Board of education asks schools to consider whether the policy is an outdated infringement on individual rights.

Schools in Japan have a reputation for being particularly picky about students’ appearances, and one of the clearest examples of how detailed dress codes can be is that some have rules in place saying that students must wear plain white underwear.

This isn’t a regulation that all schools in Japan have, and even among Japanese people there are those who think the rule is going too far. But it does exist in some educational institutions, and to find out how many, the Nagasaki Prefectural Board of Education conducted a study of public high schools and middle schools within the prefecture, and found wear-white-underwear-when-you-come-to-class rules are surprisingly common.

Out of 238 schools examined, 138, or 58 percent, have white underwear listed as a mandatory part of the dress code. However, that number may be dropping in the near future, as the board thinks this is cause for concern, and believes that by maintaining such policies schools may be leaving themselves open to complaints of violating students’ rights.

Considering that Japan is the same country where a district court recently upheld schools’ authority to prohibit students from dying their hair in the interest of maintaining discipline, one might assume educational institutions need not worry about challenges to their authority to dictate underwear color, since white is ostensibly specified so that girls’ bras won’t be visible through their uniform blouses. However, the specific wording of the dress codes is not “underwear must not be visible,” but “underwear must be white,” and so it requires a check for compliance, regardless of whether or not the student’s underwear is otherwise visible. At some schools this has been done by a teacher periodically pulling female students’ bra straps up through …continue reading