Senaiho Case against Yamanashi City for “Hair Police” school bullying: A very rare victory for the Plaintiffs! (UPDATE: Full court decision attached)


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Hi Blog.  I’m still on writing hiatus (except for my monthly SNA columns) after the release of my Second Edition of “Embedded Racism” (Meanwhile, Readers are contributing noteworthy articles to the Comments Sections of the Newsletters.)

But let me emerge to report from Senaiho, on his case of school bullying against his multiethnic daughter in 2018.  We’ve covered it for years on (original Senaiho post here, then Updates One, Two, ThreeFour. and Five), and it’s gone from a criminal case against his daughter’s assailants (which Senaiho lost last May 2021) to a civil case against the authorities (for mental duress from official negligence).  After three years of this rigmarole, we’ve just heard that he won the civil case.  His briefing follows.

UPDATE DEC 15, 2021:  Here is his full court decision text, redacted.  PDF.  23 pages. Click on:  SenaihoHighCourtDecision2021

Although the court award is a pittance (it almost always in the cases of racial discrimination), it still holds the authorities culpable.  Congratulations on setting another positive precedent, Senaiho and family!  Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


From: Senaiho
Subject: Judgment in our case against the city of Yamanashi
Date: November 30, 2021
To: “Debito Arudou Ph.D.” <>

Hello Debito,

We finally have it. I am sorry it was not in time to be included in the latest edition of your excellent book. Maybe next time.

In the final judgment in our civil case against the city of Yamanashi and the school system, the court awarded 110,000 yen to us, the plaintiffs. A bitter/sweet, long and hard fought victory.

First the positives. Any judgment against a public entity in Japan is almost unheard of. In 99% of the cases of suits brought against a public entity, the private party almost always loses. It is so rare that the government does not even keep statistics on it, and they keep statistics on everything. There really is no point of reference for those not familiar with the legal system in Japan. It is hard to even find anything to compare it with in other countries, especially the US, where everybody sues everybody. The reason for this is because the court and everyone who works at and for them are all public officials themselves. To render a judgment against another public entity would be akin to shooting oneself, so to speak. This is also why judgments are always a pittance against any public official in Japan in the rare cases where there are any.

In the brief of the judgment the court found the teachers/school and city of Yamanashi liable for the damages of cutting our daughter’s hair. There are laws against doing this, the history of which I will not go into. It vindicates us as parents, who were put to public shame and blamed for the fact that our daughter was bullied. She also received some satisfaction for having been teased to the point of desperation that resulted in her unable to attend school for several years while receiving treatment. It also vindicated her from the some of the extensive damage to her self-esteem. Unfortunately, these scars she will most likely carry for the rest of her life. No mention was made of the root causes of her having her hair cut; racism and abuse against her for the sin of being born from a mixed racial couple.

Our lawyer gets to celebrate a rare victory for any legal professional in Japan. A judgment of any kind against a public entity will most likely propel him into the rare air of lawyers in Japan who have won judgments against public officials. He will most likely get appointed to various prestigious committees and professional elite boards. A boost for his career. Good for him.

The downside of our small victory is that it is small. One judgment in a regional court in Japan changes nothing really. There will be some media coverage for a little while. After that dies down, the bullies will continue to bully, the racists will continue to rant, and the public officials will continue to cover up their culpability. The amount of the judgment itself is an insulting pittance, and does nothing to deter anyone from the actions that caused it. It is just a spit in the street for public officials who have no personal skin in it anyway. They get to go on with business as usual. We get to pick up the pieces of our lives. Unless the city of Yamanashi appeals the judgment (actually I kind of hope they do) we get to carry on, older but wiser? Hmm, not sure about the wiser part.

Thank you again to everyone here at who supported us with your encouragement and prayers.


The bullying haircut, as demonstrated in court by Senaiho.  Image courtesy of Bunshun and Senaiho.

The bullying haircut as demonstrated in court

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36 comments on “Senaiho Case against Yamanashi City for “Hair Police” school bullying: A very rare victory for the Plaintiffs! (UPDATE: Full court decision attached)

    • No mention of why the teacher cut her hair (bullying on account of racial discrimination) like the teacher was showing off her stylist skills.

      • So is it true that the girl wanted the teacher to cut her hair? I have heard some weird things about hair when I taught in Tokyo and Kanagawa at secondary schools. The rules were so strict for boys. For girls less so unless it was thought they dyed their hair.

        • Absolutely not! She was coerced by the teachers into getting it cut. The false narrative that she asked them to cut her hair or her mother asked the teacher to cut her hair was a lie created by the board of education to reduce their liability when they realized the position they were in. That is what we worked so hard to disprove in court. It’s impossible to prove that something didn’t happen which is why the criminal case was dismissed. It boils down to what a judge (or jury) believes happened. Fortunately we had a lot of evidence. This is why most people fail in court against public officials. It often boils down to the word of a public official vs a private citizen. The public officials almost always get the benefit of the doubt unless there is evidence. Since the incident happened at school, they control the evidence, if there is any. That is why I hope they appeal. It may bring out more that they have been keeping. We will see.

