family.

      While it’s true that bullying isn’t an issue limited to Japanese school, the lack of action from teachers and parents of other children in this particular case is appalling. What’s worse, this passiveness gets passed on to the children (re: ‘no one did anything to stop’ the bullies).

      “The local BOE has acknowledged that bullying has occurred. But they will not officially say that this is a cause of Akiko’s suicide.” – Will they do anything past ‘acknowledging’? Or simply ignore any further involvement in the story and hope that the media hype dies down? What a bunch of spineless individuals these people must be…

    16. Teatrino Says:

      I almost cryed while readind this… The poor girl must have felt so lonely, so desperate, that no one would be doing anything for her. And when you don’t see any sollution, you come to think about suicide…

      I’ve felt the same when I was a teen; I was the class genius, had big glasses, no girlfriend and a weak constitution… so I was the bullied one. At this time, I thought of suicide, but fortunataly I came to think “They bully me because I’m weak, huh ? Then I’ll get strong !” And so every day after school, I had been doing weight lifting and stuff… One day, 2 classmates got me in the “Let’s push each other to see who’s the strongest” game, and I was able to hold the 2 of them. Then they said “Damn, you’ve become a hard-boiled. Good !!!” I’ll remember this sentence all my life, because from that day on, I was a part a the class and not bullied anymore. Strange how such a stupid consideration as “meat mass” can exclude you from a group as a boy…

      But what if I had been a girl ? How can I get accepted ? These kind of tragedy could lead the children to be ashamed of they “ethnic” parents and hide It from the others, as if It was a crime or a disease.

      When I was a exchange student in Japan, there was a guy who was quite bullied by the stupid and arrogant sannensei (extorsion and stuff) and was completely ignored by my ninensei classmates. The poor guy was very shy; every time I invited him to have lunchtime with my 4 J friends and me, He would refuse and eat alone… Everyday. Once, I rescued him from 3nensei extorsion (nothing heroic; just looked pissed off, said “Kiero kisamara !!!”… and It was enough to make them leave without a word…) I asked the guy to tell me when He’s in trouble, and who do that, but He never told me anything, even when He had several concussions on his face…

      In my school, there was a JET from England. We were quite friend and He too was concerned by this. He spoke of this to our homeroom teacher, and the day after, the only thing she said was “Well they MIGHT be bulling in this school too, eto… minasan chanto nakayoku shite ne” And that was all about It! And nothing was said to those 3nensei bastards ! So the only one lectured… was the bullied guy !!!

      And almost every morning, the female students were told how low-life girl they are if they use make-up or hair dye, or that they will end up as prostitute if they take the habit of shortening their skirts… But the same teachers were doing absolutely NOTHING when the rat-faced guys from “soap salons” and the likes were freely handling pink folios for “entertaining and exciting baito” to the girls at the very gates of the school !!!

      PS To Debito: my English is quite poor; feel free to correct It for better understanding.

    17. AJ Says:

      The Media is once again proving itself a lackey to politicians and censors. What do they teach them in journalism courses here?

      Any worthwhile, non racist, non fear mongering news source would be shouting from the rooftops.

      The powers that be foster, then ignore the consequences of, systematic societal ignorance about the “other”.

      It does not help that many adults in Japan are no more intelligent, no less immature and no less bullies and no less fearful racists than these children. It’s very “The Lord of the Flies.”

      Anyone who has had children “kancho” you, and wondered by such disgraceful antisocial behaviour runs wild all over this country, only has to consider that grown Japanese men inflict the same infantile bullying behaviour on kohai colleagues and friends in the adult workplace. It’s an apt metaphor, rather than change to something better, too many adults here never grow up and see the error of their childish views and ways. Not all, mind you, but many. And there’s noone around willing to stand up and say enough! Don’t you see what you’re doing! Don’t you see the depth of the harm you do!

    18. sendaiben Says:

      I have found dealing with our local junior high school as a parent with regards to bullying very frustrating. Even where criminal damage has occurred, the school was reluctant to involve the police or actually do anything (we had to postpone our meetings at first as the bullies had an important test that the teachers were concerned about -wouldn’t want to affect their schooling!).

      Eventually we bypassed the school and went straight to the police, who were much better. This resulted in a conference with the parents, where we got compensation and I was able to talk to the parents and kids directly (in a ‘I will end you if this happens again’ kind of way).

      However, I used to work in the local BOE, have lots of contacts in the educational community, and speak good Japanese. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone without those advantages, or who didn’t know how the school system works…

      Basically, if there is a problem with a school, talk to the homeroom teacher, then the head of year, then the vice-principal, then the principal, then the BOE. Be polite yet firm and write everything down. Be clear as to what the problem is and how you would like it resolved. Ask how the school is planning to deal with things and follow up. Talk to a lawyer if necessary (they do quite reasonable consultations).

      It’s horrible when your child is unhappy because of others’ malice, and it is totally the luck of the draw with regards to homeroom teachers and schools. However, having worked with hundreds of teachers in the Japanese school system, I would say most teachers are good and some are excellent. Don’t be discouraged.

