Ponytails are banned in Japanese schools – Why? Because they could ‘sexually excite’ men.


In a country where conformity is the key to surviving day-to-day life, it is rather unsurprising that the norm for women is to be, or at the least, to look as though they are genuine and submissive. This notion is reflected in the unreasonably strict and overprotective regulations in Japanese schools, which have existed for so long, that they have become normalized. The most common dress codes include black and straight hair, no jewlery, black or navy hair ties, white socks, no skirts above knee-length, and (brace yourselves…) white underwear. Just as if these restrictions do not sound absurd enough, there are many other rules in Japanese schools that are more concerning and controversial, one of which is the banning of ponytails.

Recently, it has come to the media’s attention that a number of schools in Japan prohibit hairstyles that expose the nape of students’ necks. In fact, a survey in 2020 revealed that approximately one tenth of schools in the Fukuoka prefecture ban ponytails. The schools’ justification for this rule is the possibility that these hairstyles could sexually arouse male students, triggering them to look at girls in an ‘inappropriate’ manner. This is the same reason as to why some schools force female students to wear white undergarments, since this colour is allegedly less visible beneath white shirts compared to other colours.

If you couldn’t believe what you just read, that is precisely the reactions of myriads of people on social media, who have aggressively criticized the outdated rules imposed on Japanese girls. Not only are they sexist, but they also eliminate students’ freedom of self-expression. Many have pointed out that if there were to be such restrictions, it should be the male students who learn to control themselves in any circumstance, and not the girls having to protect themselves by altering their appearances.

According to Asao Naito, a sociology professor from Meiji University, Buraku kosoku (black rules in Japanese) have long existed in Japan with one common aim: to ensure that no one stand out. Restrictions such as the banning of blond/brown and curly hair presents an issue with Japanese schools’ homogeneity and signs of xenophobia. There have been numerous cases where students whose ethnicity is not Eastern Asian struggled to abide to the exclusive school rules. For instance, students with inherently bright hair colors have been forced to dye their hair black, although these schools generally prohibit bleaching.

On a more optimistic note, however, there has been consistent progress made in recent years, thanks to students’ efforts in pressuring the government. In 2021, all public high schools in the Mie prefecture dropped rules which controlled hairstyles, underwear colour, and dating. What’s more, in the capital of Japan, Tokyo, five regulations (including one that requires students to have black hair) will be scraped by almost 200 public high schools, from April 2022.


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