Sempai-cohai culture kicks in during JHS (jr high school)

After 6 months of JHS is that DH now calls DD our “little salaryman”.

His impression was that going from grade 6 to JH1 was a black and white experience, and that her lifestyle now is not much different from the average salaryman. She leaves the house very early, has club after school, and often on weekends, and juku twice a week or more depending on the season and arrives home quite late.

Oh, and the ‘sempai sytem’ really kicks in during J.H. This refers to the relationship between students of different grade levels. It is most obviously apparent in the clubs. The clubs are often run by students themselves, and do not always have teacher supervisors on hand. Depending on how big the club is and how popular it is, the 1st graders can almost be seen as ‘slaves’ to the 3rd graders.

When I drive DD and her friends to juku, or go certain places around town, the 1st graders do their best to not be seen by any 2nd or 3rd graders and literally state that particularly the 2nd graders are ‘scary’. Some schools have more ‘healthy’ sempai systems at work, while others cross the line to flat out bullying. DD’s school is known in this area to be rather like a jet coaster of ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’.

The sempai system is somthing that goes on forever in Japanese culture. i.e. now, at my work. I work with two older ladies. It is very tricky in that I am the wife of the boss who holds a higher position, yet since I am younger by age, I need to balance out my decisions by asking the ladies for advice always, and for the most part following their advice.

DH still calls his older friends, ‘sempai’ and always bows lower than the sempai.

So, teachers encourage 1st graders to respect and listen to the older students.    — R.


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