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Junior high schoolers in Tokyo's Nakano free to choose skirt or pant uniform from spring

In this provided photo, one example of the public junior high school uniforms for female, right, and male students in Tokyo's Nakano Ward are seen. From this spring, students will be able to choose which uniform to wear regardless of sex.

TOKYO -- Public junior high schools in the capital's Nakano Ward are planning to allow students to freely choose to wear trousers or a skirt for their uniform regardless of sex from the next school year beginning this April.

While female students in principle are required to wear skirts and male students pants by the public junior high schools in the ward, that will now change after a girl in her sixth year of elementary school made a claim to Nakano Mayor Naoto Sakai. He will hold a press conference on Feb. 1 to announce the decision.

There are 10 public junior high schools run by Nakano Ward, and all require uniforms, though the design of each differs by school. If a female student makes a request to the school principal to wear slacks, for reasons such as cold weather or belonging to a sexual minority, it is left to the principal to make the decision.

The "uniform questionnaire" carried out by the sixth grade elementary female student, with the columns, from left, "I want to wear pants," "I want to wear both" and "A skirt is fine" with round stickers representing the girls' choices is pictured. (Image provided by the family)

However, the movement for free choice of skirts or pants for all students was started by a 12-year-old girl who will enter junior high school this April. A soccer lover, the girl always wears slacks, and told her parents this autumn that she did not want to wear a skirt upon entering junior high school as required. Her parents also believed that they no longer lived in an era in which female students should be forced to wear a skirt, and consulted with the principal and the head of the PTA at the school where their daughter was set to enter. They approved her wish to wear slacks.

Following the negotiations, the girl asked 14 female classmates about their preferences for uniforms. Only three girls said that they wanted to wear skirts for their junior high school uniform, while six preferred slacks and five wanted the option to wear both freely.

In December last year, the girl personally handed Mayor Sakai the results of her survey and a letter titled "I would like you to declare school uniform freedom!" Deliberations then began, and the principals of all of Nakano's junior highs supported the proposal.

"If you are free to choose the style of your uniform, then I think it's good that everyone can be themselves, whether they are girls who like sports like me, get cold easily or belong to sexual minorities," the girl said with a smile.

With more consideration for gender nonconforming or other sexual minority children as well as measures against cold weather, the complete elimination of gendered uniforms is on the verge of becoming a new issue. The city of Fukuoka in southern Japan plans to introduce a "standard uniform" by the 2020 academic year, conducting trial fittings of pants and other clothing for both female and male students, and reflecting requests from students and their guardians.

(Japanese original by Mari Sakane, Lifestyle News Department)

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