children in uniform in school
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
April 20, 2024 ·  3 min read

Japanese Public Schools No Longer Allowed To Check Color Of Students’ Underwear

All of us grew up going to a school with a dress code, whether we had to wear uniforms or not. These rules never dictated, however, what we could wear underneath our clothing. In Japan, however, this has not been the case. Last month, it was announced that Japanese Public Schools would finally no longer be allowed to regulate the color of student’s underwear. (1)

Japanese Elementary Schools Banned From Enforcing Rules About The Color Of Student’s Underwear

No, you didn’t misread that heading. Part of the dress code in some Japanese schools included a strict white-underwear-only policy. The origins of this rule date back to 1870, however, they became even stricter in the 70s and 80s in an attempt to fight back against school violence and bullying. Despite these problems being drastically reduced, the rules remain and are now causing problems of their own. (2)

To check whether or not students are complying with these undergarment rules, it is not uncommon for teachers to pull girls’ bra straps out through the collar of their shirts. (3) In some cases, it is reported students have to unbutton their shirts to show the white bra underneath. (2) Teachers will also monitor students while they are changing for gym class in order to ensure their underwear is white. (2)

While this seems ludacris to us, the teachers enforcing the rules don’t necessarily see them as strange, because these rules were imposed on them when they were students, as well. Now, however, parents are speaking up as concerns about shaming and sexual harassment are growing. (2)

Not Just One Crazy Rule

In some schools, students are forbidden from wearing underwear during gym class at all. The reason behind the rule is perceived problems with hygiene, sweat, and underwear. Girls are particularly vulnerable to these rules, as many are subject to sexual harassment while teachers check whether or not their breasts are large enough to require a bra at all. In gym class, they need permission from the teacher in order to wear underwear or a supportive bra. (2)

On top of this, some districts required students to wear their gym uniforms without underwear whenever they were outside the home. This allowed teachers to identify them easily if they were doing something that they shouldn’t be doing. Other rules required students to have written proof that their hair is natural if it is anything other than black and straight. (3)

Abolished Rules

The Saga prefecture abolished the rule requiring students to wear white underwear and therefore the need for teachers to enforce such a rule in March 2021. Also abolished were the rules about requiring written confirmation as to whether or not non-black or curly hair is natural. Now, teachers just have to take the student’s word for it. Finally, there will no longer be designated uniforms for girls and boys in this prefecture. This is in response to changes in attitudes about gender expression. (1)

The prefecture found that at least 14 out of 51 middle and high schools had this underwear rule, which they have now removed for all schools. 35 schools had male and female-designated uniforms, which has also now been removed. (1) Concerned parents pushed the changes forward who, thankfully, had friends who worked in positions that could incite change. For those without influence, however, making these changes happen is a lot harder. (3)

“Many say students and parents need to act in order for rules to change. But the reality is that if you don’t have influence, nothing gets done,” said Kyoko Kimura, who fought to have these changes made to protect her daughters. “It’s upsetting that you need power to change injustice. But hopefully schools feel more pressure to update buraku kousoku.” (3)

We can only hope that these damaging and dangerous rules will be abolished in all prefectures across the country.

Keep Reading: Non-Binary Person Says We Should ‘Stop Associating Periods With Womanhood’


  1. Public schools in Japan’s Saga Prefecture will no longer regulate/check students’ underwear color.” News on Japan. March 27.
  2. In Japan, Students Have Underwear Rules. Their Parents Say ‘No More.’.” VICE. Hanako Montgomery. March 15, 2021.
  3. Japanese public schools banned from checking color of students’ underwear.” Mashable SE Asia. Dale John Wong. April 2021.