I began my research into bullying and harassment in 2006 by cutting out newspaper clippings. I started each day by reading the newspaper. I’d go down to the mailbox and get the paper. Then I’d make myself a cup of coffee and begin reading. I used to enjoy this ritual. Even the news items about some kid in Tokyo or Kyushu committing suicide didn’t bother me very much at first. But slowly the accretion of these stories started to weigh on me. I began to turn to page two with dread: Would there be another sad news capsule today about a teenager hanging themselves in a classroom or jumping in front of a train? Often, there would be.

Two years later, the topic was at the front of my brain. I had other projects: an unfinished textbook, two novels that I’d barely begun, but bullying was always at the head of the queue. I remember trying to beg off a number of times: “Anything but this. I will gladly write about anything but this.” But the answer always came back: “No, you will write about bullying now. Everything else can wait.”

The content on this page is some of the research and writing I’ve done towards a PhD in creative writing at the University of Adelaide. The title of my thesis is “Learning What Is Taught: Bullying in Japanese Schools as a Microcosm of Adult Society.” But bullying is not only a Japanese problem. What I learned after coming to Australia in 2009 and visiting the United States in 2010 and 2011 is that I could have just as easily based my study on what is happening in Australia and the United States. There is too much data no matter where you go. People of all ages and all walks of life are being bullied and harassed to death in schools, workplaces, and communities all over the globe.

What follows is a chapter on suffering as entertainment called “That’s Entertainment: The Observation Principle from Bentham to Foucault,” an interview with Kathleen Morikawa on ijime and Japanese television, a summary of the Gentle Heart interviews with two bereaved parents in Tokyo, and a few ideas on ways to raise consciousness about bullying and harassment.

I’ve also included a PowerPoint file to go with “That’s Entertainment” so that anyone who wishes to use this chapter in a school or workplace setting can do so. Fair use applies. All you need to do is to credit the author and the University of Adelaide.

Thank you.

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