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Japan school principal shares behind-the-scenes look at radical 'no rules' policy

(Getty Images)

TOKYO -- As unreasonably strict school rules continue to cause controversy in Japan, a junior high school in Tokyo has done away with rules altogether. The Mainichi Shimbun interviewed Yokohama Soei Junior & High School Principal Yuichi Kudo, who also advanced a no-homework, no-exam policy at Kojimachi Junior High School, to ask him about how rules came to be abolished during his time as principal at Kojimachi.

    Kudo said that the idea began with a student with blond hair, who transferred to the Chiyoda Ward school in May 2014, shortly after Kudo was appointed there. The student and their parents claimed that the hair was naturally blond. The student apparently moved to Kojimachi Junior High School because they did not want to be forced to dye their hair black by their former school. At the time, Kojimachi Junior High School had strict rules, and students with dyed hair were not allowed inside the building. However, Kudo told the other teachers, "The student says it's their natural color, so isn't it okay the way it is?" He continued, "We can pretend to be fooled, it's not a big deal."

    Yokohama Soei Junior & High School Principal Yuichi Kudo speaks during an interview in Yokohama's Kanagawa Ward, on Oct. 29, 2022. (Mainichi/Ririko Maeda)

    The others objected to this, saying, "What are we going to do about the rules that we've always enforced?" Nonetheless, Kudo did not yield, insisting that "forcing a student to change their natural hair color is a problem in terms of human rights."

    In another case, a student who had draped her towel over her shoulders during the class after pool lessons was told by a teacher to stop. She was forced to get rid of the towel, and spent the rest of the lesson with her hair slowly soaking her uniform.

    Upon hearing from one of her parents that she was having a hard time, Kudo said, "This is unreasonable. Let's change this from tomorrow." Based on the principle that "there's no time to discuss problems regarding human rights and health," the school's rules were reviewed, and teachers themselves also gradually changed their attitude to student instruction.

    (Japanese original by Mizuki Osawa, Digital News Center)

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