“Makkuro iyaya.” ("I hate black hair.") As said by one brown-haired junior high school girl to another on the platform at Awaji station this afternoon. There’s a permanent teacher-pupil war over the right to dye one’s hair a colour other than black, as I found out when I worked at a junior high school (funny name, by the way, but that’s the official English translation). I wonder whether teachers would try to exert such control in a country which doesn’t claim ethnic homogeneity. In the interests of stirring up the debate, I asked the teachers what they would do if a blond-haired caucasian student were to dye her hair black. They didn’t have an answer.

Nonetheless, it says a lot about Japan today. As my father observed when he visited, black hair is in the minority, despite what one would instinctively imagine.

After hearing the schoolgirls’ outraged discussion, I decided to perform a quick, statistically unsound survey of hair colour. Of the people in my train carriage whom I could easily see without craning and drawing undue attention, I observed the following:

Black or grey hair 12
Brown hair 12
Blond hair 1

Not exactly definitive, but it makes the point.