Friday 14 January 2011

Rules or robots?

So, I was reading R's blog and managed to spark a heated debate in our house last night.

The issue? Earrings, and the fact that Japanese schools ban them, along with colouring hair, make-up and anything else that distinguishes a kid's individuality. OK, to be fair I'm already slanting this in my favour by saying that, but basically we were arguing whether kids with a parent who isn't Japanese should be allowed to bend the rules due to their culture being different.

I was all for rule bending, surprise surprise. And Ryochan was against it, saying if we let girls wear earrings, it will never stop, there has to be a line, he also said, "If you don't like it you shouldn't live in Japan, piss off to your own pierced country!" (said in different words and with a slight grin as he knew it would fire me up.) Despite me getting quite stroppy in the argument, I actually don't know the best answer here, I totally believe that bringing different cultures in to the Japanese system is the only way it will change in the future, but he's kind of right, we choose to live here, we really should follow the same rules...

It's funny, sometimes I agree with the Japanese side, but feel I should fight against it just for the sake of 'the fight.' Whaling is another thing, people expect me to get fired up about chowing down on whale because I'm Australian but it really doesn't bother me that much, killing a whale is the same as killing a cow or pig for me, I don't like killing any animal but I must like it a little bit because I still eat them pretty much every day.

Ryota also argued that natural things are allowed for kids from different cultures, like Ash will have lighter hair but he won't get in trouble for it like J-kids will, and I tend to agree with this but my point was, yes, earrings aren't natural, but they also aren't something you can just wash off, like make-up. If you don't wear earrings when they are first done, they close up, so until they close up you should be allowed to wear little studs. But then I realised that if it came to it, I probably would fight the school on it, because I hate the fact that all Junior high school kids here are actually like little cloned robots. They look the same, sound the same, study the same things, group together in the same clubs, have the same interests and hobbies, same school bags, same shoes... I don't want my kids to be robots, yes they may be unruly rebels, but at least they'll have some sort of spirit and individuality...

But then.... I kept flipping on myself, I would get really riled up about the robot thing, and then realise that the robot mentality does have a few good points. One good point is the fact that no poor bastard can get bullied for having crappy shoes or for being goth, or being 'too' individual. Of course, there are many other reasons that kids in Japan get bullied, but it would take one element of bullying away that is quite common in Australia I think. Another good point is that all kids here know what is expected of them, and tend to work together as a team, where as in western countries individualism is encouraged, but this then leads to nobody wanting to work together and everyone doing their own thing...

I really am torn.

What do you think?

Would you fight for your kids to be able to carry on their home country's traditions despite where they were living and where does the line of culture and tradition finish anyway??


  1. I'm probably not the best person to answer since I'm in the thick of it and tyring to toe a very central line, not fighting anyone, trying to bend a little, following the letter of the law but not the spirit...

    Long before I came to Japan I reached the conclusion that immigrants should be allowed to continue in their own odd cultural bits and bobs, as long as it didn't hurt anyone, or clash directly with something important to us.

    So I never had problem with say, Muslim head scarves, as it's an important part of their religion, and doesn't hurt anyone really. But not full face-veils, because they offend our Western sense of equality.

    So it's funny to find myself on the other side. On the one hand, I've been thinking, it's not really IMPORTANT, is it? It's just jewellery. So the kids felt slightly left out being the only girls without their ears pierced, but that's about the extent of the damage.

    Then I just go back to just *wanting* it done, and why does such a fuss have to made about it?

    Another problem with the robots is that OUR kids are always going to be on the outside. That's the big problem with it - the people who for one reason or another don't fit the mold. With international marriages now one in 20 in Japan, they HAVE to start accepting difference.

  2. Oh, I was going to add, after the first paragraph about not fighting, following the letter but not the spirit of the rule, that I think that that's a very Japanese way of approaching the problem. Like when you just say 'hai hai' to whatever nonsense your MIL comes up with but then go on and do your own thing anyway. And that DH is fully on the same page as me with this, with this don't fight, but bend slightly attitude.

  3. hmmmm ... Im pretty old school on this, that I think that its not really good to be piercing kids ears and dying their hair when they are still young. I DO think individuality is important but I think you can build individuality in ways which are non-appearance based. Plus I doubt anyone reading this blog will have robotic kids. Generally these values of robotism are installed by parents, and most of the gaijin/half kids parents just dont care.

    I guess the problem here with appearance is that in Japanese culture these things (especially the hair dying of young children) are pretty "yankee" and the rest of Japan hate this.

