Tokyo public schools will stop forcing students to dye their hair black, official promises

Casey Baseel:

The overwhelming majority of middle and high school students in Japan are required to wear uniforms, and so it’s no surprise that Japanese schools tend to have lots of other rules governing students’ personal appearance. One that’s been attracting controversy in recent years, though, is a requirement at some schools that all students must have black hair.

The ostensible reason for the rule is that almost all Japanese people have naturally black hair, and so they’ll only have non-black hair if they’ve chosen to dye it a different color. Such willful, discretionary standing out from the norm is seen as a distraction and/or lack of earnestness according to orthodox Japanese values, and thus counterproductive to the collective student body’s academic development.

However, an incident in 2017 sparked debate when it highlighted that requiring students to have black hair and forbidding them to dye it aren’t always one and the same, and in fact can sometimes be complete opposites. You’ll notice in the last paragraph that we sad almost all Japanese people have naturally black hair, and that’s because some of them don’t. While it’s relatively rare, some Japanese people are born with hair that has a natural brown tint to it, and one such girl who was attending high school in Osaka was forced to dye her naturally brown hair black, resulting in damage to her scalp and prompting a 2.2 million-yen lawsuit against the school.