Every year, sadly, in Japan there are horrific stories of bullying. In a recent case a young school boy committed suicide after being persecuted and even made to rehearse his suicide by his persecutors. There was another recent case of a another boy who committed suicide after being hit more than 40 times by his teacher in one day. This for me was the most tragic of cases as the bully was actually a teacher who should have been protecting the child and not persecuting him.
This is a sensitive and really shameful aspect of Japanese society but I really want to say two things. The first is that this is not the common experience of all kids and secondly that I truly believe that the bully is also a victim.
However in both cases the initial reaction of the school was to deny the problem and it was only the efforts of the distressed parents that brought the cases to the attention of the public and eventually forced the authorities to react to the situations,
So where does J-pop fit in all of this ? ? ?
Babymetal, Japan’s foremost J-pop metal fusion group, have recently signed to a major label and their first single for this label was an anti bullying track.
Bringing this tragic issue into the public domain is something that is unusual in the candy floss world of J-pop and it is contrary to the typical reaction in our culture to pretend that problems do not exist.
Even though you may not like Babymetal, I was really pleased that this group and their management, should choose this track as their first major label single. They are very popular in Japan with middle and elementary school kids and a powerful disaprroval of this behaviour in popular kids culture is really welcome.
I believe that we need to enable kids to express themselves and grow and give them freedom. I was lucky my parents selected the school I went to not just on academic achievement but also on the school philosophy which was based on love, respect, team work and community life, and in my school there was no bullying at all.
In Japan we have a saying that “there is no one so cruel as a slave with a whip” and whenever I hear stories of bullying I remeber this saying.
I believe if we gave every kid an safe environment and space to grow we can stop this cancer in our education system, Supporting victims of bullying, even though that is really very important, will not stop it, we have to address the bullies and the conditions that create them.
Of course in a four minute pop song you can not change the world, but if J-pop can at least express intolerance of bullying and publicise this serious issue then maybe we are moving slowly and with small steps, but at least in the right direction.
Finally I would like to draw your attention to Nakamoto Sakura who is the singer in Babymetal.
This charming and pretty 15 year old girl is a student at the Hiroshima Actors School and has an impressive career already. She has appeared in several musical theatre productions and starred in the musical theatre production Adventurers. She was a member of the J-Pop Idol group Karens Girls and is currently the main singer in both Babymetal and J-pop idol group Sakura Gakuin. I believe she really has the talent to be a major star either as an actress or musician in the future. So remember you saw her here first ! ! !
Babymetal - Ijime Dame Zettai (No More Bullying Ever )
( The Video features our one and only Mr P in his Japanese acting debut )