Even by Japanese school rule standards, this is a baffling, infuriating one.

Recently, the Nagasaki Prefectural Board of Education asked the schools in its jurisdiction to consider revising their dress codes after it came to light that the majority of its middle and high schools have rules dictating what color students’ underwear can be. Now, underwear-related school rules are at the center of a controversy once again, and for an even weirder reason.

During a budget review meeting on Tuesday in Kawasaki, Tokyo’s neighbor to the south, city councilwoman Eri Yamada brought up a disturbing complaint she’d been hearing from parents of elementary school-age children. During P.E. sessions, the students are required to change into athletic uniforms, but when they do, they’re not allowed to wear underwear underneath them at certain schools. The rule applies to both boys and girls, and with Japanese elementary school going until the sixth grade (age 11-12), that also means that older girls must remove their bras before exercising.

While not all schools have “no underwear during P.E. class” as part of their dress code, Yamada was shocked to hear that any of them do. “Elementary school children are at a formative age for developing concepts of sexuality, and this rule will have an adverse effect on them” she asserted, while adding that many children themselves have told their parents they don’t like being prohibited from wearing undergarments.

So why do some schools insist on no underwear? For health and hygiene reasons, they say. Elementary school kids don’t shower after P.E. sessions, and the no-underwear rules were created so that they wouldn’t be spending the rest of the school day wearing sweaty, wet, underwear.

There’s a certain bit of wisdom there, but the rationale falls apart pretty quickly since you could apply that same logic to any item of clothing. After P.E., kids change out of their sweaty uniforms back into their clean, dry uniforms, so why not just tell them to bring a second set of underwear to change into after P.E.?

Online reactions to the no-underwear rule have been overwhelmingly negative, with comments such as:

“If my kids’ school said they couldn’t wear underwear, I’d move to a new school district.”
“What kind of perverts thought this up?”
“It’s absolutely unbelievable that they’d have a rule like that.”
“Why didn’t anyone do something about this until now?”

In response to Yamada’s call for reform, Kawasaki Superintendent of Education Mitsuru Odashima said he will be confirming the policies of the city’s schools and asking those with no-underwear rules in place to reconsider whether or not such policies are in the children’s best interests, saying “It’s necessary for school to provide guidance for proper health and hygiene, but that guidance should be of an appropriate kind and take into consideration the children’s feelings.”

Source: Kanagawa Shimbun via Livedoor News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
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