Taimei Elementary School in the Ginza district of Tokyo plans to introduce a voluntary student uniform costing up to about ¥80,000 ($976), starting with first graders this spring, it was learned Thursday.
Some of the uniform's items, including the jacket, pants and skirt, were designed by Italian luxury brand Armani.
The high cost of the uniform has many guardians of pupils who attend the Chuo Ward municipal school concerned, with some saying it will only put them under more financial pressure.
At a meeting in September, the school informed guardians that the uniform would be changing. In November, the school distributed a document authorised by principal Toshitsugu Wada about the change, explaining that the "uniform is more befitting of a school located in Ginza" among other reasons.
Schools without official uniforms recommend students wear voluntary uniforms, called hyojunfuku (standard clothing). Although the uniform at Taimei Elementary School is voluntary, almost all the students wear it. The current uniform, which includes four items - a jacket, pants or a skirt, shirt or a blouse, and a hat - costs slightly less than ¥20,000.
The new uniform, however, comes to about ¥45,000 for the same four items. An optional sweater and some other items increase the price to as much as about ¥80,000.
The uniform was brought up at a Budget Committee meeting at the House of Representatives on Thursday, with Finance Minister Taro Aso commenting on the "pretty expensive" price.
After the ward government received complaints, its board of education held a press conference on the same day.
"We have asked the principal to explain his reasoning for this again," said Takashi Ito, director of the General Affairs Section, the Secretariat of the board of education.
Author Toson Shimazaki is among the noteworthy people to have attended Taimei Elementary School, which was founded in 1878. The school is specially approved to accept children living throughout the ward due to fewer children living in its vicinity, among other circumstances. The school is expected to receive about 60 first-grade students in April, the beginning of the next school year.
'CONSIDER GUARDIANS' BURDENS'
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference on Friday: "It is important to avoid increasing the [financial] burden on guardians. It is desirable that the school makes a decision after having thorough discussions with them."