In Japan, strict dress code rules in schools were common – but one rule took conformity too far. Many schools banned students from having dyed or bleached hair. But what about students born with natural brown or blond hair? As one teen learned, schools would still force you to dye your locks black.
The Pressure to Conform
A 18-year-old teen had naturally light brown hair. But when she enrolled at Kaifukan High School in Osaka, teachers immediately ordered her to dye her hair black. They claimed it violated the school’s policy that all students must have black hair – ignoring her protests that brown was her natural color.
False Accusations of Rule-Breaking
She and her mother pleaded with teachers that she had never dyed her hair. They even offered baby photos as proof of her natural hair color. But the school refused to budge. Despite no evidence she had broken any rules, she was told she’d face expulsion if she didn’t comply with orders to color her hair black.
Harmful Effects of Repeated Dyeing
Over her time at Kaifukan High, she was forced to dye her hair black multiple times. School staff claimed they would instruct even foreign exchange students with blonde hair to dye their hair black!
The repeated dyeing damaged her hair and caused painful rashes on her scalp.
Taking a Stand Against Discrimination
After over a year of suffering, she fought back. She hadn’t attended Kaifukan High for months. She eventually sued the Osaka prefectural government for 2.2 million yen ($14,700 USD) over the school’s harmful orders to alter her natural hair color.
She hoped her case would draw attention to the often arbitrary and excessive dress code rules in Japanese schools. Rules that could discriminate against and harm students just for looking different.
Widespread Conformity Culture
In fact, a 2017 survey found almost 60% of Tokyo high schools demanded proof from students with light hair that it was natural. Was forcing students to dye their hair black just to enforce conformity going too far? She and others hoped her case would prompt change in Japan’s strict school culture.
Schools had a right to enforce dress codes. But when those rules crossed into policing students’ natural physical features, many felt a line had been crossed. Her stand against the rigid conformity culture may have helped pave the way for more acceptance of diversity among Japan’s youth.