• Chugoku Shimbun

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There is a growing trend among municipal junior high schools in the district of Aki, Hiroshima Prefecture, to offer female students a choice between skirts and a pair of pants for their uniforms.

In many cases, students can also choose between ties and ribbons. In addition to being more gender neutral, the new uniform policy is also more functional in terms of keeping warm and it being easier to move around, meaning it has gained the support of students.

Saka Junior High School introduced a pair of pants for girls this spring amid requests from parents of students who entered the school in April. Several girls in the school’s first grade now wear them.

“Many girls in the senior grades of three elementary schools in our town go to school wearing pants in their plain clothes, so the sight of them wearing pants doesn’t strike me as odd at all,” principal Hideshi Masaoka said.

From next spring, two schools in the town of Kaita will allow girls to choose between a skirt and a pair of pants, and between ribbons and ties. Not only are pants warmer, but some students have said they don’t want to wear skirts.

The town of Kumano, meanwhile, will hold a meeting later in October of local teachers in charge of student guidance at its elementary, junior high and high schools to discuss whether to introduce the optional uniform system at two of its junior high schools.

In the town of Fuchu, a junior high school began allowing girls to wear pants from the spring of 2019. Starting next spring, Fuchu Junior High School will make ties the only option for newly enrolled students regardless of gender. At present, ties are for boys, while ribbons are for girls.

Fuchu Midorigaoka Junior High School introduced pants for girls in winter of 2019. It is now considering allowing students to choose between pants and skirts, and between ties and ribbons, regardless of gender in spring next year.

“We will have some basic policy in place, but the idea is to allow students to make their own choices,” said Kyoko Nakabo, the principal of the school.

According to Hiroshima’s prefectural board of education, the number of junior high schools that have become flexible on uniforms has increased in the past year or two amid growing awareness of diversity issues.

A division from the board says it considers the trend a “sign that they are trying to respond to changes in society,” adding this will likely continue to grow.

According to Itoya, which manufactures and sells uniforms for 65 junior high schools in the cities of Hiroshima and Hatsukaichi as well as other areas, the number of junior high schools offering the choice of a pair of pants to female students began to increase around last fall.

The number of schools to which the company supplies slacks is expected to increase to 30 next spring, and to even more in the future.

This monthly feature focuses on topics and issues covered by the Chugoku Shimbun, the largest newspaper in the Chugoku region. The original article was published Oct. 10.

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