The number of reported cases of bullying at schools across Japan totaled 543,933 in fiscal 2018, up 31.3 percent from a year earlier and marking the highest level on record, according to an education ministry survey released Thursday.
A total of 80.8 percent of the schools surveyed said they had identified at least a single case of bullying in the reporting year, up 6.4 percentage points, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said.
The number of "serious" bullying cases, involving things like broken bones and being absent from school for 30 days or longer a year, rose to a record 602, up 128, it said.
The survey covered state, public and private elementary, junior high and high schools, as well as special schools for children with disabilities.
Ministry officials said teachers' "active recognition" of even minor cases in their early stages was behind the surge in the number of reported bullying cases at schools.
The officials said they regard such developments positively and they are a first step in the fight against bullying.
Referring to the increase in the number of serious cases, an official said the ministry "takes it seriously and will continue studying further countermeasures."
Of the some 540,000 cases, 425,844 involved elementary schools, up 108,723, according to the survey.
Bullying cases at junior high schools stood at 97,704, up 17,280, and those for high schools came to 17,709, up 2,920. Those at special schools totaled 2,676 cases, up 632.
Ridicule and slander accounted for about 50 to 70 percent of bullying in each school category, the survey showed.
Online bullying cases, using personal computers and mobile phones, rose 3,702 to 16,334, and accounted for about 20 percent of bullying at high schools.
A total of 332 students committed suicide in the reporting period, up 82. Nine of them involved bullying.
The number of violent acts at schools, except for special schools, came to a record 72,940, up 9,615.
The number for elementary schools alone rose 8,221 to 36,536.