    19. Dan Kirk Says:

      In a system, like the government’s education system in Japan, when there is no competition and bullying is incentivized, the state will continue with the only solutions offered being higher taxes and more state control of our children.

      There is no serious competition in the elementary/jr. high school level. There are some private schools, but they are expensive and difficult to get into. Parents who are able to send their children to these schools pay taxes as well as tuition. Many parents cannot afford this expenditure. Development of home schooling options (which also force parents to forfeit their tax dollars earmarked for education)is slow. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fs20080520a4.html

      The bullying problem is incentivized when concerned parents go to the state expecting solutions. The state has none, so will say that increasing budgets, numbers of teachers in the system, and stricter control of our children will be necessary. This means a greater share of our children’s attention and tax yen will go to MEXT.

      The only question left to be answered if the state is left to monopolize educational opportunities in Japan is how much of this kind of bullying are we willing to tolerate. 5% less? 50% less? But remember, the cost will be giving greater privilege to the already over-privileged.

    20. Joe Jones Says:

      I encourage everyone to write to NHK about this omission, which is inexplicable and pretty damn major. There is an email form below (Japanese):

      http://www.nhk.or.jp/css/goiken/mail.html

      Here is what I said (loosely translated): “I watch NHK news all the time, and I thought that your reporting of the Akiko Uemura suicide was completely inadequate. The Mainichi Shimbun has reported that a major cause of the suicide was the foreign ethnicity of her mother, yet NHK has made no reference to this in multiple broadcasts. ‘Bullying’ is a broad issue, hard to deal with, and in most cases it does not lead to suicide. Nobody can do much if they see a vague story about a girl committing suicide due to bullies. Racial discrimination is a specific issue which has negative effects all the time. But if news organizations do not report the fact that it exists, nothing will be done about it. This was a major reporting error on the part of NHK, and a disservice to the country that largely relies on you for news.”

    21. debito Says:

      Thanks to Joe Jones. Here’s what I said (or tried to –I first sent the Japanese version within the requirement of 400-ji. Then when I tried to send the English version, even whittled it down to 95 letters, it wouldn’t take it. Wonder why.)

      抗議文:上村明子の自殺事件:いじめの原因はフィリピンの母を省かないこと

      NHK殿 前略 いつもお世話になります。

      さて、群馬・小6の上村明子の自殺事件の件ですが、きのうのニュース夜7時と9時、イジメの原因一つはフィリピンの母であるようです、と親が主張しています。

      群馬・小6自殺:願いは「学校消す」 学級崩壊、孤立深め

      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。

      http://mainichi.jp/select/jiken/news/20101105k0000m040124000c.html

      事件にとって必要不可欠なことです。NHKがこれを報道から省くと、人種や身元による差別について意識高揚できません。よって、このようなイジメに対する対策が国際化している日本教育制度にとって極めて必要だとは認識しません。

      改めて、人種・身元によるイジメであったことも報道して下さい。

      ちなみに、私のメーリングリストにも以降の通り書きました。ご参考下さい。宜しくお願い致します。有道 出人 草々

      Hello Subscribers to Debito.org Newsletter.

      It’s been pretty big news recently about the Uemura Akiko suicide, where a 12-year-old girl was bullied to death, according to her parents, because she has a Filipina mother. This is according to the Mainichi Shinbun of a couple of days ago:

      http://www.debito.org/?p=7759

      Although the news yesterday was bad about this (the local BOE acknowledges that she was bullied, but won’t confirm that it was the reason for her suicide), the worse news is the reportage from NHK.

      Both the 7PM and 9PM news last night said nothing about her mixed ethnicity being the possible cause of her bullying.

      This is an irresponsible omission. It bodes ill for this being treated properly — as a clarion call for people to wake up and realize that a multiethnic Japan is not theoretical. It is here now, and there must be zero tolerance for racially-motivated bullying.

      People can send letters to NHK directly at

      http://www.nhk.or.jp/css/goiken/mail.html

      as individuals, of course. If you’ve no time for composing in Japanese, I’m sure English will do just as well.

      Approximate contents courtesy of a friend at
      http://www.debito.org/?p=7759#comment-210283

      Please consider making your opinion known. Thank you very much. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
      ENDS

    22. debito Says:

      Friend commented on Facebook:

      Ahh, here is the address of NHK world, which might help. They’ve got a contact page. I copied and pasted the sample protest letter posted by one of the readers at your blog amd sent it there.

      NHK Global English contact form:

      - https://www.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/contact/index.html

    23. Norik Says:

      They won’t say anything.
      You know, last month I watched a TV show where they told the story of Sahel Rosa, and there they omitted everything related to Rosa’s mother’s Japanese boyfriend, who invited them to Japan and then, because of the girl, threw them on the street.

    24. Allen Says:

      Ok, sent them a letter. Thanks for the links the both of you.

    25. Joe Jones Says:

      DO NOT COPY AND PASTE, people! Please try to put this in your own words. 100 copies of the same letter does not have the same effect as 100 distinct letters on the same topic.

      – Still, I’d rather have 100 letters saying the same thing from 100 different people than significantly fewer yet individualized comments from people who managed to make more time. When it comes to feeling pressure, I think NHK is more likely to count the number of comments than read each one and suck on the sincerity. Same principle applies to Greenpeace and Amnesty postcard campaigns.

