The TBS TV show, “Gutto Luck!” aired an episode on October 28th, 2020, with a particular focus on the “no nickname policy” which has been increasingly implemented at many elementary schools in Japan. According to the show, as an anti-bullying strategy, many schools are prohibiting their students from calling each other nicknames.

Shoko Nakagawa, mostly known by her nickname “Shokotan,” made a noteworthy comment about this policy, which encouraged many readers to reflect on this matter.

The celebrity, an actress, voice actress, illustrator, and singer best known as the presenter of "Pokémon Sunday" and as the performer of the opening theme from the anime Gurren Lagann, said:

“I am grateful for the nickname was I given, 'Shokotan'”.

The “No nickname policy” refers to a policy of requiring students to call other students by no other names than their birth names with “-san” (a suffix added to family names as a sign of respect).

In 2013, the “Anti-Bullying Act” came in effect. As such, many schools are tasked to take initiatives on anti-bullying programs, which led them to adopt this policy.

In the show, Ms. Nakagawa revealed her experience being bullied with a nickname in Junior High school. Back then, because of her sensitivity to stress, she would often throw up in school, and her classmates gave her an awful nickname for it. It was very hurtful, she said.

In school, you have to be in the same space with those bullies. There’s no escape. In the end, I stopped going to school towards last half of my school years. (The nickname) just broke my heart.

Shoko Nakagawa on "Gutto Luck!"

However, when she was asked about her opinion on the policy, this was her response:

Well, I am actually opposed to it. I think it’s just too extreme. I’m appreciative of my current nickname, 'Shokotan.' This allowed me to get to know many people. Even kids are friendly towards me, calling me Shokotan, and sometimes encouraging me by saying things like: “Good luck, Shokotan!"
I don’t think the problem here is the nickname itself, but the ill intentions of the people using it and the circumstances in which the nickname is given.
A nickname by itself does not equal bullying.

Shoko Nakagawa on "Gutto Luck!"

Ms. Nakagawa thinks that it is the fact that bullies are there to attack and do what it takes to hurt you. That’s the problem. A nickname isn’t a cause of bullying.

There were many comments about her statement on the internet:

  • "It is hard to say, I mean, it isn’t like all nicknames are benign just because it is not hurting anyone’s feelings."
  • "In my kid’s school, all classmates and teachers would discuss and decide on each nickname."
  • "It isn’t really about how some people call someone a nickname, but about trying to empathize and understand how it may make someone feel."
  • "I like the idea of using '-san' instead of '-kun' (for boys) or '-chan' (for girls), so as to make it less gender-specific."
  • Ms. Nakagawa’s thoughts on this policy encouraged many viewers and readers on social media to reflect on this matter and to realize that the important thing is to place ourselves in other people's shoes, and consider how it affects their feelings... even when it comes to something as seemingly harmless as a nickname.

By - Mugi.