National

Japanese school uniforms get redesigns with a little manga flair

by Rika Hagiwara

Kyodo

Talk about too cool for school. Some high schools are adopting uniforms that draw on contemporary cultural influences such as manga.

It is a continuation of a trend that began in the student counterculture movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. Schools at that time began abolishing military-style uniforms in the hopes of placating rebellious students.

Uniforms are now a factor in students’ choice of school. Some of them insist that it should be by a well-known designer, perhaps incorporating cultural touchstones such as manga influences.

Kyoto Kogakuin High School, a public high school that opened in the city recently, adopted uniforms resembling those that appeared in popular girls’ manga.

The manga, “Taihen Yoku Dekimashita (Well Done),” was penned by local comic author Zakuri Sato.

Sato designed uniforms in her comic based on the opinions of junior high and high school students, with the help of the municipal board of education.

The school was established in April through the merger of two engineering schools with a 90 percent male student body.

“Women now play major roles in the science and engineering arena,” said an official of the municipal board of education, adding that the decision on the uniforms was aimed at boosting female intake.

In Fukushima Prefecture, Futaba Future School has introduced uniforms designed by the costume designer of the famous Japanese all-girl pop group AKB48.

The prefecture-run school, which opened in April last year, is close to the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“As it is a school in the disaster-hit area, we wanted to respect our students’ feelings and sought to make school uniforms that give them hope,” a school official said.

The official said the uniforms are a symbol of the renewal of the area. The facility is located within 30 kilometers of the plant, a zone where many residents remain evacuated.

Toshinori Harada, a senior official at Kanko Gakuseifuku Co., a manufacturer of school uniforms in western Japan, said uniforms have attracted increased attention and popularity on the back of so-called pop idol groups wearing uniform-like outfits on stage.

Increasing numbers of schools have been opting to introduce such uniforms in recent years, Harada said.

In May, the manufacturer established a relationship with Stripe International Inc., which owns a fashion brand called Earth Music and Ecology, in a bid to reflect young women’s tastes in the company’s school uniform designs.

An annual survey on school uniforms conducted by Kanko Gakuseifuku found that school organizations tend to emphasise originality as a reflection of the school’s spirit, while students want fashionable and modern designs.

“We want to offer designs that can satisfy both the school organizations and the students,” said Harada.