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Top official's remark on Tokyo schools' hairstyle ban has net users scratching heads

This image from Twitter shows a video scene of a question-and-answer session at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly's Special Budget Committee tweeted by assemblyman Yuichi Ikegawa. The large words on the screen read "incident" and "accident."

TOKYO -- The head of the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education raised the eyebrows of many people recently by remarking that some schools in the capital banned the so-called "two block" undercut hairstyle because it could lead to "incidents or accidents."

The two-block haircut, commonly featuring a shortly trimmed back and sides with long hair on the top, is banned by some schools in Tokyo. Yuichi Ikegawa, a representative of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, brought this up during a meeting of the metropolitan assembly on March 12, asking why.

Education board head Yuji Fujita answered, "There are cases where they lead to incidents and accidents, so they are prohibited under school regulations."

When a 74-second video summarizing the questions and answers on the issue was posted on Ikegawa's Twitter account on July 13, the video went viral, being viewed 5.88 million times in just four days.

Below is an outline of the exchange:

Ikegawa: I've received a number of reports that when students ask why it is forbidden (to have two-block hairstyles), they are stubbornly told by teachers that it's because that's the rule, or that it's decided through the school regulations. Why are two-block haircuts not allowed?

Fujita: There are cases when they have become involved in incidents or accidents as a result of their appearance and other factors, so it it's decided from the objective of protecting the students.

Ikegawa: You're saying there's a possibility they will become involved in incidents or accidents if they have a two-block hairstyle. Frankly speaking, I don't understand what you mean and I'm surprised by your answer. Is there any data showing that they become involved in incidents or accidents? And if they did get into trouble, it could convey the message that there is a problem with their hairstyle. I don't think you can say that banning two-block hairstyles via school rules is grounded in social norms or the progression of the times. The bans appear to be nothing more than individual school rules.

By July 16, Ikegami's video tweet had been retweeted over 62,000 times, eliciting a range of responses.

In response to Fujita's comment that it was possible students could become involved in incidents or accidents, there were many negative comments, such as "It's a bad school rule," and, "If the town is a place where you would get involved in an incident from just having a two-block hairstyle, then going to school would be dangerous in the first place, and it would seem better to promote remote classes more." Others, however, expressed a degree of understanding for the bans, with one commenting, "School is a place where you study and learn about being in a group, and is not the kind of place you go with a two-block haircut."

In June 2019, the JCP filed a freedom-of-information request regarding school rules and internal regulations at 186 metropolitan high schools and five metropolitan combined junior high and high schools in Tokyo. Rules for each school were made public on the website of the JCP's Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly caucus on July 13, and Ikegami posted the video in time with this release.

Among the 184 schools whose rules were made public, 83.1% had regulations on hairstyles. Of these, around 15 schools were said to have banned two-block hairstyles. Some schools also subjected students to guidance over hair discoloration with dryers, or noticeable bleaching due to pool chlorination agents and other such chemicals. Some schools required students with naturally light-colored hair to submit "natural hair notifications."

One 42-year-old hair stylist in the city of Yokohama south of Tokyo said about 80% of male students who visited the salon where he works asked for a two-block cut. "With a two-block cut, the bigger the person's head his, the better their hairstyle looks overall, so it's a rationally thought out style," he said.

The popularity of male K-pop idols with the haircut is also thought to have had an impact, and the hairdresser says there are many times when his customers ask, "The two block is banned at my school, but can you give me something close to that?"

"Hairdressers can show their skills by paying attention to the difference in density between the trimmed part and the hair on top while thinking about what won't catch the eye of schools," the hair stylist said. Regarding the ban on the style at schools, he commented, "I guess they prohibited the two-block cut as a hairstyle, which is mostly styled by using hair treatments, so as not to allow the use of such treatments."

(Japanese original by Tomotatsu Yamaguchi, Integrated Digital News Center)

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