The Board of Education of Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward revealed on December 13th that a female junior high student attending a school in said Ward was bullied by 3 of her classmates for being an evacuee from Fukushima, the area of Japan where the nuclear meltdown accident occurred after the devastating 9.1-magnitude 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The 3 students allegedly blackmailed the Fukushima evacuee into buying about 10,000 yen (about 86 U.S. dollars) worth of snacks and drinks for them by threatening to reveal that she was from Fukushima.
According to the Chiyoda Ward Board of Education, the victim’s mother approached school officials about the ongoing bullying after she found empty drink bottles and snack wrappers stuffed into her daughter’s bag in late November. The mother told them that her daughter was taking money out of her wallet in order to buy snacks and drinks for her classmates. The next day school officials talked to the victim and learned more details. The girl stated that several of her classmates had been calling her “evacuee.” She also said that they had called her “poor” because she had evacuated from Fukushima. The girl also explained that 3 of her classmates had been pestering her to buy them snacks and other things, as well as threatening to reveal to other classmates that she was from Fukushima if she did not. She also revealed that some of her textbooks, notebooks and school related papers had gone missing.
Meanwhile, the students who are said to have called the girl “evacuee” are denying these allegations. Among these students there are also some that are claiming that they did not even know the girl was a Fukushima evacuee. As for the 3 students that are accused of coercing the girl into buying them snacks and drinks, they have admitted to asking the girl to “treat them” but they also stated that they did not consider their actions to qualify as bullying. One of the students also admitted to borrowing money for the train from the girl but said that he believed he had paid her back.
The Chiyoda Ward Board of Education is taking these allegations seriously and is considering this a case of bullying. However, they are still investigating and will be bringing in specialists such as lawyers and psychologists in order to help clarify inconsistencies in the stories provided by the parties involved.
Although it was not until this year that the bullying is said to have intensified the girl also revealed that she had been bullied in elementary school as well for being from Fukushima. She explained that she had been called “Miss Fukushima” (Fukushima san) in elementary school and so wished to keep her classmates from revealing where she was from even if she had to use money to keep them from talking
Thankfully, this case of bullying was discovered before anybody involved got physically injured or lost their lives. However, this story is also a reminder that even more than 5 years after the horrible 2011 earthquake its effects are still being felt in a variety of different ways. Sadly, this not the only case of someone from Fukushima being bullied at school. Just recently there was another widely covered story involving an elementary school student. Fortunately, this boy did not take his life either, even though he revealed that he did consider it. Of course, cases like these are very much related to the ongoing bullying problem in Japan, which currently shows no significant signs of improvement. However, thanks to the Japanese media’s extensive coverage of this story and others like it, there is a small chance that awareness about these problems is raised and some positive effect is felt by not only those affected by the 2011 earthquake but also by those suffering from bullying.