Posters promoting longer skirt lengths in Niigata high schools are causing a controversy. A group of high school teachers who also act as guidance counselors made the posters and distributed them to all high schools in Niigata prefecture in December 2008. At the end of January, school principals started the "Proper dress all at once together campaign". Parents were sent a follow-up document about the dress-code campaign in February. The material asks parents to instruct their daughters about skirt lengths.
There are three posters (pictured):
"It’s undignified for women" (white); "You can smarten your mind and your skirts if you’re motivated" (pink); "Beautiful style – Why don’t you change your skirt length?" (yellow).
Many schoolgirls object to the prohibition of short skirts. Some schoolgirls wear sweat pants underneath so they can continue to wear short skirts during winter.
Hiroshi Uchikawa, principal of Koshi High School in Niigata city, and head of the student guidance staff, said, "We’d like students to think (about the issue) through the posters, rather than ordering them to change (the length of their skirts). There are some moves to make skirts longer."
Some teachers at high schools in Japan keep watch for too-short skirts, and if a surprise inspection catches too much exposed thigh, students are told to immediately correct the situation. Sometimes skirt hemlines have been shortened by rolling up the waistband of a skirt. Schoolgirls can quickly oblige a request to lower the hemline. But once out of sight of inspectors, the gals often re-roll-up the waistband.
One TV news report determined the average school uniform skirt lengths in Japan. FNN news reported school uniform skirts come to an average of 13 centimeters above the knee. FNN said high school girl skirt hems in Niigata are 15-18 centimeters above the knee. According to FNN, the shortest school uniform skirts are worn in Niigata, Sendai, and Mito. Medium-length skirts prevail in Tokyo, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Okinawa. The longest are in Osaka, and Kobe.
Some high school students from Niigata on a school excursion to Okinawa received complaints about the length of their skirts from Okinawa locals. The students were told their short skirt length was "unpleasant." The average high school uniform hemline in Okinawa is 7.7 cm above the knee.
Hiroshi Uchikawa, head of Niigata City Taka-shi high school and chairman of the Niigata District Student Guidance Liaison Council Assembly, says he’s aware that girls change clothes on the way to and from school. "The child shortens it according to surroundings and changes into a long skirt at the station on the way to school. A station employee confirms that."
Lets Japan asked two Japanese ladies about skirt lengths, Yoko (age 27) and Keiko (33).
LJ: Do public and private elementary, junior high, and high schools have rules about length of girl’s skirts?
Yoko: Girls is not allowed to shorten their skirt…also.. too longer skirt is not ok.
Keiko: It depends on the schools. There are a lot schools which have the rules about "appearance" including uniforms, hair styles, nails, make-up, shoes, and so on. Some schools are very strict and they never allow the students to make it short. Other schools don’t say anything.
LJ: Who sets the skirt-length rules?
Keiko: I think individual schools set the rules on their own.
LJ: How do the students know the rules?
Keiko: Parents knew the rules because they needed to go to the school orientation meeting. Parents and students receive the document at the orientation. In my school days the rules were written in the student’s pocketbook.
LJ: What is a pocketbook?
Keiko: Pocketbook is a small notebook that students have. It’s combined with student ID in my school. Students receive it from the teacher on the first day of school.
LJ: What about in Japan’s history – the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s – surely students tried to wear short skirts then?
Keiko: I guess that teachers at that time had much more authority/power than they do now, and they didn’t permit students to wear the uniforms in untidy way. Or the ordinary students just didn’t have the idea to make the skirt short. Rogue students used to wear too-long skirts instead of too-short skirts when I was a kid.
LJ: Is the Niigata skirt poster the first time a poster was made about skirt lengths?
Keiko: I’ve never seen such a poster in my life before.
LJ: Why is the poster such big news?
Keiko: Because Mainichi and Asahi have such stupid editors. (I hate both of them.)
Excerpts from some school rules, translated from Japanese:
Aomori prefectural Hachinohe east high school.
The summer uniform period is 6/1 – 9/30.
Boys attire: In the summer, a white shirt, school emblem, and the standard school uniform as specified by the school. In the winter, a stiff upper collar jacket and the standard school uniform as specified by the school.
Girls attire: In the summer, the standard school uniform as specified by the school, and white socks. In the winter, the standard school uniform as specified by the school, and black stockings.
Boys: Does not hang to the collar.
Girls: Hair that reaches the shoulder must be tied. Dyed hair and perms are prohibited.
Shoes: Girls and boys – black or brown is preferred.
Coat: Wearing a gaudy coat is not allowed.
Part-time job: Allowed only when it is unavoidable. It is permitted under economic circumstances.
Tokai Takanawadai Junior High School (Tokyo).
Unisex standard: Necktie (ribbon); Necktie (ribbon), blazer. The blazer need not be worn in the school. Sweater and long-sleeved shirts can be worn depending on the season. When the school ceremonies specifies it, full dress is worn.
Girl standard: The socks color and shape are specified. However, when full dress is worn, specified goods are worn. (Both navy blue high socks in the winter and summer.) The height of the skirt hangs to the kneecap.
Boy standard: white socks.
Both: Shoes are assumed to be black leather.
Boys: Does not hang to hang to the ear or the collar.
Girls: Bangs no longer than the eyebrow. When hair reaches shoulder length, please tie it up with a rubber accessory or get a haircut. Hair accessories limited to brown, navy, blue, or made of stainless steel. No glitter or highlights. Heavy makeup is prohibited.
Prohibited for both: perms, dyed hair, and the fashion hair style, etc. Persons with peculiar hair that is not natural should correct the style.
Sites selling school uniforms: Nishiki; Gyakushi; Konomi; Noguchi.
photos: TV split screen; pink poster; green pocketbook; hair length; 1965; 1969 boys; 1969 girl; 1975 girls; 1975 boys; 1993; circa 1997; 2007.
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