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Grad student crowdfunding child law book in hopes of combating bullying

Soichiro Yamasaki holds a copy of the first edition of his simplified law book for children "Kodomo Roppo" (Six codes for children) in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Sept. 7, 2018. (Mainichi/Ichiro Ito)

TOKYO -- A 24-year-old student here is collecting money via online crowdfunding to publish a book explaining important laws for children, drawing on his own experiences in the hopes of teaching kids that bullying is a crime.

Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Social Sciences master's student Soichiro Yamasaki hopes that the book explaining the definition of crimes such as assault and defamation under the Penal Code in simple terms will "be of some help" in addressing the ongoing issue of bullying.

When Yamasaki was a fifth grader in the city of Saitama, north of Tokyo, he stood up for a classmate with a disability who was being bullied and ended up a target of the group himself. In places where their teachers' gazes did not reach, Yamasaki was punched and kicked. The bullying continued into sixth grade, when he was kicked from behind while on his way from school. He fell and broke his left wrist.

The student who kicked him apologized, and the violence directed at Yamasaki calmed down after the incident, but he still was left questioning how his teachers handled the situation, simply telling him to forgive the other student just because they had apologized.

After he started attending junior high school, Yamasaki came across "Roppo Zensho" (Compendium of the six codes) at the library -- a book containing laws and regulations including the Constitution of Japan, the Penal Code, the Civil Code, the Commercial Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and Code of Civil Procedure. His eye was caught by the Penal Code in particular, and he learned that bullying could be considered under the law as criminal assault.

In 2014 when he was a third-year student at Keio University, he came up with the idea to publish a version of the "six codes" for children. He was chosen for a grant from the university, and created the first draft of the book. Instead of the usual six laws, Yamasaki decided to "pick up laws and conventions that were particularly related to children's everyday lives," and along with the Constitution and the Penal and Civil codes, he also chose the Road Traffic Act, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and legal maxims explaining the rule of law itself.

Yamasaki did his absolute best to create the first edition of the text and proverbs in simple, easy-to-understand language in hopes of not only discouraging children from becoming bullies, but also so that children could protect themselves. Four hundred copies of this first version were distributed as "research materials," and since it received positive feedback, Yamasaki is now aiming to have an improved volume properly published for the general public.

Yamasaki is accepting donations for the cost of publication from Sept. 3 to Oct. 31 via online crowdfunding. He is asking for a total of 1 million yen. His campaign can be accessed at https://camp-fire.jp/projects/view/95629 (in Japanese).

"If even one more child can get a copy of the book, and learn the line that cannot legally be crossed or the rules of law that protect them from bullying, then I will be satisfied," said Yamasaki. "I would like it to become a book that is placed in every elementary and junior high school classroom."

(Japanese original by Ichiro Ito, City News Department)

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