Japanese school rules for using rash in swim lessons leave parents baffled

The Footmark Corp. “Shine Guard” Long Sleeve Swimsuit is seen in the Sumida district of Tokyo on July 7, 2022. (Mainichi/Maki Nakajima)

TOKYO — As swimming lessons have resumed in many Japanese schools for the first time in three years, parents are confused about some schools’ rules regarding the use of rash guards, which require them to submit papers or speak with the director to gain permission.

The Mainichi Shimbun examined the state of these practices surrounding rashes, which provide UV protection and make differences in body shape less noticeable.

“I have to write on paper that my children will use lycra and submit it to schools,” said a woman in her 30s from the city of Saitama, north of Tokyo, in bewilderment. At the schools of his two children — a third-grader and a middle-school freshman — parents of students who want to use rashes or glasses are apparently asked to submit documents showing their intention to use additional equipment before the swimming season. begin.

“I don’t understand why we have to go out of our way to submit them, even if there are hardly any cases where we don’t get permission. I asked the question first,” said the woman. However, she was also understanding to some extent saying, “Well, the teacher has to deal with almost 40 students on his own, and I can understand them wanting to go that way to keep irregular cases to a minimum. to manage the children.

A Tokyo resident in her 40s was desperate for her daughter to wear a rash vest after seeing her get badly sunburned during swimming lessons at her elementary school last summer. When the mother relayed this to the homeroom teacher via a pen pal, she received the unexpected response, “Please get permission by meeting with the principal.”

The woman went to the school to present a document and speak with the principal. When she asked the director why the procedure was necessary, they apparently explained, “When you wear a rashguard, the water resistance increases, which makes it difficult to swim.” In the end, she was given permission for her child to exclusively wear a navy-colored, hoodless guy.

The woman said: “The meeting ended too well, and I didn’t feel any particular opposition from the school, so I was surprised. If so, I want the school lets us write a note on the billiard card next to a seal (which indicates a signature), which is the measure of the use of glasses There may be parents who drop out because they are busy with work or other things, after hearing that a meeting is needed to have their children wear lycras.”

Rashguards originated as long-sleeved sportswear that surfers use to protect their skin, and have recently been used by pool and beach goers as well. There are no standard guidelines regarding their use in education, and cases differ by school.

A woman in her 40s whose child attends middle school in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district said, “In my child’s elementary school, there were no restrictions on color or pattern, and we were free to choose anything. In middle school, the school has a designated rashguard, and those who want to wear one buy it. I don’t think the rules are that strict.

“More and more schools are abolishing their system whereby parents ask for permission and instead have them buy the equipment from designated stores,” said Junya Shirakawa, a 45-year-old employee of Footmark Corp., which manufactures and sells swimwear and other items. . He explained, “In the past, they couldn’t be worn for no reason, like a skin condition, but I feel like there are many schools now that allow anyone to use lycras. I think that in many cases schools act on requests from parents and students.”

Since the 2000s, the company has marketed long swimsuits that cover the thighs and long-sleeved tops called “Shine Guard”. Shine Guard gear has apparently spread mainly in western Japan, including Okinawa and Kyushu, for about five years to avoid exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. They also began to be worn in eastern Japan about three years ago.

While orders are down from summer in usual years, the company received additional orders even in July this year. Demand has been particularly high among products aimed at middle schoolers, and plus-size clothing is selling well. When he learns that boys and girls are aware of their skin being exposed at school, Shirakawa thinks that the children’s desire to hide their figure is to blame for it all.

“In middle school, there are more students who attend swimming lessons because they are uncomfortable wearing swimsuits due to changes in their bodies. In a school, once she allowed students to wear long-sleeved bathing suits in an attempt to get more children to participate, students observing the class began attending classes,” he said.

Proudly, Shirakawa said swimwear is one item that solves low participation rates in swim lessons. He passionately said, “Swimming lessons are aimed at improving students’ swimming skills and preventing water-related accidents. Also for this reason, I’m happy if by increasing the swimwear options, there will be fewer students who don’t like to swim.

(Japanese original by Maki Nakajima, Digital News Center)

Martha K. Merrill