The issue of Japanese schools forcing students to dye their hair black came to the forefront of both domestic and worldwide media in 2017.
That fall, a high school student in Osaka was forced to dye her naturally brown hair to fit the strict and widespread rule that all students’ hair must be black. This news story, covered by the likes of Time and Teen Vogue, sparked debate online about dress codes in Japanese schools, and the issues around assuming that all natural hair is black and straight. Through the Osaka student’s example, it’s clear that this is not true and can be seen as a form of discrimination, especially with more foreign and biracial students attending schools in Japan.
This debate snowballed into a movement called #What’s Wrong With My Hair? Stop Telling Students To Dye Their Hair Black (or in Japanese: #この髪どうしてダメですか? 地毛の黒染め指導はやめてください, a hashtag originally coined by P&G’s hair care brand Pantene who conducted surveys on the subject and created the following viral video about it.
This video has reached almost 10 million views and was posted on April 2019, just before the start of the new school year. It shows several Japanese students and teachers taking questionnaires about the issue of forced hair dyeing in schools. According to the video, 60% of Japanese public schools require that students submit a “Natural Hair Certificate” documenting their natural hair color and curliness — but still sometimes force students to cut or dye their hair.
The video also shows a dialogue between teachers and students discussing the issue, with one student expressing annoyance by saying, “I think it’s so contradictory. Dyeing our hair brown is bad, but dying it black is good?”
The message is certainly confusing, which is why so many are speaking up against it.
A month later in May, a Change.org petition was created with the goal to take the signatures to the mayor of Tokyo. At the time of writing the petition has reached 17,730 signatures out of their goal of 25,000.
Comments on the Change.org petition generally show contempt for the status quo, including a comment written by someone named Suzuki explaining, “What’s so great about black hair in the first place? These rules are an affront to diversity, they force conformity, and are downright controlling.”
Another commenter named Hakamata further expanded on the issue, writing: “[Hair color] has nothing to do with education.” This is a great point, why should the schools care about the shade of students’ hair?”
Another person who signed the petition, called Higashi, also wrote in the comments that “it’s immoral for an education system to not respect everyone’s natural differences. We need to come to the realization that this is a violation of human rights.”
To support the petition, sign here.