Niigata's schoolgirls are prepared to brave the northern Honshu prefecture's icy winters to lay claim to wearing uniforms with the shortest skirts worn by girls in any part of Japan, according to Flash (2/8).
High school girls in the prefectural home of the "Snow Country" immortalized by Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata wore skirts with hemlines that were, on average, 17.7 centimeters above the knee, the standard method to measure dress length for many Japanese schools with uniforms.
Some of the girls from the admittedly small sample of 23 pupils had dresses that went well over 20 centimeters above the knee, with some even climbing by a whopping 27 centimeters.
Niigata Prefecture schoolgirls' dress length, or lack thereof, has apparently been widely covered in Japan's national dailies this year, supposedly after a rumor alleged to have begun through a boast made by a Niigata-based radio station.
Amazingly, the men's photo-oriented weekly gushes, not only are Niigata schoolgirls' skirts incredibly short, it's also customary for the wearers to shun pantyhose despite the often freezing temperature.
"Are you kidding? Pantyhose are only for dorks. I wouldn't wear them no matter how cold it gets," one Niigata schoolgirl tells Flash with a laugh. "Mind you, instead of pantyhose, I do wear wooly undies to keep out the cold."
A sportier type has a slightly more practical outlook on sticking stockings.
"I ride a bike to school," she says. "I stick on a pair of tracksuit pants underneath my uniform. They keep out the cold and stop anybody from peeping up my dress at the same time. I can kill two birds with one stone."
It was common only a few years ago for many schools to post a teacher at the front gate to check on the length of uniform skirts, but now it seems to be a free-for-all on the hemline front.
"Our teachers couldn't care. Some of them brag about Niigata having the shortest schoolgirl skirts in the country. One teacher did advise us to wear the long skirts we used to have at junior high school when we went to sit our university entrance exams, though," a schoolgirl says. "The boys at school all say they only want us to make the skirts even shorter."
Flash notes that the scores of junior high school girls it interviewed in Niigata were all aware of the reputation the prefecture's students had for wearing the skimpiest school uniforms in the country. The rumor, it seems, started from stories Niigata Prefecture students had of life in Tokyo.
Many girls who went off to study in Tokyo would return home on holidays amazed at what lengths Niigata schoolgirls would go to with their uniforms compared to their capital cousins and hemlines became a popular topic of discussion among teen and 20-something women in the "Snow Country." The claim to having the shortest schoolgirl skirts in Japan, however, arose because Niigata girls bettered students in Tokyo.
Prefectural education officials acknowledge Niigata schoolgirls' preference for short skirts.
"Dresses have generally grown increasingly shorter over the past four or five years," a spokesman for the Niigata Prefectural Board of Education tells Flash. "I guess it's just a fashion thing."
While educators may be keeping an open mind about the fad, that's definitely not the case at the unnamed radio station which has been given some credit, or blame, for starting the rumor about the prefecture's brief schoolgirl skirts.
"We may have had some programs on our network where people have talked about the rumor," a radio station spokesman tells Flash before angrily declining to answer any further questions. "Don't forget we live in a world with a growing amount of sex crime."
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