Bullying is kind of a big thing in Japan. There are a lot of news stories about bullying in schools and about kids who kill themselves over it. You might think that is something relatable worldwide, but there is somehow a different nuance to it over here.
Firstly, the school life of a student is more or less a kid’s whole life in Japan. You spend far more time in school than at home, you see your teachers far more often and you spend much more time with your schoolmates than Western counterparts. It means that teachers are expected to be parent-like with kids and take on the corresponding responsibilities.
Secondly, Japan’s entire culture is about community. It’s about sticking together, helping each other and doing what’s best for everyone around you and not just yourself. In contrast, Western culture is all about myself, doing what’s best for me, trying to come out on top – other people are expected to cope by themselves. Being ostracised somewhere that is all about the group instead of the individual feels different.
Luckily, I work in some pretty good schools in terms of community. When a parent called in to complain that her daughter had mentioned a bit of bullying, Actions Were Taken. The principal called all the teachers back to the staffroom at the end of the nearest period and there was an immediate staff meeting right then and there about it. Staff were told to look out for it, to pay extra attention to said girl, a staff member would discreetly watch that class during breaks and they would have a longer meeting about it at the end of the school day. I was surprised – pleasantly so – because I think it would have been unheard of for a single bullying incident to put the entire staff force on high alert in the UK.