Why is bullying/ijime so pervasive in Japan?This is a good question, and I think, from my limited observations, that it has something to do with the rigid hierachical system of Japan which has its roots in Bushido.
I recently saw a war film (WWII) with a Japanese group and I was half expecting to see a Japanese perspective on why the Japanese felt they needed to invade China, you know, some sort of propaganda film. But instead, it was all about Japanese soldiers bullying each other, the whole time while fighting China and the Russians.
The star in the film is Katsu Shintaro, and he played this young recruit who's a verey tough guy. He immediately causes jealousy from other units. Soon infighting breaks out, with many from both the in-group and other groups trying to put beat the xxxx out of him, in part he's a newbie, in part because other senior soildiers wanted to tell him who's boss. I was shocked to see this sort of things happening on the battlefield. I mean, what a lot of waste of valuable energy!
Later, a young Japanese who also saw the film told me he experienced similar bullying when he was doing karate. I heard similar things can happen in other Japanese sports teams too. In any kind of team sports there seems to be a very strict senpai-kohai (mentor-protégé) thing, and those in the lower ranks have to absolutely obey those in senior positions, or else.... Just unbelievable.