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Schoolgirls bare thighs irritating government, school officials

Date Posted: 2005-06-04

Skirt hemlines are inching upward, bringing smiles to the schoolgirls wearing them, and also to those watching. Those short skirts on hips of Okinawa high school girls are also irritating a member of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, who has mounted a crusade for more conservative lengths.
High school girls on this sub-tropical island are sporting the shortest skirts in Japan, now an average 18.3 centimeters above the knee. Japan’s school standard for skirt lengths has traditionally been at mid-knee. They have stolen the title from Niigata, a winter wonderland city in northern Japan. Until attention focused on Okinawa several months ago, everyone accepted Niigata’s 17.7cm skirt length as shortest, a few girls sporting the school uniform skirts even 20cm and 27cm above the knee.

The girls say they are happy wearing the skirts the shorter length, calling it a fashion statement. Schoolboys agree. Assemblyman Katsuhiro Yoshida vehemently disagrees. Yoshida says he’s been offended by the short skirts, telling a Japanese men’s magazine, Flash, that the sight is so embarrassing he doesn’t know where to shift his eyes away. His irritation turned to stronger measures in February, when he demanded the Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education take action to end the short skirts practice.

Okinawa’s girls are, on average, wearing their uniforms a full five centimeters shorter than Niigata’s teens. Some are proudly showing their even shorter skirt lengths of 20-28cm above the knee. “It makes your legs longer,” says one girl. “If the skirt is longer, it makes you look like a junior high school girl,” said another. “Pantyhose is no answer,” another blustered. “They make you look like a dork.”

Flash magazine began eyeing the leggy issue in Niigata shortly after hearing Yoshida’s agitation. Niigata Prefecture education officials acknowledge the girls’ love for short skirts, but say they have no intentions of pressuring the youngsters to lower their skirt lengths. Despite the crisp, snowy winter weather, Niigata officials say the girls enjoy the exposure. One teacher said the girls often wear long pants under the short skirts as they travel to school, then put the pants in schoolbags once there.

Okinawa girls are finding pressure in varying degrees at different high schools. Some schools are monitoring the lengths, posting teachers at the schoolhouse doors with measuring sticks, forcing the girls to be creative. "It's really tough," a central Okinawa teen told Flash magazine. "We get a male teacher with a ruler measuring how many centimeters the hems on our skirts rise above our knees. If it's too short, they make you go home. Some girls have been forced to change into their PE gear."

Girls say their solution is to lower the skirts to a level that gets them past inspection, then hiking them up again once inside the school hallways. The Okinawa Prefecture Board of Education is not taking the issue lightly. The national media attention brought by Assemblyman Yoshida’s complaints have made the educators sensitive to what is viewed a moral issue by some. Girls don’t see what all the fuss is about. Neither do the boys who say they enjoy the thighs being exposed in contrast to the school uniforms.

The school board says it is sending out new sets of directives spelling out full standards of dress for students. Reports, leaked from prefecture offices, hint that the standards will formally ban miniskirt-length school uniforms, with punishment to be meted out to violators. Officials were reluctant to discuss those directives, other than to say they hope it will spur action to lower the skirt lengths to a more modest level and create a more conservative atmosphere in the schools.

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