    26. Allen Says:

      Don’t worry mate, I sent them a original one, albeit in English.

    27. David Chart Says:

      Do we actually know that her ethnicity was important in the bullying? The Yomiuri, Asahi, and Sankei coverage of the case suggests that the main issue was her being isolated, and the bullying reported does not have racial content. Yes, her father suggested that it may have been a cause, but none of the reports suggest that he raised issues of racism with the school authorities. The Yomiuri and Sankei don’t even seem to be mentioning that she was multi-ethnic. One Asahi report does mention that her mother was from the Philippines, in the context of saying that her Japanese was fluent (and thus that there was no communication problem to explain why no-one talked to her; that is obviously relevant).

      As for the comment about news sources shouting from the rooftops, they are. All the main papers are running multiple articles, the Education Minister is commenting on the case, and the articles about the school’s refusal to say that the bullying caused the suicide, and taking two weeks to admit there was bullying at all, are not exactly sympathetic to the school.

      Would we prefer the news media to bring in the ethnicity of people even when it is not clearly relevant to the story at hand? Well, no, I know we wouldn’t, because we’ve complained about that in the past. We want the media to treat Japanese people of different ethnicity the same way they treat Japanese people of “Japanese” ethnicity, and that’s what’s happening here. This story is being treated in the same way as other bullying-related suicides have been in the past.

      It’s possible that the Japanese media is deliberately ignoring the racial aspects because it makes Japan look bad, but it’s also possible that they’re ignoring them because they don’t seem to be a major feature of this case. I don’t see how we can know which it is.

      – By close accounts, this is not a typical case of bullying because ethnicity was a factor, so it should not be “treated in the same way as other bullying-related suicides have been in the past”. If the parents publicly say her ethnicity was a factor (and they did in the Mainichi), that’s clearly relevant, and the media should report them as saying as such (they should know their daughter best of anyone). If other media did so, great, but NHK did not. That’s what this blog entry is about.

      Besides, how much definitive evidence do you need? Reductio ad absurdum in the realm of “possibility”, how long before you second-guess yourself into believing she killed herself for no reason at all? Just because the media did not report something does not necessarily make that something less a fact of the case. Let’s show a bit of sensitivity here.

    28. Bob Says:

      Here’s an excerpt of what I sent. I think this is an effective way to phrase a message, so I share it with the thought that if you like it, you might use it as a basis for your messages. They need to take responsibility for their role in this kind of bullying.

      この報道は情けないほど無責任に思います。
      日本に住んでいて人種差別を体験することは勿論のことですが、この子供が自殺するまで人種差別的ないじめを受けたことはこのような問題を無視するNHKの責任です。責任を取って問題意識を普及して下さいと書いて期待したいが、無理です。なぜなら、NHKの番組の中でも無責任に人種差別的な(example of discriminatory programming I have seen)。次回(such a program)放送する際、その結果いじめられ自殺する子供のことを考えて下さい。

    29. David Chart Says:

      According to the Mainichi, the father made that comment in an interview with the Mainichi Shinbun. Even the Mainichi seems to have avoided repeating it, and the father doesn’t seem to have raised the issue again. He may even have asked reporters not to make an issue of it. (Just because it wasn’t reported doesn’t mean it’s not a fact of the case, right?) In any case, suggesting that NHK lacks journalistic integrity for failing to report an isolated remark made by the father to another organisation strikes me as a bit excessive. If anyone has actual evidence that it was more than that, please share.

      My point is that we don’t have nearly enough evidence to bombard NHK with complaints about their reporting. The bullying is well-established; the parents repeatedly talked to the teacher about it, and the teacher apparently took action, which was ineffective (it didn’t, it seems, involve directly confronting the bullies). The father repeatedly insists that there was bullying, and that it caused his daughter’s suicide, in all contexts. It’s ridiculous, and insulting, to suggest that I might think she killed herself for no reason.

      – And it’s ridiculous of you to say that I suggested as such. I was suggesting a logical extension to illustrate what I considered a rather insensitive approach. Reading comprehension please.

      Pray, tell us what you think would be “nearly enough evidence to bombard NHK with complaints about their reporting”? Give us a scenario to illustrate your approach.

    30. AJ Says:

      I’m not going to say you’re wrong, David C, nor try to patronize you, I’m not sure if youve ever worked in Japanese schools or not.

      I have, and while some students I’ve seen are supportive of new foreign children trying to adjust and fit in, and some teachers I’ve worked with are too, however,it’s my experience that Japanese teachers can be unsupportive and harshly point our kids as different of half of full foreign ethnicity, their difficulties and sensitivities be damned. This encourages a problem waiting to happen. And Japanese children in a school environment can be brutal in putting down and just outright excluding full and half foreign ethnicity kids, and even returnee kids struggling to readjust. Culturally, and societally, it’s a disgrace that’s been swept under The carpet for too long. Simply pathetic.

    31. OG Steve Says:

      @DC, did you read the Mainichi Article carefully?

