J Times column on Hair Police and NJ educational underclass


Hi Blog. Yesterday (July 17, 2007) the Japan Times Community Page published my 36th column, on the “Hair Police” in Japan’s schools, and how they are part of the forces in Japan interfering with NJ education.

I’ve just put up a “Director’s Cut” version on my regular website, with links to sources. That can be found at:


UPDATE: It’s available at the Japan Times site at

Have a read! Debito


Schools single out foreign roots
International kids suffering under archaic rules

The Japan Times: Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Column 36 for the Japan Times Community Page
“Director’s Cut” with links to sources
Courtesy http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070717zg.html
PDF scan of the article courtesy Ben Goodyear at https://www.debito.org/JTHairPolice071707.pdf

Since 1990, when Japan started allowing factories to easily import foreign labor, the number of registered non-Japanese (NJ) residents has nearly doubled to more than 2 million. [SOURCE]

Many migrant workers have become immigrants: staying on, marrying, and having children.

Some have faced illegal work conditions, according to the domestic press: incarceration, physical and emotional duress, even child labor and virtual slavery. [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2, SOURCE 3, SOURCE 4] Policymakers at the highest levels are currently debating solutions. [SOURCE]

Good. But less attention has gone to the children of these immigrants, particularly their schooling. This is a crisis in the making for Japan.

The bellwether of any country’s internationalization is the altered composition of the school population. Many of Japan’s immigrant children are becoming an underclass, deprived of an education for being born different than the putative “Japanese standard.”




Dealing with the ‘follicle enforcers’
Following is some advice on what to do if your child gets nabbed by the school “hair police.”

1. Support your child. Reassure him/her that he/she is as “normal” as anyone else.

2. Seek an understanding with teachers and the principal. Point out that variation is normal. There are plenty of Japanese with naturally lighter, curly hair.

3. Get written proof from your previous school that your child’s hair color or texture is natural.

4. Raise this issue with the Classroom Committee of Representatives (“gakkyuu iinkai”) and/or the local Board of Education (“kyoiku iinkai”). With all the attention on “ijime,” or bullying, these days, the board may be sensitive to your concerns.

5. Be firm. Dyeing hair is neither good for your child’s mental or physical health.

6. If compromise is impossible, consider changing schools (“tenkou”). Your child deserves a nurturing educational environment, not alienated by perceived “differences” on a daily basis. (D.A.)


Full article at:

1 comment on “J Times column on Hair Police and NJ educational underclass


    Hi Debito,

    I read your article. Since I was covering Brazilian-Japanese
    immigrants last year as a freelance journalist, I totally understand
    how you felt when you saw what’s happening at local schools. This is
    egregious. As an ethnic Japanese with foreign backgrounds myself, I
    went through similar experiences when growing up in Japan. Please
    continue good work, letting the public know this reality.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>