“We’re glad he killed himself. We wanted him dead”
These were the words of the classmates who bullied a 13-year old boy to the point of suicide.
That is all I am left with as I turn off the TV and try to stop myself from booking a one-way ticket out of Japan.
And while I will start by saying that it is true that bullying is not specific to Japan, I would like to open by reminding you that this is The Japan Rants and therein I will be focusing on this country and how incredibly FUBAR the bullying/ijime situation is here.
This piece is not going to be pretty. So if you think there is even the slightest chance that you might not want to get in to this topic, I suggest you stop right here.
This post is meant to be more of a forum for comments and thoughts.
Honestly speaking I can’t wrap my head around this topic in the way that I would like to, and I want to hear your thoughts. Under the condition that we stick to the topic of Japan. Bullying in Japan.
I am not going to get deep into explaining the current bullying situation in Japan, as there is already a wealth of information available on this topic. One can easily find countless articles, and just to help those of you who are not entirely aware of the details or depth of this issue, I have posted links to a few here:
Facts And Details – Bullying in Japanese Schools [recommended read - detailed]
Now I’m going to assume that you didn’t actually go through and read all of them (although I chose these 5 for a reason and really do recommend reading them all), but providing that you took the time to read even one, you will have somewhat of a clear understanding as to the degree of the Japanese bullying issue.
I have read through all of them. More than once. and honestly I don’t even know where to start.
Bullying (ijime ) in Japan is so incredibly different than it is in the West and comes in a terrifying variety of shapes and forms. Sometimes it is physical, sometimes mental. But it always crosses the line. And in a country where people try to avoid conflict at all costs, it is rarely dealt with.
Japanese friends have shared stories of bullying that rang from mental warfare, to theft and destruction of personal property, all the way up to Japanese children (and when I say children, I am talking about 15-years-old or younger) sexually abusing classmates or even their classmates mothers.
And while mental warfare may not sound all that terrifying, just try to imagine your classmates forcing you to practice suicide techniques on a daily basis, and having the teachers and adults around you do nothing about it.
Some stories are heartbreaking, and others are nothing short of disgusting and frightening.
In the hopes of keeping this post short and to-the-point, I want to list some of the points that I find terrifying about Japan and ijime:
The primary cause of suicide for individuals under 18 (a.k.a. children) in Japan is bullying.
Children as young as 10-years-old or younger have been and are continuing to be pushed to take their own lives.
Schools Deny It
I find it amazing that in a country where teachers will roam the streets at night to make sure kids from their schools are not out too late, that the teachers are the first to say there is no problem. Teachers, principals, and schools claim suicide-after-suicide that bullying was not the cause (no matter how much bullying actually occurred)
Teachers Are Targets Too
You will be hard-pressed to find a teacher in Japan who hasn’t been the victim of some form of bullying attempt. Many bullies in Japan will see the teacher as an obstacle to first be destroyed or stripped of any power/credibility before they take action on their targeted classmate. Some Japanese teachers have been known break down, explode, quit, or even commit suicide under this pressure.
Lack of Action by Parents
While I am sure that there are just as many parents who are making incredible efforts to support and help their bullied children, I can’t help but look at the numbers and wonder what the rest are (or aren’t) doing.
And what is worse, is the parents of the bullies. Why did these people have children if they are not going to take a more active role in their child’s healthy development. Instead, so many parents put the responsibility of their child’s development on the teachers. And we have already covered how great of an idea that is…
More Often Than Not, The Smart Kids Are The Bullies
In many parts of the West, the smart kids are the nerds. They are bullied as they don’t have the confidence or physical strength to protect themselves. But Japan is filled with intelligent children who somehow grow to think that due to their intellectual abilities or parents pay-grades, that their lives are somehow of more value than the lives of their bullied classmates. I cannot even begin to imagine what brings an elementary school child to try and convince a classmate to take their own life…
It’s Not Getting Better, It’s Getting Worse
Almost every year for the last decade, the number of reported bullying cases has increased. The most heartbreaking part of this is that we have barely scratched the surface. The majority of bullying cases in Japan tend to go unreported. And with the problem becoming deeper, and Japanese children becoming less and less forward, an increase in these numbers would seem to imply an overall increase in bullying cases in Japan.
The Problems That Follow
Being bullied can lead to countless problems. While some children may grow to become detached and live a life without connection or trust of anyone around them, others may lash out. in 1996 there was a boy who went as far as to cut off the head of one of this classmates, leaving the head on the school gate with a note in the mouth. The note read “this is the beginning of a game“.
There is so much to say and so much that has been said.
I wrote this piece because I needed to get it out. And now, I want to hear what you think. So please don’t hesitate share your thoughts, opinions, stories, etc.