      “It was after her Filipino mother visited the school on parents’ visitation day in 2009 that Akiko’s classmates began commenting on her appearance.”
      - Mainichi Japan

      Anyway, about taking preventative action personally, here are my thoughts.

      My 3 kids are “half-Japanese”, they have Japanese names, they appear “quarter-Japanese”.

      Maybe I shouldn’t attend the parents’ visitation day, maybe staying out of the picture will help minimize the “gaijin” talk.

      Or, the other hand, maybe I SHOULD attend the parents’ visitation day (perhaps even with black sunglasses on, seriously, it’s surprising how people here are scared by that yakuza-style props), and sit and say nothing the whole time like I’m some silent but deadly tough guy, and then at a quiet moment suddenly stand up, take off my sunglasses, look at each kid really menacingly, and loudly announce, “Horrra, yoku kiite na, naka yoshi ni shite, ijime yurusenai yo, ijime suru to anata no ouchi ni keisatsu kuru yo! Naka yoshi ni shite. Wakatta hito wa hai to yutte!” And all the little kids will quickly, meekly, answer “Hai.” And I suddenly walk out leaving a scary impression on the kids that will last forever. Of course the teachers will be standing their with their mouths open wondering what to do or say, but it will be to late for them to stop me, the impression will be made and I will be gone.

      I think the above “quick, unforeseen, strong speech” technique would be safe from later prosecution, because I don’t think I could be imprisoned for a little speech that said “Play nice, don’t bully kids, or the police will come to your house.”

      The truth of the matter, of course, is that it’s just a bluff, since bullies in Japan under the age of 15 can’t be punished by the Japanese justice system UNLESS the bully’s parents agree to the punishment (as I saw first hand as an ALT when some 14 year old bully punched a Japanese teacher, without any consequences since his parents refused to hanko the paper that would have allowed the police to send the kid to a Juvenile Detention Center.)

      The main point is, I think that if I threaten the kids enough to scare them (without going so far as to threaten punishing them myself, of course) the kids will be too scared to touch my kids.

      Of course, if I were to ask my Japanese wife, she would say, “No, don’t do it, that would increase the chance of bullying.” I disagree, it would merely embarrass her, I think all things considered it would decrease the chance of bullying.

      What do you think? Does anybody here have a better idea about how to phrase a quick strong speech that will reduce the chance of my kids getting bullied?

    32. Cabby Says:

      There is an interesting article in today’s NY Times about a method of preventing bullying. Worth a read.

      http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/fighting-bullying-with-babies/?hp

      Cabby

    33. AJ Says:

      Fair enough if that approach works for you.

      Surely there has to be a better way. Is there any legal framework? Sue the school or parents for inaction leading to emotional turmoil. This crap causes no end or emotional stress, suicides, hikikomori, blah blah blah in every damn community in this country. When you’ve got half amillion people who just lock themselves away in their dark rooms, you’ve kids stabbing kids to death due to bullying, and 12 year old girls and boys hanging themselves due to isolation based on race, appearance, b.o., whatever, you have a crisis.

      I’m pushing a decade in Japan, I know the language and the culture well enough to have learned about these issues, and I’m just a gaijin. What the f$&@ are community leaders doing about it? Nothing.

    34. Teatrino Says:

      Take a look HERE http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=829&catid=23&subcatid=150

      and don’t miss the “Teachers and Sex in Japan” and “More on Teachers and Sex in Japan” down the page.

      Personnaly , I was shocked by these paragraphes from “Victims of Teacher Sex in Japan ” ; where victims of molestment become victims of bully !!!!

      Victims who attempt to come forward are often given a harder time than the perpetrators. The New York Times reported a story about a 16-year-old who was given genital herpes in 2001 by her teacher and told her parents about it. When they confronted the teacher, the teacher denied the claim and warned that of they reported him, the girl would be expelled from school. In spite of the threats the family reported the teacher to police. He was fired and given a one-year prison sentence. However, the girl became an object of taunting by students at her school and her parents sent her abroad to go to school.

      In February 2002, a 51-year-old teacher was fired and given a two-year prison sentence for fondling a girl in a school office. After the teacher was arrested she ridiculed by other students and chided by her best friend for ruining the life of the teacher. The victim told Mainichi Shimbun, “When I was the supermarket, I was surrounded by some senior students I had never spoken to before. They shouted, ‘That’s the sexually harassed!’ and laughed at me.”

      In October 2004, a 40-year-old junior high school teacher was sentenced to 18 months in prison for molesting two 13-year-old girls. Most of victims were students at his school. He molested them in his car or a karaoke where he would take the girls.

      – I’ll approve this link, but it would help the site’s credibility if it would give sources. And do some spell checks, particularly of the Japanese words.

    35. Dan Kirk Says:

      After reading several comments, my conclusion is that so far the respondents have been whacking away at the branches and leaves of the problem, and have not touched the root of the issue.

      There is nothing wrong with the children. The system is the problem. It is a violent system, funded through violent means, where bullying is incentivized, as I mentioned in my previous comment. Nothing you or your children do within the system will logically lead to less bullying for the long term as it is endemic to the institution.

