One sad aspect of Japan’s society is いじめ ijime (pronounced ee-jee-MEH), the cruel bullying that happens in school, sports and other social situations. We’re all human, of course, and various forms of hazing can be found in any group, from college fraternities to making the new guy at McDonald’s count all the pickles in the pickle bucket as an initiation ceremony, but it’s become a real social problem in Japan. There are some reasons why ijime is especially bad in Japan, including the strictness of the top-down senpai-kohai relationship system and Japan’s custom of organizing students into classes which never change for the entire year, so instead of each student going to a random classroom each hour, you’ve got the same people around you for 7 hours a day, six days a week. (Yes, Japanese students have to go to school on Saturdays.) Of course, ijime can happen to anyone, and my wife even had problems with some of her co-workers at a company she used to work at. Once, everyone was going out to a French restaurant, and they told her to dress in normal, everyday clothes, but when she arrived wearing jeans, she saw that everyone else had secretly dressed up just to embarrass her. My half-American daughter has also experienced some ijime in her almost-homogeneous school from time to time, like the cruel girls who told her she couldn’t join their club “because their Tamagotchis didn’t understand English.” The topic also comes up in our excellent English-translated visual novel YUME MIRU KUSURI: A Drug That Makes You Dream. One of the girls in the game is a transfer student who’s being bullied by her classmates, and you must find a way to protect her and eventually form an, ahem, special bond with her.
Bullying is a sad aspect of life in Japan.