• Ushiku, Ibaraki


Regarding Tyas Huybrechts’ July 29 letter, “The will to take on bullying“: The Japanese education system is based on bullying. From elementary school on, students are placed in han with four or five of their classmates. While euphemistically translated as “lunch groups,” han are about a lot more than where students sit for meals. They are units of collective responsibility.

If a member of the han is badly behaved or stands out in any other way (like asking questions, being able to speak a foreign language, wearing a wristwatch or even getting excessively high grades for homework), the whole han gets a talking to, rather than the individual. In this way the students are encouraged to keep one another in line by the constant threat of bullying.

A good illustration of this is the cartoon “Doraemon.” A good many foreigners might be surprised that the protagonist Nobita is friends with Gian and Suneo, who bully him. But it’s no surprise to those Japanese who are used to having had their friends picked for them by the state via their homeroom teacher from an early age.

“Club activities,” as well as the long weeks of unsupervised attendance in the classroom before sports days and cultural festivals, have a similar motive in encouraging obedience and conformity by the threat of bullying.

Until the education system is changed to one that treats each child as an individual rather than promoting “group responsibility,” nothing will change. In the meantime, trusting teachers to fight bullying is like trusting a fox to guard chickens.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

jack durutti

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