Dearest Nass readers, I feel your pain. You, former bandies, who sit there with your thick glasses, Rubik’s Cube, and encyclopedic knowledge of Civil War battles. Even if you forced your nerdy self into hiding when you arrived at Princeton and are pretending you’ve always been cool, I know your past. You who peered around corners and dashed through dark alleys on your morning walk to the schoolyard. You who endured endless wedgies, spent a good portion of middle school in a locker, and constantly lacked lunch money because of an oppressive primary school environment. You whose self-esteem was compromised by the merciless tirades of the… BULLY. And for those of you who weren’t bullied – well – maybe you should have been.

Now that you have grown up and obtained some useless knowledge of analytical sociology and such, you may be wondering to what extent your cohorts should have been punishing you? Were your bullies holding to just standards? Simply answer the following true and false questions to find out.

Hikikomori or Suicide:

Congratulations on being a complete social failure and the shame of your family. The competition at school was too fierce for your weak mind. You’ve officially cracked under the pressure and become a Hikikomori: teenagers who shut themselves in their rooms and refuse to see the light of day for several years. Effectively, you feel that you have failed at life and have decided to drop out. Shut-ins who spend more than a year in hiding are unlikely to ever find their place in society. You are doomed to a life of inferiority as an outcast.

There is some possibility that you’ll get out if you’re caught early enough. Hear the knocking on your door? That’s a volunteer from the local clinic. She will come every day for a few months, hoping that you’ll open the door even a crack. This would be a great step into societal reintegration. Of course, it’s more likely that you’ll take the easy way out and commit suicide.

Common Ijime Victim:

If there were a sound track to your life, it would be a chorus of school children chanting, “Kutabare!”(translation: Drop Dead). They have a point. Why aren’t you wearing the same socks as everyone else? Why are you reading that novel – don’t you know that everyone else is reading the latest comic? Also, it’s quite presumptuous and impolite to raise your hand in class so much, don’t you think? Do you think you’re something special that you personally know the answer? It’s obviously only a reflection of the school system in which all of your peers are located. They obviously all know the answer too. Seriously, what’s wrong with you?

As the old proverb dictates, the nail that sticks out must be hammered down. If you continue to insist on sticking out from the crowd, your peers will continue to soak your head in dirty water, repeatedly break your bicycle, and may steal up to ten thousand dollars from you. Don’t go crying to your teachers, this kind of bullying is not necessarily discouraged. Your peers are doing you a favor by teaching you this lesson. Loser.

Harajuku Youth:

Oh, you rebel. You appear to conform on the outside and are to be applauded for that; however, we know where you go on the weekends.

To Harajuku!–the fashionable district of Tokyo where you can release the stress from being cooped up all week by strutting about in peculiar clothing. Your goal may be to look goth or like an anime character – anything to stand out. The slight problem here is that other Harajuku youths will be indistinguishable from you in their quest to express their identities. But, no matter. After all, you may even get to meet Gwen Stefani.

Be warned that these escapades may ruin your chances of getting into Tokyo University. In fact, with the hours lost from academics, you’ll probably have to go to some second-rate foreign university. Perhaps Princeton will take you. But we don’t admit freaks, devil-lover.

Tokyo University Student:

Impressive. You’ve managed to be so cookie-cutter perfect that you were admitted into Tokyo University. Some languish in the Japanese school system for their entire lives in hopes of gaining admission to such a prestigious University.

If only everyone could be like you. Oh, wait. They are. Or after enough bullying they will be.

Ijime (that’s Japanese for bullying) has been on the rise. According to Japan’s National Police Industry, the number of officially recognized and punished bullies has increased 41% percent over the past year. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Who actually reports a bully to the police? You were no sissy. You spent twelve years having your head shoved down toilets and kept your mouth shut like a man. A swirly is a swirly; bringing it to court seems like something one of those over-involved-class-mom-type parents would do, instead of teaching junior to punch back.

In Japan, however, the bullying epidemic has reached such proportions that police action is necessary to make sure that future generations aren’t permanently scarred. The Hikikomori (see above) exist in growing numbers in Japan. These youths are the extreme example of those who have fallen under the strain of peer pressure along with expectations of perfection from their elders. Though they do not represent the majority of Japanese youth, almost all Japanese kids have been the victims of bullying at some point. Most of them have also acted as the aggressors. Bullying in Japan is different than the U.S. in that it isn’t just caused by the insecure meathead down the block; everyone participates!

Some say Japanese society is a bully’s paradise because it is a conformist society. According to this analysis, the ability to conform is more highly prized than the tendency to innovate; creativity or any sort of unique quality is discouraged. This translates into strict codes of behavior and high standards of excellence for all children. From here, bullies can play a simple game of “Which one of these is not like the others?” to pick out their juicy prey. In the U.S., a bully may subconsciously be aware that the outcast he’s beating up may become the next Bill Gates, or worse, his future employer. But in Japan, if you stick out, you weren’t going anywhere in society anyway. The threat is gone.

The pressure put on Japanese students to succeed is immense. Effectively, they spend their entire childhood in the equivalent of the U.S. junior year of high school. This constant culture of competition greatly inhibits the ability to make friends and develop social skills. Students learn to keep their heads down and their ideas to themselves.

Are we as Americans just hypersensitive to bullying? I can’t begin to count how many lectures on self-esteem I got over my years in the New Jersey Public School System. The Japanese have found a formula for success. They find strength in unity of thought and hard work. Bullying serves the purpose of making sure Japan’s young citizens adhere to the proven recipe of success.

Of course, this theory only works if you have living children. And with increasing numbers of suicides in Japanese adolescents, maybe it’s about time the country dealt with its bullying problem.