The number of reported cases of school bullying surged to 198,108 last year, 2.8 times more than the roughly 70,000 cases reported the year before, the education ministry said Tuesday.
The ministry attributed the increase to intensified efforts by schools to learn of and report bullying.
Officials conducted an emergency survey on bullying from April to September 2012 following the suicide of a male high school student in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, and confirmed some 144,000 cases. The number reported in the following October-March period was about 54,000.
The number surged in fiscal 2012 because boards of education across the country started making more efforts to identify bullying through additional measures, which helped uncover case that were previously not brought to light, the education ministry said.
The survey of all 38,846 schools across Japan, including elementary, junior high, high school and special needs schools, 22,272, or 57.3 percent, said they found bullying cases.
Of those 22,272 schools, 53.2 percent said they came to know of the bullying through surveys they conducted on their own, up from 28.3 percent the year before.
For the first time, the fiscal 2012 survey asked for the number of bullying cases reported to police. The number came to 913, some 0.5 percent of the total reported cases.
Meanwhile, the survey also showed that the number of elementary and junior high school students who have stopped attending classes dropped 4.1 percent to 112,689, while the number of high school students dropping out rose 2.3 percent to 57,664.
It also found that the proportion was greater in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which were devastated by the March 2011 disasters, than in other prefectures.
In Fukushima Prefecture, 1,566 elementary and junior high students had stopped going to school, up 5.0 percent, and 586 high school students, up 24.4 percent. In Miyagi Prefecture, the figures came to 2,511 elementary and junior high students, up 7.1 percent, and 1,463 high school students, up 9.1 percent.
Iwate Prefecture, which was also affected by the 2011 disasters, had fewer truant students than the year before.
While the education ministry said children were undoubtedly affected psychologically by the disasters, it was hard to say whether the calamities were directly linked to the increase in non-attendance in Fukushima and Miyagi.
The ministry survey also showed that 196 students committed suicide in fiscal 2012, down six from the year before. Six of the suicides are believed have been linked to bullying.