Yoneyama 2008.pdf - Volume 6 | Issue 12 | Number 0 | The...

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The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 6 | Issue 12 | Number 0 | Dec 01, 2008 1 The Era of Bullying: Japan under Neoliberalism Shoko YONEYAMA The Era of Bullying: Japan under Neoliberalism Shoko YONEYAMA Introduction Bullying (ijime) and school nonattendance (futoko) have been the key ‘behavioural problems’ among students in Japan since the mid-1980s. School nonattendance has been consistently dealt with by the Ministry of Education and Science (MoE),[1] but there have been few systematic efforts to curb bullying by the school administration either at national or local levels. The contrast is clear also at the grassroots level. Unlike school nonattendance, which led to the development of a major social movement in support of futoko students and their parents,[2] bullying has rarely been considered by Japanese citizens to be an issue deserving of coordinated action.[3] One apparent reason for this difference is that bullying is generally hard for adults to recognise,[4] whereas school nonattendance is highly visible; adults find school students outside school during class hours and teachers find empty seats in the classroom. A more fundamental reason, however, is that school nonattendance is generally seen to be a problem of student maladjustment to school and society, whereas bullying is, to a large extent, a manifestation of students’ adjustment to human relations around them. The notion that ‘bullying prepares children for the future’ describes this reality. Even though its political incorrectness may inhibit adults from being explicit about it, indications of tacit approval of bullying are ubiquitous in schools and society at large. The perception of bullying as a ‘rite-of-passage’ experience is not unique to Japan. Comparatively speaking, however, Japan, where conformist and hierarchical pressures have been considered relatively strong, be it for cultural or institutional reasons, would provide an excellent case to illuminate sociological aspects of bullying. In fact, the possibility that bullying is pathological overadjustment to the group-oriented society [5] and hierarchical and power-dominant human relationships has been pointed out.[6] Again, neither pressure to conform nor hierarchical human relations is unique to Japan. However, analysis of the Japanese case can clarify the relationship between these and bullying.
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APJ | JF 6 | 12 | 0 2 Bullying, moreover, appears to have become a key concept in understanding Japanese society today. Recent publication of popular titles which claim Japan to be a ‘bullying society’ (ijime shakai) suggests the centrality of the concept at this time.[7] The common thesis is that conformist and hierarchical pressures in Japan have been so great that bullying has become the key to understanding human relations at school, work and society at large. The paper examines this thesis first by looking into bullying among Japanese youth, followed by analysis of the broader socio-political climate of Japan since the late 1990s.
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