Controversial rules on hairstyles and underwear are to be scrapped at high schools run by the Tokyo metropolitan government, after pressure from students.
Almost 200 public high schools and other educational institutions will drop five regulations, including one requiring students to have black hair, from April, the Mainichi Shimbun said, citing official sources.
The newspaper said rules designating the colour of students’ underwear and a ban on the “two block” hairstyle – short at the back and sides and longer on top – will also be dropped.
The move comes after a survey carried out last year of 240 schools in the capital found that 216 retained regulations that an increasing number of people in education – including the children themselves – say are outdated.
Some of the rules will stay in certain schools, however. While some will abolish a requirement for students to show proof that their hair is naturally curly or a colour other than black, some will keep the regulation, reportedly at the request of students and parents.
Yuto Kitamura, a member of the Tokyo metropolitan board of education, said the decision to scrap the most egregious regulations was a “major step forward”, according the Mainichi.
Another member, Kaori Yamaguchi, praised the move but said it had taken too long to address students’ grievances.
“Japanese people have been taught to believe that it is a virtue to simply abide by the rules,” she said. “I hope this will be an opportunity for people to discuss what we should do to create a society where rules are observed in a way that’s acceptable to everyone.”
The debate over strict dress codes intensified several years ago after a high school student, then aged 18, sued education authorities in Osaka after her school had told her to dye her naturally brown hair black or face exclusion.
Last year, the Osaka district court rejected her claim that she had been forced to dye her hair, but said the removal of her desk and name from the roster after she stopped attending classes had been unreasonable. It ordered the board of education to pay her ¥330,000 [£2,152] in compensation.
Last year, all public high schools in Mie, a prefecture in western Japan, abolished rules governing hairstyles, underwear colour and dating, with local officials conceding that the requirements were “relics” from a different age.
Some schools had told students they must wear undershirts in beige, mocha or other colours that were not easily visible beneath their uniforms, while only “monotone white, grey, navy blue or black” underwear was permissible.
Some students have successfully campaigned for girls to be allowed to wear trousers to school, while others have called for a lifting of bans on makeup and hair products.