Anime, which derives from the English word “animation”, is a Japanese cartoon typically in an easily recognizable style that differs from western cartoons. Popular anime shows are subtitled or dubbed into other languages; soe examples of world-famous anime would be Sailor Moon and Pokemon. Although anime comes in a huge variety of genres from drama to science-fiction to horror to fantasy, many ideas are inspired from the real world. Even in worlds that are not meant to be realistic, we see examples of real-life features, as these of course provided the inspiration. One example of real life that you can see in anime is high school. Many protagonists in anime shows are high school students and therefore some scenes take place in their place of education with fellow students.
Anime shows about schools showcase events such as having fun and chatting in the classroom, attending school clubs several times a year, doing daily chores, and spending time with friends in quiet parts of the school. Many anime shows feature high school students with scenes taking place inside their school. But how does high school life in anime reflect real life Japanese education?
Junior high school in Japan starts at around age 13 and students enter high school at 15 or 16. In anime, you might see students hanging out with their friends, eating snacks, and chatting in their classrooms. Unfortunately, real Japanese schools are much more strict and many students do not have as much time as you may think for cliques and other things similar to what you might see in anime shows. Most of their time is spent on academic studies, and they have limited time for entertainment that isn’t immediately associated with their studies.
High school students, in particular, are preparing for the difficult university entrance exam, which requires a lot of extra studies. Some high school students also engage in school club activities or English conversation schools to give their resume an edge or extra help with their English exams. In order to understand the reality of Japanese schools better, here are a few of the rules that the students must follow in most schools in Japan.
Safety is one of the most important factors in Japanese schools and it is taken very seriously. This starts before the students even arrive at the school grounds. It is forbidden to drive a car to school, and students cannot even be dropped off by their parents, friends, or guardians.
Many of the students either reach the school on foot or ride bicycles if the distance is not too great. In other cases, pupils must take public transportation, such as trains or buses. School policies often require students to stand on buses and trains, leaving seats open for other travelers, such as the elderly, in order to exhibit consideration and politeness.
High school students in anime often have quirky traits such as reading while they are walking, chewing gum or candy, or some other personal habit that makes them a more interesting character.
However, reading books while taking a stroll, chewing gum, or any other “impolite” actions may not allowed by schools because this might leave a bad reputation towards the school that the students go to. However, these behaviors tend to be less considerable as the students move further away from the school.
In anime, uniforms can vary, although it is common to see short skirts, long socks, and some kind of cute hairstyle with hair accessories, large glasses, and perhaps jewelry. Here is a picture of a real typical Japanese school uniform.
There are some other variations available, but in short, the most common types are the blazer and sailor. The blazer style involves white, long-sleeved shirts that are essential for boys and girls, followed by black blazers. Neckties are worn around the necks which are applied to both genders. Sometimes, girls are required to wear only the ribbons. The main features of the sailor style have sailor-like collars and ribbons on the chest for girls. In contrast, the boys wear high-collared jackets with golden buttons, which are called “gakurans”.
Students are usually allowed to remove their jackets during the hotter summer months and just wear white short-sleeved shirts. The boys wear casual t-shirts underneath their sleeved shirts.
It is strictly forbidden in Japanese schools to wear nail polish, too much makeup, clothes that don’t adhere to the school uniform, or to even dye their hair (unless it’s black or dark brown). The extravagant hairstyles and colors you may stop in anime shows, then, don’t reflect real life at all and are simply up to the creativity of the artist!
Interestingly, because of the strict rules on school uniforms which arguably dissuades from originality, cute stationery and bag accessories are very popular among students to express themselves and their interests.
Once at a school, students are normally provided with lockers or shoe racks where they have to place their outdoor shoes (usually black or brown loafers) and wear “uwabaki” (Japanese indoor slippers) before entering a classroom. The main purpose of wearing indoor shoes is to keep cleaning and maintaining the floor to a minimum since there are no janitors in the building.
What you might not see in anime is “o-soji”, where students clean their own classroom, including the floors. This is to encourage the students to learn valuable life lessons such as taking care of your own space. Janitors and cleaners are not hired in Japanese schools because the students are required clean up their own mess.
Sugary snacks and processed foods are banned in most of the school compounds as they provide little to no nutritional benefit. Allowing such foods can contribute to the development of many health problems, like tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. The students often eat school lunches or boxed lunches that are usually made by their mothers in the early morning, which consist of rice, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables, or other healthy ingredients.
With these rules in mind, do you think that real life Japanese school life is similar to that in your favorite anime show? Like any TV show, real life doesn’t always reflect what happens in reality. Nevertheless, inspiration for anime did come from real school life, such as the school uniforms (though the anime versions may be more quirky) and the structure of schools themselves. Next time you see your favorite anime show, see how many “real life” school rules are being broken!