    I personally was not allowed to get my ears pierced or dye my hair until I was 16. My Mum hated it, and I think it was a good thing that she made me wait so long. I DEFINITELY would never get Emis ears pierced. Hubby hates it too, and would kill me. I (personally) dont like the way it looks and I think body modification should never be done to a child until they can fully understand it. I think I will probably be waiting til she is 16 If I can.

    I dont think a mum who has it done to their child is a bad mother though, its just something I dont like. I take WAY more offence at mothers dying their kids hair than piercing their ears for sure. All that bleach can not be good for kids to be inhaling...

    However I understand your rebellion to being told what your child can or cannot look like. As a responsible parent it should be your standards which matter.

    So to conclude - I dont know! :D

  4. hmm..well, coming from an Italian culture, it`s actually expected that you pierce your daughter`s ears from very early on, like 1 or 2 years old. Our family didn`t follow that but a lot of our relatives did, so it was never an issue.
    It is a lot more restrictive here, I`ve had students come to me and tell me that their classmate has lighter hair naturally. Her homeroom teacher told her to dye it black because she stood out so much! I would take offence with that and be marching down to the school demanding to see the idiot who would think of something like that.
    I guess it`s one of those things where you have to choose your sure will find out in the next 10 years or so with two girls!

  5. @Rachel.
    How the HELL does a veil "offend" your "sense of equality". By saying that aren't you implying that their cultural sense of modesty is unequal and therefore wrong. Most western women who wear the veil have chosen to do so out of committment to their religion. VERY FEW have been forced to do so and because of people like you in some places these women have actually had to protest for their right to wear a veil or even a hijab!

  6. When it comes to bullying there doesn't need to be a reason, just someone that is chosen to be picked on. So really I think bullying is just more hidden among the many robots.

    And about the earrings, in Spain for example the parents usually get their daughters earrings when they are only a few days old. And that is normal here, where in Sweden people find that a bit horrifying. So I don't have a conclusion either but my personal opinion is as long as it's not "tacky" or too obvious, small earrings should be allowed, I also don't see anything wrong with putting a few highlights in your hair when you reach your teens.

    And your blog is great btw - I check out your page almost every day.

  7. Interesting topic...

    For me, I want love to get Leilah's ears done but I will be waiting till she can personally tell me she wants them done. Even if I have to coerce her a little :P

    That being said though I want them done before she starts school so that they will be fully healed and able to be taken out during school time if need be.

  8. Sorry for just popping in like this, but I guess this is something I apparently feel strongly about. I have my ears pierced four times in one ear and twice in the other and my (Japanese) bf has never said anything to me about them being offensive, so I'm grateful on his behalf. That said, my mom pierced my ears - once - when I was so small that I don't even remember it.

    Now I understand the fact that in Japan, at times, you must do as the Japanese do. But in this I wholly disagree with the school because this is my body they're trying to restrict. In school unless I'm doing something terribly offensive, distracting or outright wrong they should have no right policing it. I wouldn't go out of my way to wear any flashy earrings, just small studs, of course, but I sure as heck wouldn't take them out either. It just seems like such a silly argument for the teacher and schools in general to be getting involved in when there are so many other important things they could be riled up over.

  9. Conformity is the death of individuality. I work with several Japanese companies so I can see right up close a major issue with the Japanese economy - lack of insightful corporate leadership. This is because Japanese kids are trained from youth to blend in, to not stick out, to bury their individuality. This leads to corporate decisions made by committee as opposed to making a bold choice that could save the company, albeit at the expense of some people's feelings. I'm all for promoting and embracing diversity, and all for immigration in Japan. The reason Japan's economy has been in the crapper for 20 years is the dearth of fresh ideas that immigrants would bring to the table.

  10. I'm not against piercing ears but I wouldn't do it to mine. I think it looks tacky when they are so young. I had mine done when I was about 7 years old but they got infected and now I can't wear any at all, which is fine by me as I don't care for foreign objects in my body. I think it's ok to wait until their 16 and then if they still want it, like with tattoos and stuff, they can get it. I agree though with not being a sheeple, to me that's the worst thing you could ever be. But you can be individual in other ways without permanently marking your body :)

  11. It's hard to know the right answer. I'd hate my kids to be boring robots like the ones I teach, they're nice kids but have no individuality. But, at the same time, I do think Gaijins should try to respect the rules in the same way that Japanese people do, as much as possible while still respecting our own essential values. When I was at school, I hated what I had to wear but I did it because that was the rule. There was more room for expression than there is here, but still not much. I saved my individual style, and a few cringeworthy fashion statements there were too, for when I wasn't at school. I guess the same should apply here.