          • Ok. Why did the teacher actually cut her hair? Where I used to work male students would get dismissed from school for having hair too long and told to immediately go to a barber.

          • Brooks, I would guess that the teacher cut the hair because she’s joined in with the bullies; she either agrees with the racism of the bullies and sees no need to counter it, or she is actually afraid of them and seeking their approval.
            It doesn’t matter, she doesn’t have a license to cut hair (on is required in Japan) and physically assaulted the girl with a pair of scissors (not part of her job description).

        • To Brooks on why the teacher cut her hair:
          We have been perplexed by this for the past 5 years. The only insight we have is that our daughter was being bullied and called a “smelly gaijin.” One of her classmates (who we sued for racial discrimination and abuse) complained of her “smell.” The teacher was perplexed on how to deal with the problem, i.e. she had no idea it was caused by the racial attitudes of the accusers and instead blamed it all on our daughter. She thought she was not taking a bath regularly (she was) she had not had regular changes of underwear or of her school uniform (she did) she had some medical problem, (she did not). In my honest opinion, her body odor was no worse than any 14 year old adolescent I personally have experience countless times in Japan and other countries. That is just what people her age smell like normally. Her classmates seemed to think otherwise though, and chose that as the reason to abuse her. The teacher herself could not answer that question when asked in court. She did other things to try to deal with the “odor” like putting little bags of charcoal around our daughters desk, and spraying a deodorant around the classroom at certain times. If it was not her “gaijin smell” they would have come up with something else to abuse her for anyway in my opinion.

          One thing that keeps coming up, is that our daughter must have been a delinquent of some kind and the teacher was punishing her for something. This is far from the case. She was a good student, never has been in any kind of trouble. She actually was quite popular in elementary school. Her hair was longer than normal, but not exceptionally long. She usually wore it in a pony tail about down to the middle of her back at the longest. She never dyed it or had it permed. It was light brown in natural color. The teacher seemed to think that cutting it would alleviate the abuse she was experiencing for some reason. If you want my opinion she was in over her head and just did not know how to deal with her first experience of honest racial discrimination against a mixed marriage student. She also seems to have some mental issues that I do not care to speculate on here. Someone tell me why she chose to cut her hair if you have any idea better than mine.

  • Congratulations!
    The story is reported in The Mainichi

    but there the story is a little different:
    “she told the female teacher that her mother had told her to have the teacher do her hair. The teacher then cut her hair in the hallway using craft scissors, but did not confirm it with her guardians.”

    Japan court orders city gov’t to pay $970 to ex-student after teacher cut her hair
    December 1, 2021 (Mainichi Japan)
    KOFU — The Kofu District Court on Nov. 30 ordered the Yamanashi Municipal Government to pay 110,000 yen (about $970) to a former student who claimed that a teacher at a municipal junior high school cut her hair and caused her emotional distress.

    The 19-year-old former student had sought about 7.7 million yen ($67,900) in damages from the city government. Presiding Judge Junko Suzuki ruled that the teacher “failed to confirm with the student’s guardians that she’d be cutting her hair. The method and response can’t be deemed appropriate.”

    According to the ruling, on June 7, 2016, the then second-year junior high school student had her hair cut by her mother, but the ends of her hair were curled up. The next day at school, she told the female teacher that her mother had told her to have the teacher do her hair. The teacher then cut her hair in the hallway using craft scissors, but did not confirm it with her guardians. Afterwards, the former student was told by her classmates that her hairstyle was “disgusting,” and when she returned home, she complained to her mother that she wanted to cry. She stopped going to class from the following day.

    Suzuki acknowledged that the former student had given the teacher consent, but pointed out that cutting her hair in the hallway was “inappropriate because it could damage her self-esteem.” Considering that hair is a major concern for junior high school girls, and that students are generally in a position where they cannot go against their teachers, the judge said, “It was necessary to check with the guardians beforehand.”
    (Japanese original by Ayano Tanaka, Kofu Bureau)

    Japanese Version:
    教諭に髪切られ、女子生徒不登校に 山梨市に賠償命令 地裁判決
    毎日新聞 2021/12/1 08:53(最終更新 12/1 08:53)




    • That is the Yamanashi city’s version of what happened that they tried to push in court. It is a lie of course.

      I am still amazed how many so-called free press publications are in the pockets of officials, as if Japan were China.

        • Sort of, yes. I will be sending the full transcript of the judgement to Debito shortly, so you can see for yourself the thinking of the judge.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    It’s not the matter of money or revenge. It’s about justice and accountability for the undeniable existence of injustice elsewhere in Japanese schools and beyond. Nothing is more important than getting your voice heard. This is a significant victory for all parents.

