Japan Sociology

How the End-of-the-Day Meeting at Japanese Schools Endorse Horrible Totalitalian Whistle-blowing

(This is a translated/enhanced edition of the Japanese article originally published on 2013-11-25, due to some interests from Freenet users, I am publishing English translated version.)

When I was attending a Japanese elementary school, very long time ago, beginning around the year 1986, the end of each day was an end-of-the-day meeting.

Generally, important information for the following day, for instance, are main purpose of the meeting, however, there were part of the meeting where people were encouraged to whistle-blow their fellow students, usually for anything petty, such as “So and so weren’t working hard during cleaning hours.” (Students do cleaning duties for schools in Japanese schools.) It was held for all grades, perhaps except for first year, so I believe it was practiced school wide. (A quick Google search suggests it is widely practiced in school throughout Japan.)

It’s probably have been OK, if the whole accusation is true and appropriate for the one being accused, but the problem is when it is an accusation that one do not deserve. Many people who are weak to be confronted (or being sensitive to how others see them) tend to admit their fault, even when they know they don’t deserve one. Myself being quite cynical, and not necessary popular (kind of guy who would be alone, when the teacher asks pair up with other students, sort of speaking) I wouldn’t admit where there was no wrongdoing. This would often have caused this supposedly 10 minute meeting continuing for hours, although, by the time it deemed to take too long, teachers tend to wrap it up, perhaps making a rather ambiguous remark like “I have to leave this up to your consciousness.”

The problem of the end-of-the-day meeting is that there were no protection for one being accused, and judgement is being held by person(s) of interests; essentially first one that says something wins. It’s because logically, it is difficult, if not impossible to prove such wrongdoing didn’t take place to begin with. With an added disadvantage of not being popular in the class would make it worse, and indeed, these are the ones targeted the most. The End-of-the Day meeting contributed nothing but unnecessary dissension among students. What it essentially promoted whistle-blow for every minor dispute; including ones supposed to be solved among ones involved, as well as self-contained wrongdoing that has no effect on anyone but themselves. Essentially, it was a world of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) to make sure they weren’t the sole target for such whistle-blowing.

I don’t think it is an overstatement this practice promotes forced confession by police officers, with no transparency in Japan. The End-of-the-Day meeting should be abolished.

By Hideki Saito

In the video game industry for for more than 15 years. Currently working for Nintendo of America Inc. as a Localization Engineer, developing the translation solutions.