Teens in Western Japan Make Video for Kids to Learn About Women’s Periods

Students from Tosa Joshi Junior High School are seen reading a script together. (Photo courtesy of Tosa Joshi Junior and Senior High School)

KOCHI – Periods are still considered taboo by many people in Japan. But a group of junior high school students in the western Japanese city have started production of a video to educate children on women’s rules, believing it is important to educate people early.

The past few years have seen a movement to break down the taboo and pave the way for a broad and open conversation in Japanese society about menstruation. But there is still a strong tendency to see it as a don’ts. Meanwhile, not being able to afford women’s hygiene products, known as “menstrual poverty”, has become a social problem.

“First of all, it is important to understand this well and to be considerate of others.” Six students from Tosa Joshi Junior Private High School and Senior High School in Kochi are reading a script for the video in their classroom. But it all started with a suggestion last spring.

Seeing students’ interest in social issues, such as talking about the environment in an English speaking competition, Machiko Shimomura, 38, a teacher from Tosa Joshi, called on them to apply for the Kochi Children’s Fund. This is a Kochi Municipal Government project that provides grants of up to 200,000 yen (approximately $ 1,740) for voluntary community development activities carried out by children and students.

Following Shimomura’s suggestion, six third-graders gathered to apply: Nanasa Tsuno, Kiyomi Nishimori, Natsumi Sakai, Masako Ikemoto, Ayaka Okazaki and Koharu Shimasaki. At first, they discussed the themes of tourism and disaster prevention. However, an episode they discovered during their disaster prevention research drastically changed their direction.

During an emergency earthquake, a man at an evacuation center distributed a sanitary napkin to each woman as a relief item. Sanitary napkins are usually changed every few hours, so one napkin per person is not nearly enough, but the man did not know. Tsuno, the group leader, recalled, “When I heard this story, I thought it would be nice to have a theme that only girls’ schools can come up with.

The fund’s evaluation process involves students from primary to secondary “judges for children”. Some members of the group feared that the theme was too lively and poorly received by these judges. Ikemoto said the rules are “a taboo subject, and I felt vaguely guilty.”

Nevertheless, everyone was united in their desire to do something that only they could do, and the students decided to make the video to impart knowledge about menstruation to elementary and high school students. They made a presentation to the selection committee in June and got the grant.

The video will be animated to make it easier for children to understand, and the story will be told through conversations between three people: a teacher, a student and a student. The group members researched the internet and books together. They included a wide range of topics, from poor menstruation and menstrual mechanisms to PMS, which causes many symptoms, including emotional instability and headaches. They plan to complete the project by the end of this year and distribute the DVD to public primary and secondary schools in the city in February 2022.

The more they learn, the less disgusted and embarrassed students feel about menstruation, and they are also able to have a more considerate and caring outlook towards others. Shimomura said, “Students are learning new perspectives that will benefit people, and they move forward.”

Regarding women’s periods, Nishimori said, “Talking and sharing with others, I have come to think, ‘It’s good to talk about (menstruation). “To create an environment where it’s okay to ask someone for help, I hope we can get rid of the feeling of disgust first.”

Their field activities will undoubtedly lead to a society where women can live comfortably in the future.

(Japanese original by Shiori Kitamura, Kochi Office)


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