    Here’s a surprise from Shukan Bunshun. They also published a story by student’s mother(in Japanese).


    渋井 哲也 2021/11/29























     裁判官に「なんですか? 言いたいことがあるならはっきり言ってください」と言われたことがあった。「私が学校に行けなくなったのは髪を切られたから。いじめがなかったらそうされなかった」と話したというが、緊張して口をパクパクするシーンもあったとか。




    「Twitterのアカウントは、当時は一つだけでしたが、今は、ただ絵を描いたり、絵を上げるアカウントがあります。病みツイ(=悩んでいることを投稿するアカウント)はありません。まだまだ、当時の自分を客観視できませんね。まだ渦中にいる感じです。ゲームで裁判のシーンがあると 、(精神的に)もうダメだって思ってしまいます」(同前)


















  • Congrats! A hard-fought victory no matter how small! Also props to the lawyer for fighting to the end with this case.

    Good things can come to those who fight the system.

  • Interesting, the Reddit Japan thread on this case has the teacher helping the student assimilate to the culture, as opposed to what I’m reading here by her parents. According to Reddit Japan, it’s normal for a teacher in Japan to take a student under their wing and give them direction in life. Is that the overall take by those following this case outside

    • r/japan and r/japanlife are full of right wing trolls, apologists and bad faith actors. I can’t even count how many times someone wrote about a personal experience that included racism and more than 80% of the comments blamed the victim and claimed that everything is just a “cultural misunderstanding”. The mood has swung a bit recently with all the entry bans, but you can still see a lot of right wingers and apologists in the comments. Hell, one of the moderators of r/japanlife regularly posts on r/japancirclejerk which is a fascist cesspool. A few months ago they bullied a transgender person that was suicidal and asking for psychologist recommendations on r/japanlife. I’m not even going to post what kind of nasty comments these people have written about her. You can probably find it yourself with a bit of googling. All of these subs are absolutely disgusting and unbearable at times. Unfortunately pretty much every forum about Japan becomes like this. I’ve been interested in anime and J pop since I was a teen, and literally every forum I’ve been too turned into a right wing cesspool within years. I think that is the only place where you can comment freely without having to worry about these people hijacking the conversation. At least I never found another forum about Japan that’s not infested with these kind of people.

      Well that’s a long comment I’ve written, but all of this can actually be summarised with, don’t take anything that comes from reddit seriously, especially not when it’s about Japan.

      Regarding senaiho and his case, I definitely believe him and the court over reddit. That being said, the decision to award 110,000 yen is a joke. I can tell you that in Germany you would’ve easily won a criminal case, for both, racial discrimination and bodily injury. A person with no license to cut someone’s hair, has no business in doing so. But since Japan accepts bullying and racial discrimination, it’s good that you achieved victory at all. Unfortunately I have to agree with Debito here, this will probably not change anything since the penalty is so small. Bullies and racists will just continue with their bullying. Still, I’m very glad that you didn’t let this go and that you pursued this to the end. I can’t even imagine how your daughter must have felt and she definitely deserves all the support she can get. She’s lucky to have such caring parents, but unlucky to be living in a country with one of the worst justice system in the developed world.

  • ” it’s normal for a teacher in Japan to take a student under their wing and give them direction in life”

    That may appear innocent enough, but thats not how it usually works. A kind of reprogramming, gaslighting or other techniques might be used to change ones world view if it appears too foreign or not Japanese enough, under the guise of “giving direction” be very careful with that.

  • We heard today that Yamanashi City filed the judgement which means they are not going to appeal it.

    Now they just have to pay it and we can move on.

  • Yahoo News published a follow-up article about our case today. This one focuses on bullying and the racial aspect of it. It was written by the same fellow who wrote the Bunshun article that is featured above.

    Yahoo News, 2022/1/5(水)

































    取材・文/渋井哲也 ジャーナリスト。長野日報を経てフリー。いじめ、虐待、自殺や自傷など、若者の生きづらさをテーマに取材を重ねている。『学校が子どもを殺すとき』(論争社)ほか著書多数

    We just found out that the head of the Yamanashi City Board of Education was very quietly replaced by the Mombu Kagaku Sho (formerly Ministry of Education) with a career member from its own ranks. The former head of the Board was a former school principal and the one who gave us all the trouble that resulted in our suit against the City of Yamanashi. His priority was being a sleazy crony of the school system and maintaining his plushy self-aggrandizing position as the head of the board, not in the well-being of the students. There may have been other circumstances involved in his leaving, but his replacement was done in such a low-key fashion, that we didn’t even know about it for several months.

    This may seem like a very small victory and hardly even registers on the radar, but we will take any victory we can get, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

  • @Senaiho
    Congratulations! Japanese are good at smelling the air, I hope that future Board members take note of what happens to such bullies.


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