Black hair, white underwear: A battle resumes over Japan’s bizarre school rules

There is a saying in Japan: “When rules exist, they have to be obeyed.”

But there are surely few rules as pointless, divisive and cruel as the widely enforced regulation that Japanese schoolchildren must have straight jet-black hair, sociologists and activists say.

It is supposed to prevent rebellious students — girls and boys alike — from dyeing or perming their hair and encourage them to concentrate on their studies. But as with other rules here, including a ban on dating and a requirement that students wear white underwear, the result often fuels discrimination, crushes individuality and enforces a rigid conformity that holds Japan back, according to critics. …

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