      Petitioning the government, raising awareness, and relying on the system to reform itself may produce some reduction in the frequency of bullying, but it will continue and these senseless tragedies will, too. The answer is not more of what MEXT has been doing so poorly up to now. It is freedom to choose educational options for children and competition among providers.

    36. Shaun O'Dwyer Says:

      Fragment of a conversation I heard between 5th grade girls in a teachers’ room in a rural Hiroshima elementary school some years ago. They were enjoying a laught together about something Japan-related, when-
      girl 1: but you’re not Japanese anyway.
      girl 2: yes I am!
      girl 3: no you’re not.
      (silence)
      Girl 2 was of mixed Japanese Philippine parentage, gregarious and part of a close-knit group of friends. The subject changed pretty quickly and all seemed to be forgotten. But I wonder whether remarks like that can grind down kids who are less socially isolated than Uemura Akiko was. 

    37. Joe Says:

      OG Steve: Bullying doesn’t have to involve violence or strong words. I don’t know why that girl killed herself, but I imagine it had to do with feelings of loneliness and hopelessness more than any specific taunt.

      I’m not Japanese, but I’m still pretty sure that your approach would make things worse. First of all, you set yourself up as an adversary even before the kids have even done anything wrong. Then those kids go home and tell their parents what happened, and they tell their kids not to have anything to do with that child. They may not say bad things to the child, but they also may not say _anything_ to the child as well.

      Ultimately, I think that that kid would become ostracized. Not because they are foreigners, but because that kid’s father would be thought of as an asshole.

    38. jonholmes Says:

      When we were kids in Britain, we said pretty racist things at school like he is/you are a Jew (go figure, it was a Jewish funded school), you Scotch/Irish git, even he is a Paki or black b$tard, but never ever did I hear “but he isnt British”.

      To deny someone their nationality seems worse, because it is exclusionist. The rest was just rude childish abuse.

      – I got the same thing when I was first year fourth form in Cambridge back in 1977: singled out for being American and teased for it. Kids do that. But I had plenty of friends (in fact, I always had a larger and tighter circle of friends in Britain in both my years there — Cambridge in 1977 and Bristol in 1986 — than I had in the US; many people liked an American attitude on things). And somebody in a position of authority did something about it.

      As Jon Stewart said recently (about the abdication of media responsibility during dirty politics, but the point is still applicable here), “When a monkey throws his feces, what are you going to do? He’s a monkey. But somebody’s got to be around to say, ‘Bad Monkey!’.”

    39. OG Steve Says:

      @Joe

      You’re right it would be an asshole move.

      What if I cut out the first word and say it in a nicer way?

      “Doumo minna-san! Ano ne, chotto onegai arundesukedo, minna-san wa naka yoshi ni shite itadakeru? Mochiron, atarimae desu kedo, anata no tame ni, minna-san no tame ni, ware ware wa zettai ijime shinai yo ne. Shakai wa ijime o zettai yurusenai koto wa: panchi, osu, sabetsu, kantan to ieba hito o nakasu koto.

      Soshite kore o oboete ne, ijime SURU hito ni warui koto ippai kuru: higaisha no otousan to okaasan wa anata ni okochau, anata no otousan to akaasan mo anata ni okochau, keisatsu demo anata ni okochau yo, minna-san wa anata ni okochau.

      Souiyu mondai hoshikunai yo ne. Saisho kara anata wa hito wo nakasu no ga shitakunai yo ne. Sore yori, hito to isshoni asobu no hou ga tanoshii. Ne. Dakara, minna-san wa mainichi, genki de, ookii na kazoku mitai ni, maa, onisan to onesan mitai de wa nai kedo, ja genki na “giri-itoko” mitai ni (hopefully some laughter there) nakayoshi ni shite ne.”

      OK, that sounds better, hopefully they’ll automatically say “Hai” to that.

      The main point is, SOMEONE needs to tell the kids that bullying (physical assaults, verbal assaults, racism, ostricization, etc.) is unacceptable: because the kids’ parents aren’t saying it, the teachers aren’t saying it, the principals aren’t saying it, and neither are the police.

      There are no penalties in place for kids under 15 who punch other kids, unless the parents of the bully agree to legal action being taken against their little angel.

      I saw plenty of junior high school yankee wanabees hitting weaker kids at the school I taught at for a year. The crazy thing is that the bullies perpetrating this daily bullying were seen as the “Leaders” of their respective classes, the heroes, the cool kids in school. Even the teachers were smitten with them, the women calling the bullies “Otokorashii”, the men saying “Ii ja nai ka?” and the Yakuza-style tough guy P.E. coach seeing them as wonderful little versions of himself at that age, playing baseball and bullying others, ah, nippon. And get this, most of the weaker kids being bullied smiled like they liked it in some weird masochistic way.

      And as I mentioned previously, one of them hit a Japanese teacher, and the parents refused to OK any punishment. I explained to some of the bully’s fans that they shouldn’t emulate that type of behavior because once you’re an adult and you do that kind of thing you will be locked in prison, that’s how it works, society doesn’t allow physical assault to happen without punishments, you punch someone you get handcuffed by the police and you go to prison. Big mistake, the principal didn’t like that. I guess she would prefer the kids stay in la-la land thinking that you can just go around punching people, without consequences, without penalties.

