I received a very low grade in one of my Master classes. This is not a failing grade but close to it. Such low scores are highly unusual in this country (Japan), 90/100 or more is the norm and even a 80/100 is frowned upon sometimes. My score is much lower. Therefore, although I will obtain the credits for the class, there may be prejudice.

The strange thing is that this class was anything but hard. It consisted in about a dozen of lectures, one every week, done by different scientists. The evaluation consisted in a very small quiz (A5 sheet) at the end of each lecture, to be answered in 10 minutes. Usually the question was: `what did you think of this lecture, and how does it relate to your research topic ?’. I would answer it normally, in a few paragraphs.

Because my final grade is so low, and because I was very surprised, I asked the responsible professor for the details of my marks. I would like to know how well I performed in each individual test. Unfortunately, he refuses categorically to provide me with this info. Is this legal or common behavior? What should I do?

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    I recommend seeking out a Japanese-language forum in which to ask your question, as most users of this site are from the US or Europe. I am an American academic, and I have a little bit of familiarity with the Japanese system -- but only enough to know that customs are often very different there! I can tell you that your professor's behavior would be considered unacceptable in the US, but this doesn't answer your question. Good luck!
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 16:22
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    How does one even grade something like that?! Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 23:41
  • Here is a possible "elephant in the room" answer: you somehow offended the professor (something you wrote, said, or did, or even just who you are), and he is retaliating / negatively biased against you -- but likely, in this jurisdiction, there may not be much you can do about it.
    – wjl
    Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 3:21
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    What does your university policy say? Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 7:52

2 Answers 2


I read (skimmed) through the statues in Japanese law and the associated statutes it links.

Moreover, a legal case called the Toyama Daigaku incident clarifies that universities have large leeway in these matters. Here's the opinion of the Japanese supreme court:



A university regardless of whether it is a national or public university or a private university is an education institution with the objective of the education of students and academic research ... Since these differ from normal society precisely in being founded to be a special type of society, the features of these institutions with respect to this special society, of course, do not fall within the purview of the court to investigate.

While I think it's terrible, I can find no basis for requiring the professor to supply you with the rationale for the grade you received. If anything, there's wide berth for professors to determine grades.

Your specific institution may have more precise rules but most of the institutions I looked at specified:

  • 60% as passing
  • 15 class sessions of 90 minutes each
  • grades based on some combination of classroom attendance, tests, and papers

(this is also the same where I am teaching).

  • Thanks! I also skimmed through a few Japanese laws related to education but found nothing either. I reckon it has to exist somewhere, otherwise anyone could put a failing grade to anyone, then disappear without comment? That sounds really bad.
    – user69223
    Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 2:55
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    I'm not sure why you think it would exist in Japanese law. I would expect there is no fundamental right in Japan to challenge grades.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 3:19
  • ‘Knowing my grades’ and ‘challenging my grades’ seem very different to me. I’ve just asked to know my grades so far, though I admit I also have the latter in mind
    – user69223
    Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 3:32
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    You do know your grade. You want to know the basis of your grade. This is different -- and as you can see with the edit, this (supposed? natural? deserved?) right does not seem to be actionable in court. If your specific institution supplies a regulation, then you might be able to challenge it internally. But caveat loquens in Japan.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 3:38

Unless university policy states otherwise, seeing your markings should be a incontestable right.

First, sincerely ask the reason he refuses to show. If he does not give a reason, discuss the matter with department head or dean. Ultimately, you will need to form a complaint about the matter.

But before starting the process, ask yourself the question would it really worth going through these unpleseant processes?

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    He said he will be prejudiced. In Japan, that may have consequences, so, I believe the student may well be right to pursue this. Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 15:16
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    Skeptical that a "legal complaint" would have any traction here. Can you expand your answer with some evidence or precedent that that's feasible in the Japanese jurisdiction? Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 20:12
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    This makes no sense. If it's a legal right, then university policy can't state otherwise! And "legal right" on what grounds? In the UK, I guess because of data protection legislation (broadly, you have the right to see data that an organization holds about you, and to have it corrected if it's wrong) but the question isn't about the UK. Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 20:32
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    I removed the word legal to avoid ambiguity.
    – padawan
    Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 20:46
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    Thank you for removing the "legal" claim. Now, unfortunately, I'm unsure that the other claims have evidence, e.g., " should be a incontestable right". Any support/evidence for that in Japan? Commented Feb 11, 2017 at 21:44

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