Japanese sitting style to be recognized as punishment under new law

Kyodo News

Posted at Dec 03 2019 09:55 PM

A welfare ministry panel said Tuesday that forcing children to sit extensively in the formal Japanese style known as "seiza" will be recognized as a morally unacceptable form of punishment under a new law that will enter into force next April.

The panel has been compiling guidelines following revision of the child abuse prevention law in June in response to a number of fatal cases in which parents or guardians physically abused children in the process of disciplining them.

The seiza style -- in which a person kneels on the floor and sits back resting their buttocks on their heels with the tops of their feet flat on the floor -- is a traditional way of sitting on Japanese tatami mats, often practiced at formal ceremonies or when visiting temples, but it can be painful if continued for too long.

Under the new guidelines "punishments that inflict bodily pain or cause uneasiness" will be discouraged, regardless of how light they are or whether the parents believe them to be disciplinary.

Along with enforcing seiza for a long time, the guidelines also list beating or bottom spanking for such reasons as children failing to do homework as unacceptable punishments.

In March 2018, 5-year-old Yua Funato died in Tokyo's Meguro Ward despite desperate pleas for her parents to stop mistreating her.

Her stepfather, Yudai Funato, told a court he started assaulting Yua out of frustration over his unsuccessful attempts to discipline her. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in October for physical abuse and neglect.

But the new law enacted in the wake of that case sets no penalties for offenders, and there is a debate over whether Japan should maintain a civil code provision that grants the custodians' right to discipline their children.