Japanese Language School That Padlocked Student Gets Stiff Penalty

Japanese Language School That Padlocked Student Gets Stiff Penalty

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Fukuoka - Port of Hakata
Picture: TOSHI.K / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
The government of Japan sanctions a language school for its horrific treatment of a student - but the school's fighting back.

Going to a school in another country can be an intimidating experience. You’re unfamiliar with the location and local customs. Even worse, the school is an unknown quantity. Will it be good? Will teachers be understanding and patient? Will it meet your educational needs?

Unfortunately for one student in Fukuoka, his Japanese language school experience was about as bad as it could get. Now the school faces what amounts to a financial death sentence for its reprehensible actions.

He tried to leave. Here’s what happened next

The school in question is the Nishinihon International Education Institute (西日本国際教育学院)[3]. The student was a 20-something Vietnamese man. In October 2021, he approached his teacher and expressed his desire to transfer schools.

What happened next was shocking. The teacher wouldn’t let the student leave. Quite the contrary – he hooked a chain around his belt and the student’s and then padlocked the chain[1]. Footage shot by the student shows the teacher laughing while he restrained his victim. Another teacher was apparently present but did nothing to stop this.

Image of a teacher at the school padlocking a student to himself.
Image of a teacher at the school padlocking a student to himself. (Image: FNN)

The teachers kept the student detained for hours. They then let him go back to his dormitory. However, the student later said, the school kept a close eye on him so that he couldn’t leave his accommodations until the next day[2].

A human rights violation

The school's online ratings have taken a dive as Vietnamese users weigh in on the treatment of the student.
The school’s online ratings have taken a dive as Vietnamese users weigh in on the treatment of the student.

Obviously, this isn’t the educational experience that anyone envisions when they go to a language school. News of the school’s behavior made it to Japan’s Immigration Bureau, which certifies schools so that they can accept foreign nationals on student visas.

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When confronted, the school admitted the basic facts to the Immigration Bureau. However, they insisted, they were the “bad joke” of a single teacher and didn’t represent a policy set forth by the school. (I.e., they deployed the “one bad teacher” defense.) The school argued that the student was never injured, so everything was fine.

The Japan Immigration Bureau wasn’t having that explanation. On September 7th, the Bureau removed the school’s certification to accept overseas students. This means, according to local reports, that Nishinihon will not be able to accept international students for the next five years.

The school is appealing the ruling. In the meantime, the Immigration Bureau is encouraging the school’s currently enrolled 630 students to consider transferring to other schools.

There are some 820 such language schools in Japan. In 2016, the Immigration Bureau established standards for removing a school from the immigration roster. However, this extraordinary situation is the first time since that the rule’s been applied.

Let’s be careful out there

This article isn’t meant to deter anyone from applying to a Japanese language school in Japan.

Yes, you can study via online classes. But studying Japanese in Japan is an amazing opportunity. Not only do you get to study the language with native speakers – you get to use it in your daily life during your residency. If you have the time and the money, a language school can be a greay way to take your Japanese skills to the next level.

But care is needed. Ensure you have thoroughly researched a school before plunking your money down on tuition and plane tickets. Make sure it’s been in operation for a while and has a good reputation.

In addition, make sure you know your rights – and who can help you if something goes wrong. Non-profit organizations like NPO Posse exist in Japan to help international workers and students assert their rights and seek relief.

Miwa’s Plight: A Discussion About Trans and Immigration Rights

References

[1] 鎖と南京錠で留学生を拘束 笑いながら...「日本語学校」処分. FNN

[2] 鎖と南京錠で留学生を拘束 福岡の日本語教育機関 入管庁が処分. Asahi Shinbun

[3] Nishinihon International Education Institute

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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