Mainichi Waiwai: Schoolkids smell, partly cos they’ve got foreign parents


Hi Blog. Article from one of the Weeklies, so it’s naturally suss. But people read these things (I do–they’re well written), and Ryann Connell translates one that blames the decline in school student standards partially on foreign parents… Good ol’ “Education Insiders” stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for their comments, naturally.

Thanks to David Anderson for notifying me. Debito in Sapporo


Teachers crying foul over unhygienic kids
Mainichi Shinbun WAIWAI Page June 26, 2007, from Sunday Mainichi Issue Dated July 8, 2007

Japanese schools are getting filled with more kids that stink, according to Sunday Mainichi (7/8).
Growing disparity between the country’s haves and have-nots is believed to be behind the increase in unhygienic children.

But broken homes and the increasing number of foreigners in Japan are also being blamed.

“We have a lot of kids from homes where the parents aren’t financially blessed and few have a decent education. There are a few kids who live in really shoddy apartments,” a third grade teacher at a public elementary school in Tokyo tells Sunday Mainichi. “You can tell from the way they look and the way they talk that their lifestyle gives them something that makes them clearly different from the other kids.”
Often that leads these children to become the subject of teasing and bullying from their better off classmates.

Other teachers blame the widening gap between the rich and poor for the situation.

“There are definitely more smelly kids around,” a Tokyo junior high school teacher says. “Both parents are working during the day and some have to moonlight with bar work at night to make ends meet, so they’re never at home. Kids just go to sleep whenever they feel tired, and a lot of them nod off without having taken a bath. Some kids stop coming to school because their friends keep telling them that they smell, so you can’t treat the problem lightly. I tell the kids not to say things about the smell in the classroom, but frankly I find the reek to be disgusting, myself.”

Since Japan’s economy slipped into the doldrums in the early 1990s, companies have been shifting away from employing people as permanent staff and instead have been relying more on irregular hires. The upshot of this has been an increase in what’s being called the “working poor,” the people in paid employment who make barely enough money to stay above the poverty line. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported that last year 27.2 percent of Tokyo families are now living on less than 3 million yen a year, a 9.3 percentage point increase over the past five years.

It’s not just money worries, either. Parenting standards are also apparently in decline. In a central Tokyo school, teachers were worried when one little girl stopped turning up for class. Her mother, a single parent, was not forcing her to attend and willingly let her stay away whenever she felt like it.

“Her homeroom teacher went out to the girl’s home to check up on the situation. The little girl was sitting there with her hair done up in curls and dressed up like a princess. The homeroom teacher was shocked that the child was being treated virtually like a pet,” a teacher at the school says. “Turns out the mother got lonely at home by herself and wanted her daughter to be around with her.”

Growing numbers of foreigners are also having an influence on Japanese schools.

“There seems to be a lot of trouble surrounding couples where an older Japanese man has married a young Southeast Asian woman who’s come to Japan to make some money,” an education insider says.

One teacher approached a Japanese father and spoke of how his wife, who worked as a nightclub hostess and saved whatever she could while living in squalor in Japan so she could build a palatial home in her native country. The teacher, pointing out that Japan is living through an age of internationalization, encouraged the father to help his child learn Tagalog, the native tongue of his mother’s homeland, the Philippines. The teacher was shocked by the father’s response.

“There’s no need to do that,” the teacher tells Sunday Mainichi the 60-something Japanese father said. “If Japan had won that war, they’d all (Filipinos) be speaking Japanese by now.” (By Ryann Connell)
June 26, 2007

6 comments on “Mainichi Waiwai: Schoolkids smell, partly cos they’ve got foreign parents

  • “If Japan had won that war, they’d all (Filipinos) be speaking Japanese by now.”

    Hmm… curious reasoning. One wonders why there aren’t more Japanese speaking English…

  • I still don’t get the link between smelly kids and foreigners. The article doesn’t provide any relation between the two things at all. Those last few paragraphs have nothing to do with kids’ hygiene…


  • The missus tells me it’s coz we drink too much milk.

    Surely the point here is that the mother taken as an example is like the previous examples given – she’s working hard and so her child is subject to the same lack of guidance and support. The malodorous result is purely economic, but why would that ever get in the way of blaming it on the NJ status?

    For that matter, issues of odour don’t really come in to the “princess” story either.

  • …The Mainichi article was ridiculous at it is tiring to continually see those types of negative articles and comments about foreigners. I know Japan has issues regarding foreigners but how can they be so blind.

  • Smelly foreigners? Have none of these writers ever spent any time on packed commuter trains wedged between 40 cigarettes a day, gyouza-stinking salarymen?


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