      Well, I’ve written enough, the bottom line is no one better hit my kid. But unfortunately there seems to be nothing I can do to prevent it, and nothing I can do to punish it.

      How many parents reading this ponder the following 2 questions and still haven’t come up with a concrete answer:

      What would you do, if your son or daughter were to be physically assaulted on numerous occasions, without any punishment to the perpetrators being metted out by the school nor the police?

      What will you do, what concrete conversations or actions will you take now, to preemptively prevent (or at least reduce the chance of) your son or daughter being physically assaulted over the next 12 years for being a “Gaijin” or a “Half”?

      – What you do is you wind up getting your revenge anonymously. Cyberbullying. Anonymous attacks on that person or property. Rumor mill. All those cowardly means to face up to somebody. But this society punishes retaliation as much (if not more by your arguments above) as attack, so all the incentives drive people into strategizing a future revenge (if they are not discouraged by society enough to “naki-neiri” and try to somehow “heroically gaman” it all). Ultimately, it can either become opportunistic anonymous revenge or suicide — neither of which is what our kids signed up for when getting an education in this society.

      I agree. Nobody had better try to hurt our kids. But if nobody will take action, we should.

    40. Teatrino Says:

      Debito said : “– I’ll approve this link, but it would help the site’s credibility if it would give sources. And do some spell checks, particularly of the Japanese words.”

      You’re right, I’m sorry. I admit when I came across this site, I was so moved by the bullied kid’s testimony (“They took money from me, including 1,000 yen my grandmother had given me and the money I planned to use for having my haircut. I had to cut my own hair. I should have committed suicide earlier but did not for the sake of my family.”) that I did not verified if the sources were precise or not. My bad.

      I agree with you, just naming the newspapers the author got the data from without stating any date or article’s title tackles this site’s credibility, not to mention the spelling mistakes (even if I am definitely NOT in position to lecture anybody). Unfortunataly I haven’t been able to get in touch with the site’s author. If anyone is more lucky than me : ajhays98@yahoo.com

      On the same site, take a look at “DISCRIMINATION AND RACISM IN JAPAN” here
      http://factsanddetails.com/japan.php?itemid=632&catid=18&subcatid=119
      It’s interesting and YOUR website is among the sources ;)

    41. PKU Says:

      Really dismayed by Shaun O’Dwyer’s story – kids of 10 and 11 years old and the racist/nationalist/Japanese gaijin chip is in already in.

      That’s really disgraceful. Those children are the future of Japan and they are primed to promote the same discriminatory junk all over again.

    42. DS Says:

      My son (Japanese Canadian mix) had a bit of the same trouble when he entered elementary school here. Another boy kept pushing him from behind, trying to trip him, etc. I spoke to the teacher, but she said “I havent seen anything, but I will keep an eye out”.

      Big surprise the behavior continued. And escalated to random punches, kicks, etc. I spoke to my son about it, and told him that, if he wanted, he had my permission to fight fire with fire. If the other kid hit him, he was to hit him back. Just once, but make it count. Well, within a week it happened. He flattened his tormentor and bloodied his nose.

      I was called to school to discuss the situation, and (the school assumed) to apologize. Didnt happen. I said that one of the best things to do to a bully is confront them and they will stop, and that my son had my 100% support. They were confused, to say the least.

      Afterwards, my son and the other kid became close friends, and he didnt have any trouble after that for the rest of elementary school. One thing a school NEVER wants to see is an angry gaijin dad raging around. IMHO, parents really need to be attuned to what is happening in their kids’ lives. And, if I may say, we foreign parents should never leave all the school business to our spouses. No matter how busy we are, our kids need to be our first priority.

      – I agree completely. As a victim of bullying myself, I know just how important it is to fight back when it happens (yes, fire with fire, if not with a little garnish on top to show that if you give it to me you’re going to get it worse back), and show no weakness. It’s probably why I seem so over-the-top in my responsiveness at times.

    43. Joe Jones Says:

      This is a good tangent, so I’m going to ride it.

      You have to be a bit more specific than just “hit them back.” I was constantly picked on in middle school despite the fact that I would gladly fight back on my parents’ advice. It wasn’t until high school that I figured out what I had been doing wrong — I was getting so worked up about the bullying that the bullies were enjoying my reactions, even if it meant that they got hurt from time to time.

      The correct answer is that you have to stand your ground, and hit back from time to time if necessary, BUT you also have to make it clear that you’re above the level of the bullies and really don’t give a damn what they think. That’s how you earn respect, which makes the bullies lose their audience and move on to less respected targets.

      This is the same attitude I take today, especially on the internet and in the business world. It’s amazing to see the amount of bullying that goes on among even well-educated adults, and it’s also amazing to see the number of grade school-level reactions to it (whether in the form of emotional outbursts or pent-up rage) even when it’s so easy to tune out.

      – Points taken. Keep going with this. Further arguments pro and con, everyone?

