#HairWeGo: Japanese campaign against school rule requiring short black hair takes YouTube by storm

Julian Ryall
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#HairWeGo: Japanese campaign against school rule requiring short black hair takes YouTube by storm

A petition calling for Japanese schools to drop a rule that requires schoolchildren to have straight black hair has attracted nearly 12,000 signatures, as part of a campaign that has won support from parents, teachers and even big corporations.

In most of Japan’s public schools, pupils are only permitted to have straight black hair. They cannot bleach, dye or perm it. Conversely, any student whose hair is naturally light or curly can be made to straighten or dye it until it is the required shade of black.

Some schools even require pupils with lighter hair to submit a certificate stating that it is their natural colour and even then, reserve the right to send them home if they refuse to dye it so it complies with the rules.

Wider debate over the regulations was first provoked in October 2017, when a girl from Osaka sued her school for forcing her to dye her naturally brown hair.

A study conducted in the years since by hair care brand Pantene revealed that one in 13 current and former middle and high school students had been “urged” by their schools to dye their hair black.

It also showed that 87 per cent of teachers interviewed said there was a need for regulations on hair colour to change.

The brand, which is owned by American multinational corporation Procter & Gamble, launched its own campaign called “#HairWeGo What’s Wrong With My Hair” to highlight the issue.

An accompanying video on YouTube has been viewed nearly 10 million times since its release on April 8, and has attracted almost 3,000 comments with messages of support – including one from a woman whose scalp turned black after she was forced to dye her hair while at school.

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The petition, on website change.org, was started by a university student who said she aims to provoke discussion of the issue in wider Japanese society, especially given the growing number of foreign or biracial children entering the country’s education system.

All the signatures she collects, including those of several academics, will be submitted to Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, and the chairman of the city’s Board of Education.

A comment on the petition’s webpage from a user called Yuki Yuki reads: “Education that cannot respect individuality … should be aware of serious human rights violations rather than morality.”

On other online message boards, people have shared stories of teachers trying to grab their children’s hair because it was too brown and curly, while one user asked: “How dare any school demand the change of any student’s natural appearance?”

“Acknowledging that people are different and showing tolerance and acceptance to the diversity of human beings is by far the greater lesson that schools should use this issue to teach,” the user said.

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