Japanese Schools Ban Ponytails Over Fears They Will Sexually Excite Boys
The Japanese school system is rife with strict rules on what students can wear, from their socks to their hair.
But one rule is now attracting growing backlash for the reasoning behind it: female students are banned from wearing their hair in ponytails because men could find the nape of their necks arousing.
Former teacher Motoki Sugiyama is taking a stand over the strict rules in Japanese schools, taking a deep dive with VICE World News on the reasoning behind the tough regulations.
“They’re worried boys will look at girls,” Sugiyama said. “I’ve always criticised these rules, but because there’s such a lack of criticism and it’s become so normalised, students have no choice but to accept them.”
Sugiyama has taught at five different schools across in his 11-year career in Shizuoka prefecture, a region which is about 90 miles southwest of Tokyo.
All of the schools in that area has banned female students from wearing ponytails.
The ponytail ban is one of many rules known as buraku kōsoku or ‘black rules’.
These regulations have been commonplace in the Japanese education system since 1870, but were ramped up in the ’70s and ’80s in an effort to curb school violence and bullying.
Some schools use the rules to outlaw non-traditional hairstyles like the undercut.
“If the two-block [undercut] is OK, then some students might start saying the mohawk should be OK,” Sugiyama said.
But now some people in the country are pushing back on tradition and calling on schools to drop outdated or sexist rules.
In 2017, a student in Osaka caused a major stir when she sued her school that had repeatedly pushed her to dye her brown hair black.
She sued for mental distress after the school continued to check her roots, removed her desk from her classroom and removed her name from the class roll.
In Fukuoka city, research found in 2021 that 57 out of 69 municipal junior high schools dictated the colour of student’s underwear.
If students disobeyed the rule, they were required to take off their underwear, and have their parent or guardian informed.
Some schools, however, are ditching the old, draconian rules.
Hosoyamada Junior High School, in the prefecture of Kagoshima, changed its dress code following complaints from students, a spokesperson for the school told Vice.
Ponytails and pigtails are still not allowed, but Hosoyamada Junior High has loosened up their stance on underwear, which can now be black, navy blue, or grey.