In the last few years I've either developed a very stern demeanor that warns kids away from wanting to attempt to kancho me, or it's fallen out of popularity but the other day I saw the kancho come back in a very inappropriate way.

What is a Kancho?

A kancho is as horrible to an ALT as it is thrilling to a student performing the offensive act. As you can probably guess, I'm really not a fan.

To perform a kancho, the offender puts their hands together, interlocking their fingers with their two forefingers sticking out. The aforementioned digits are then abruptly jammed into an unsuspecting person's buttock, with all intents on hitting the brown bullseye.

Is a Kancho Sexual Harassment?

Yes. Unless it happens to you.

Kids do it to each other and to teachers all the time. Apparently it's a sign of affection. As highly regarded as a new ALT is, expect the finger-jab to happen to you.

I once heard a story of an ALT who upon getting kancho'd, he turned around and kancho'd the child in return. He lost his job the next day.

The other day, I witnessed first-hand, a teacher gently kancho a student. It was a male teacher to a male student in junior high school. I conferred with my ALT colleagues and apparently this is not sexual harassment.

But let me assure you. If you try it, it will be sexual harassment, or as it is referred to here, seku-hara / セクハラ. I personally feel like the junior high incident described above is also crossing the line, but culture and definitions differ nation to nation.

Dealing with Kancho at School

In this case, the best defense is defense. Never let a kid walk behind you.Be super aware. Maintain a perimeter at all times. And never let a kid walk behind you.

If it does happen to you, how you deal with it may influence future potential kanchos. If you do get kancho'd, get serious quickly. Put your angry face on. Speak loudly, clearly, and very sternly. Scold. Start with a very audible "No!" and a pointed finger. Then tell that student never to do it again. Then tell them to go away. Saying all this is English is fine. They will understand.

What you don't want to do, but what every fiber of your being will be telling you to do in those first few moments after the spine jerking jab, is assault the child. If you can, catch their wrist. Gently. Do not whirl around with backhand whistling through the air. Knocking a child off their feet is not a good way to remain employed and in good standing in any school environment.

Kanchos suck. But they're a part of Asian culture (yeah, not just Japan) and that's what we're here to experience... right?

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# robert jones 2018-04-03 02:20
Yeah getting Kancho'd is a really sticky situation. In America I would basically freak out on a kid but it is completely normal here. I don't know why but I think Japanese kids like to kancho foreign people more than Japanese people. I could be wrong but in my experience the kancho ratio is higher for ALTs than Japanese teachers. It makes you wonder though, is there anything in western culture that we do that Asian people find just as unnerving? Thanks for the article. Let's hope for a world without Kanchos.
# A Miller 2018-11-01 05:26
If you think getting physically abused by students requires being firm and only raising your voice, you are doing a disservice to every foreign ALT successor and to your own self respect, for that matter!. Be upfront with the staff, students and community that it is considered nothing short of physical abuse...equally unacceptable in Japan as it is your home country! I am very sorry to hear that your school environment would tolerate such behavior by any staff. I know of no school currently where having any person jab their finger into another person's anus is tolerated.
# 2018-11-01 08:51
Hi A, thanks for the comment.

I can tell you find the idea of anyone getting kancho'd to be quite upsetting. And justifiably so!

As you point out, and it's something I forgot to mention in the article, if you do get kancho'd, you should make other staff aware of it - if only to let them know you don't find it acceptable.

However, this is a part of Elementary school culture in Japan. I've seen many ES teachers accept being kancho'd as normal play from students. They tell students to stop but not in a way that conveys it as something that crosses the line.

The kancho falls under cultural differences and as a visitor or immigrant to Japan, you have to accept that it's seen as acceptable play for boys in this country. (I've never seen girls get involved in kancho-ing.)

ALT's are, however, generally here as visitors and it's important that schools be aware that there are differences in what each culture finds acceptable. I've heard that in some cultures it's rude to touch a person's head. Knowing that and in respect, I would avoid touching the head of that visitor and I think the same goes in Japan. Everyone is going to be respectful of your boundaries once they know about them. That said, kids are going to be kids.

What I suggest though, is that you should make it clear you don't accept it. (Obviously, if this ever happened in junior high or high school, your reaction would have to be completely different. This article was written specifically in reaction to ES situations.)
# GoodGuy-jinGreg 2022-04-07 04:51
I tend not to mind too much. It can be mildly annoying but it takes a lot to upset me. I know every persons mileage will vary what they are willing to deal with but I know they don't mean any harm. Also, yeah girls do it too. Mostly only in kindergarten or 1st grade though

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