    44. Karl Says:

      This discussion also highlights the deep-set idea that “foreigners are bad.” A friend of mine was an ALT at a rural school that had a half-Irish half-Japanese kid in the first grade. The kid would sometimes chat with the ALT on the playground in English (as the child’s father made sure he could speak it.) One day while they were chatting a girl came up in mid-conversation and started taunting “Gaijin da! Gaijin da!” causing the boy to quickly respond “Gaijin ja nai yo!”

      Not only did the girl considering saying “foreigner” an insult, but the boy had already begun to understand that being foreign is considered a negative. I can only imagine the psychological damage of having such a fundamental part of your identity diminished in such a way.

    45. Graham Says:

      People bully for different reasons. Just because one method worked doesn’t mean it’s a universal remedy. Perhaps the best approach is to first find out why the bully is bullying, and then figure out what to do to make it stop.

    46. OG Steve Says:

      How about this?

      “Look son,

      #1 If a bully punches you once, you tell the teacher immediately, and you tell me as soon as you come home. I will go to the principal on the same day and deliver a written-letter and spoken-verbal warning that physical assault is unacceptable and the bully should be punished by suspension.

      #2 If the same bully punches you a second time, we will do the same thing, you tell the teacher immediately, and you tell me as soon as you come home. Again, I will go to the principal on the same day and deliver a second written-letter and spoken-verbal warning that physical assault is unacceptable and the bully should be punished by suspension.

      #3 If the same bully punched you a third time, now you have the right to physically defend yourself. Now listen, instead of a closed-fist punch to the nose, which would result in the bully getting bloody,it’s better to use 3 strong quick successive open-handed-slaps to the temples (bam-bam-bam) so the bully will instantly fall unconscious. The result of this technique is that you, the victim have the purple bruise from where the bully hit you first, and the bully now sleeping on the floor has no bruise to show, just a wussy-sounding sob-story of being slapped-to-sleep.

      Remember son, the first time and the second time, you tell your teacher, and you tell me. Don’t hit back. The third time, you give him 3 quick-strong temple-slaps. Since this was the third time that bully physically assaulted you (and we will have written and physical evidence of that) we will be safe from prosecution. And here’s the best part, by making a bully go to sleep using this open-handed technique, no bully is ever going to touch you again.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQbLwctcqUI

    47. AJ Says:

      What’s truly disgusting is that schools across this country sweep such issues under the carpet, just to avoid negative publicity at every level. No, we won’t do anything, imagine if the newspapers got wind of it, oh, the SHAME!!!! Typical Japanese coverup. When will they learn?

      It manifests itself in other bigoted ways as well. A friend of mine, an ALT at a private elite girls high school, had expensive computer equipment, some carrying personal data, stolen from the ALT office. He and the schools knew who did it, but the vice principal swept it under the carpet so they wouldn’t have to expel the student and wear the publicity.

    48. Valentina Says:

      When I began high school a few years ago I had problems with my classmates (who happened to be mostly girls) too. For some reason most of them didn’t like me, probably because I’m shy and I tend to look a bit cold with people I don’t know. I’m just not the kind of person who makes friends very easily – I need time to observe the people around me and find those who I get along and can actually be friends with. So for the first 4 or 5 months I was basically alone and I noticed that some people were talking and making fun of me behind my back. I don’t know if this can be considered bullying, but I certainly didn’t like it, as it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Things got much better when I finally made friends with some of my classmates. One of them is a Moroccan girl who had arrived in Italy less than a year before, so she didn’t speak Italian very well. The same girls who talked behind my back were doing the same to her and teased her in subtle but effective ways because she didn’t speak Italian well and is Moroccan (here Moroccans are one of the largest immigrant communities and there are a lot of negative stereotypes about them). I couldn’t – and still can’t – understand how, at 14 or 15, they could be so immature as to mock a person who was trying her best to fit in (not an easy task at all, as she recently told me…she’s still one of my dearest friends) and who is smart and hardworking. Having a group of friends to rely on was crucial for both of us: we had someone who didn’t care about what the others said and appreciated us for what we were. Without them I’m sure we would have had a much harder time. We never said anything to the teachers because it would only have made the situation worse (for some people teachers=authority=enemies, and consider reporting bullying and the like to is a betrayal against the class. If you do it, you cannot escape some kind revenge), and in any case we didn’t think they would have done much. We didn’t trust the institution. Also, I didn’t want them to meddle into my affairs. I considered it something personal, none of their business. I never said anything to my parents too. The situation got better with time, as my friend became fluent in Italian and we learned to defend ourselves as subtly and effectively as the bitches. But this situation created a strong and long-lasting division in the class – it was really us vs. them: we knew we didn’t like each other and generally had polite but detached relationships, but sometimes the inner tensions came out and gave rise to periods of open war, fought with off-hand comments, things not clearly said but only implied etc. Quite stressful times.

      Reading this post made me wonder what could have happened if my friend and I hadn’t had no one to count on? What if we had told our teachers or our parents? I don’t know, though I’m certain it would have been much more difficult without our friends. But frankly the only thing I care about now is that in those crazy 5 years I found a few excellent people (excellent is an understatement) to give my warmth to. The others can freeze.

