by Colleen McCullom, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant in Japan
Japanese high schools have uniforms. This is the case for almost every school. The styles, colors, and severity change by school, but the uniform is there. The interesting part is observing how Japanese students make the same uniform uniquely their own.
Take my classmates, for instance. Some girls wear colorful hair-ties to offset the plain colors of their uniform. Others quietly wear different socks. The school socks have the Suiryo emblem embroidered in green at the top, but some girls wear socks that are the same navy, but with an embroidered Snoopy or rabbit or other character instead. There are girls who fold their skirts at the waist to shorten them, and every girl unbuttons her top shirt button and lowers her ribbon. Loose sweaters are popular right now.
In addition, Japanese students love decorating their school bags with key chains. Giant plush pass cases, small teddy bears and Disney characters, plastic food, ribbons, pom poms… Anything cute and colorful and attachable is game. The same rules apply to their cell phones, which often bear charms larger than the phones themselves. Unfortunately, they have to show a bit of reserve or they get chided by the teachers. Their pencils, pencil bags, notebooks, folders, and lunchboxes all bear colorful characters, usually Disney. It’s as if all the individuality that’s oppressed by the uniform proves it’s existence through every gap and avenue it can find.
Every little detail left untouched by school code is filled by Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Elmo. And from what I gather from my daily train commute, my school’s students are on the conservative side. I’m guessing that co-ed schools are a whole separate story. Add the pressure of attracting the opposite gender’s attention to the desperate need to express individuality, and you have Japanese high schoolers in a nutshell.