Japanese kids have it rough, there are no two ways about that. As a teenager, being rushed through cram school, club activities and university preparation takes its toll. One of the unfortunate outlets for all this pent up frustration is いじめijime・bullying. As a result, teachers working in Japan need to be aware of some of uniquely Japanese forms of mischief that are common over here.
At the lighter end of the spectrum is the あっかんべぇakkanbee. This is a popular taunt in Japan where kids expose the reds of their eyes and stick out their tongue. It is often done behind the teacher’s back as a way to mock someone or provoke the target into doing something stupid.
As it is often used by young children, the あっかんべぇakkanbee appears in a lot of animes and mangas aimed at kids. Strangely, it has grown-up fans too and is a popular request for models to do this pose during photo shoots. To foreign people, there is nothing more bizarre than a picture of a perfect-looking model snapped with her tongue out and carefully made-up eyelid pulled down.
Another one that is popular with girls is the でこぴんdekopin. Here the person flicks the top of someone’s head with their finger. Fans of the Japanese anime Bleach will no doubt recognize that Isshin Kurosaki often uses a super-charged version of this as an attack (called an 鬼デコピンoni dekopin). Like a lot of いじめ, it is sometimes difficult to say whether this is being done to upset someone or as a sign of affection as it can be used for both purposes.
Bizarrely, 耳かじるmimikajiru・gnawing on someone’s ear can also be a sign of affection, so teachers will have to carefully judge by the situation whether it is genuine bullying or not. Similar to the あっかんべぇ, this is a common image in all kinds of media. Notably, it was immortalized as the front cover of heavy metal band Maximum the Hormone’s 2002 album.
If the other forms of bullying can occasionally be affectionate, the infamous カンチョーkancho is the epitome of viciousness. Coming from a slightly outdated word for an enema, the object of this ‘game’ is to put both fingers up the other person’s buttocks while their back is turned.
In most other countries it would most likely be categorized as a traumatizing sexual assault, but in Japan it is often considered hilarious and fully grown (albeit, usually drunken) men will even do it. Teachers should be on the look out for any kid clenching their two index fingers together as that is always a sign that a カンチョー is about to happen.
In Japan, a bizarre cult has arisen around the kancho and it is often seen in all kinds of places you wouldn’t expect. Japanese people raised during the early 2000s may even remember playing a game called 浣腸ゲームkancho geemu at the game center. The objective of this game was to use a plastic finger to, erm, actually it is probably best you don’t know any more about this particular simulator.
These are just some of the more common misbehaviours that teachers need to watch out for in Japan. For teachers, it is also important to remember that the Japanese attitude to a lot of these いじめ may be different to expected. Often things that would get kids severely punished back home are considered funny or harmless over here. If in doubt, always take the lead and shout the name of the mischief plus するなsuru na to make your kids think twice.