  12. Miss Mulligrubs, you misread me, I said I was one of the ones supporting Muslim women's right to wear a headscarf.

    The point is that Western society in general (ie, not me) has a problem with FULL FACE veils and body coverings. There's a clash there. I don't have all the answers...

  13. The first week I worked at a private school in Mexico I found out that we line the students in height order for Honors every Monday. While the flag is marched by, the students salute the flag Mexican style. Then they say a pledge to their flag with arms raised in a Nazi-like salute. Freaked me out the first time I witnessed it. Like a good, respectful person I stood at attention with my arms at my side. The Canadian teacher and the teacher from the Solomon Islands had their arms raised. But I, the American, along with the other American teacher, refused. We've been taught to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of American and it just feels too weird for us to salute another country's flag. So the English coordinator came over and tried to get us to salute the flag by telling us, "There's a saying that when in Rome do as the Romans do."

    I replied, "The Romans fed Christians to the lions. Should I do that to?"

    With that being said, there are rules in Mexico too. Maybe not as strict as Japan? However, my stepdaughter wears a uniform to school with no fingernail polish and all hair accessories must be white. We follow the rules of school. I allow her to paint her nails on weekends but it is removed by Monday morning.

  14. If I had a daughter and she came to me at 8 or 9 and said she wanted her ears pierced then I would make her wait one year and then let her do it if she still wanted to even if we were living in Japan.

    I realize it would cause some issues in school here but I would tell the school to suck it up and say that in our culture children are allowed to pierce their ears if they want to but I would use clear earings to at least make it look like we were trying to follow the rules.

    My brother got his ear pierced when he was 6. Before I even got mine done (I think I was 8 or 9).....he asked my mum and she said "ask your father" thinking dad would never say yes and of course dad said yes, that is fine. He was a mad keen soccer player and it came from that. The school he went to from age 10 banned earings (all boys school) so he took it out- as far as I know he doesn`t have a hole anymore. I haven`t seen him wear an earing since he was 16 or so (around the same time he gave up soccer)

    I went to an all girls catholic school where the rules were pretty strict- ie, no hair dye, no more than one earing in each year and they had to be plain studs or sleepers, no other jewellery except for a watch and our skirts had to come three inches below our knees. Also no make-up and no coloured hair clips/bands except for green or brown (school colours) I wore a necklace that fit under my blouse and each morning I would take my rings off and put them around the chain and then put them back on after school. If you were caught with jewellery on it was taken off you and not given back until the end of term and if you came to school with coloured hair you were sent home until it was back to its original colour.

    I had some pretty crazy hair styles (since my hair was short from 15 or so) but I kept the colour to a minimum while I was still in school but the colour got pretty radical after I left school. I guess, like Rachel, I towed the line to a certain extent but bent the rules slightly.

    I guess I would allow my kids that some chance.

  15. What does Ryota say about Ash getting tattoo`s? He has some right? When would he let Ash get a tattoo if he asked for one?

  16. @Rachel. I'm sorry I have appeared to slightly overreact to your statement, the way I read it, particularly with how you said you are in support of headscarves but then contrasted that statement with the general Western prejudice against full-face veils, made me believe that it was something you thought. Even though I am not a muslim, I have muslim friends who are harrased for only wearing the hijab and this issue is important to me. I am sorry for the misunderstanding.

  17. I went through the ear piercing thing with my daughter at 15. We were living overseas but she was going to a Japanese school. She really wanted it done, I asked some of her friends about it and they didn't think it was a big thing, so she got them pierced. When she went to school the next day the teacher had an absolute fit. He said later that he didn't tell her to take the earrings out, but this is what she felt he said. Anyway it was right before she would have to go to school interviews for high school. Supposedly some school interviewers notice things like this (if you have pierced years etc.) So she took the earrings out, her ears grew right back together, she got into the high school where she wanted to go, and she got them pierced when she was in college. I didn't realize that it was such a big thing in Japan, to not have your ears pierced. I think that the jr. high school teachers feel like they are protecting the child's future by offering this strong advice.

    It may be a safety issue too at school. One of our students had her earring pulled at school by mistake and she was slightly injured (even though they were only studs.. this was at an international school. )
    Nancy Tsurumaki

  18. So wait - girls in Japan don't have pierced ears?! I had mine pierced when I was 4 (I am 30, I live in the US). Do adult Japanese women have pierced ears? Why couldn't the school just have a rule like post/stud earrings only?

  19. pierce, tattoo, dye, veil...
    so vain...