      Sorry for the length…I’m not even sure if it’s on topic, actually, so feel free not to post it, Debito…it’s just a reflection prompted by this case.

    49. steve schmandt Says:

      My interest in Japan and all things Japanese always peaks when i travel from California to visit my in-laws in Kansai. I occasionally come across your blog and other writings.

      This time i happened to read the Ken Joseph Jr takeover of your facebook page. I did not find Ken nearly as bad as most of your blog commenters did. Honestly, tho i do get your work and mostly support it – maybe not always 100% with you on the tactical level but the issues eg child abduction and japan’s so called family court are clearly well worth a lifetime of very strong engagement. I’m happily married for over 30 years to a now US citizen. No kids tho we might easily have had kids and what a hell it would have been in that case to ever have any dealings with the japanese courts! Tho i had lived in japan 4 years, I never had a clue about the divorce courts, custody etc.

      WRT KJ, there is probably history and one can never judge a conversation on the web clearly without knowing any background.
      I’m still not sure how much the commenters on this blog are blind idolitors of betta-bome :) or not – respect is best given and received in small doses ihmo.

      Then i looked at Mike Guest’s ELT news blog post. Now there is a major case for you. I try to avoid getting sucked into posting on blogs — it’s bad enough i spend so much time reading blogs. But i was provoced too strongly by MG not to reply. Not sure if they will even allow my comment, so pls allow me to repost here just to help let off steam. Man, that guy made my blood boil! Cheers and atb, Steve

      ‘Let me say this again: the article says that the father THINKS it MAY be ONE OF the factors. That’s a pretty strong hedge. And you know what? If your or my child did the same thing, that thought would cross our minds too. But it would be speculation, not an NHK news factoid.’

      I have no dog in this fight. i have no kids and certainly never had kids in japan. but i totally disagree with your paragraph above.

      the father just lost his daugher and is japanese. he’s in mourning. even if he is dead certain that his daughter was targeted by the bullies how likely would he be to want to blame anybody at this point and get personally involved in argument? the fact that the father says anything at all in this circumstances indicates to me that me thinks it’s extremely likely that he thinks it’s the case. that’s speculation but makes a ton more sense to me than your speculation.

      Again, i don’t have kids at all, but since we all know that being different can make you a target of ijime, it’s not hard to imagine that a large pct of ‘half’ or pure gaijin kids in japanese schools might have problems.

      It’s easy for me to imagine that some schools in japan are very bad at dealing with the problem and sweep it under the rug rather than deal with it.

      It’s easy for me to imagine that parents deal with this and some are very unhappy about it and have problems with their kids being bullied and the schools denying it’s a problem.

      In that case it’s actually a political issue that NHK totally ignores what is an huge and most troubling problem for foreigners living in Japan. Do you think that NHK never protects the establishment framing of issues? Since the father did talk to mainichi, i doubt that NHK is protecting the father and mother in not bringing up the race issue. I’m quite sure NHK would welcome you having their back on the excuse that nothing is proven with certainty. What a coincidence that it also fits the see no evil speak no evil, “japanese racist, oh no, no, never” social norm.

      Nobody is likely to go back and hold legal hearings on what went on at the school. If they are, I sure do not expect NHK to cover it. The mainichi articles painted a picture which was very clear to me that the poor girls problems started immediately after her mom showed up and continued to the day she died.

      I’m a white guy, so to the extent there is racial discrimination in japan, in my 8 years there i was the beneficiary of far more a prior undeserved respect than negativity. If you live in Japan and have not noticed strong japanese racial bias AGAINST blacks and other asians, I don’t know what to tell you.

      Do you think racism gets better and heals itself when you sweep it under the rug?

    50. Mark Hunter Says:

      Steve, the whole parody thing is very, very odd. Mike Guest is a very good, down-to-earth ESL instructor in his college and his ESL articles are well worth reading. However, it may be important to note that since he has biracial kids in a rather uninternationalized part of Japan, the suicide of the little girl may have cut very close to the bone. Some people just don’t want to admit that racism and bullying are serious issues in Japan, almost, it seems, as some kind of coping mechanism to protect themselves from the crap that their kids may well be experiencing, but not communicating to them. In a way, I can understand that reaction, if that is indeed the case. I have called people like Mike Guest apologists in the past, but I may have been too harsh, without looking at the causes of the denial – and the corresponding lashing out at people like Debito who stand up to injustice face on. This whole case also highlights how it would be much better if people worked together to solve problems rather than tear down those whose tactics differ from their own. I also responded on the ELTnews site. Please see my comments. As for Ken Joseph, his criticisms of Debito becoming Japanese are idiotic. Having just traveled through three regions of the U.S., I can safely say I would rather be Japanese than American (apologies if you are a U.S. citizen). I’m Canadian, and we’re far from perfect, too. The loony fringe in the U.S. is taking over. That hasn’t happened in Japan yet, and let’s hope it doesn’t.

    51. 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).

    52. 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…

    53. Allen Says:

      “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.

    54. Joe Says:

      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.

    55. JB Jones Says:

      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.

    56. Miles Says:

      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

    57. mini mac Says:

      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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