When it comes to student behaviour and appearance, Japanese schools have a reputation for being quite picky. Although some of the more stringent regulations have been loosened in recent years, this doesn’t imply that they’ve vanished completely, as shown by the events at a school in Fukuoka Prefecture.
During the month of April, children at Kurume Elementary School in Fukuoka, Japan, were subjected to a random inspection to determine whether they were adhering to the school’s regulations on hair coloring and style. However, while the kid’s head hairs passed inspection, the school had an issue with the student’s eyebrow hairs, or more precisely, the eyebrow hairs that the student no longer possessed.
The school’s guidelines restrict the kids from trimming or shaving their eyebrows. On the other hand, the young lady of 14 years old had been plucking off individual hairs at the outside corners of her eyebrows in order to give them a cleaner, more groomed look. The school determined this to be a violation. She was punished with three days of besshitu toko, “separate-room schooling,” a means of punishment in Japanese schools where pupils who have disobeyed a rule must conduct their day’s homework in a separate room, away from the rest of the class, effectively a sort of in-school suspension. She was also required to produce a reflection on her violation in the form of an essay.
When asked about the incident, Kurume’s 55-year-old director of education Miki Hata said, “I believe the school may be worried that, being at a developmental age, children may become distracted by overly focusing on their eyebrows and hairstyles, and neglect essential aspects of their education and lifestyle.” But although it’s easy to understand how instructors may consider hair colored bright pink or spiked into a mohawk might be “distracting,” what kind of difficulties could they imagine developing from students’ eyebrows?
There are two possibilities here. The first is that schools in Japan may see pupils styling their eyebrows as the same as applying cosmetics, which is often prohibited since most Japanese schools believe that students should focus their efforts on studying rather than on looking nice. The second reason is that, in Japan, shaved eyebrows are associated with juvenile delinquents and street gangs, despite the fact that it’s an old-fashioned aesthetic that often requires shaving the eyebrows entirely or nearly completely.