(original photo by ajari; CC BY 2.0)

Japanese Schools

Even if the cost of international schools is not an issue, there are still educational and other reasons for non-Japanese families to send their children to a Japanese school for at least part of their stay in Japan. In K (Kindergarten) thru grade 6, the focus is on morals, social and communication skills, an education that, once acquired, provides a lifetime of benefit to the child. Having a native grounding in the Japanese language and getting closer to the local community are other reasons to consider this option.

Private schools start at the kindergarten or elementary level and are seen as a fast track to a prestigious university. They have very competitive entrance requirements and procedures, including examinations and interviews for both the child and the parents.

At public schools, there is no cost for education, but you have to cover associated costs such as uniforms and school lunches. The education level is high and accounts for why Japan has one of the uppermost literacy rates in the world, although they are often criticized for not producing critical, creative thinkers.

See also: our featured article “Back to School Japanese Style .”

Japanese Grading System

Although neither Kindergarten nor senior high schools are compulsory, the majority of Japanese children do attend these levels. The Japanese school grading system is summarized below.

Kindergarten age 3-6
Elementary school age 6-12 (Grades 1-6)
Junior high school age 12-15 (Grades 7-9)
Senior high school age 15-18 (Grades 10-12)
College / University age 18-20/22

Education in Japan

The Japanese system is K thru 12 similar to the American system. Some of the larger private schools may have complete K thru 12 curricula. In general, the school year starts in April and has 3 semesters, but recently, in larger cities the number of schools with just 2 semesters is increasing. Elementary and junior high school are compulsory for Japanese children, but not for non-Japanese, meaning that home schooling is also an option.

Applying for a Japanese School

Your local municipal office can give you information on Japanese schools in your area. Apply directly to the school of your choice. When your child has been accepted, you should register the result at the local municipal office. Applications are usually made by October before the start of the school year.

School Supplies for Japanese Elementary Schools

For those who decided to use the Japanese education route, here are some school items unique to Japan that may be useful to know. Most elementary schools do not have school uniforms.

A leather school bag which will be used throughout elementary school. They are sold at department stores, and the price tag starts from around 30,000 Yen. If your child is attending the school for only a short period, you can use an ordinary backpack.

Indoor slippers which children are expected to change into once they have arrived at school. They can be bought at local shoe shops.

Designated gym clothes, which are usually available at your local Shotengai.

Necessities vary depending on the school, so be sure to check with the school when entering.


Although few, some expat parents choose to homeschool their children during their stay in Japan. While homeschooling is usually not an option for Japanese children, foreign childrend are not required to attend school under the Japanese education system. There may be concerns over the lack of internaction with other children and social events, however, many of the international preschools and organizations provide afterschool classes and activities to cover these shortcomings.

Play Grounds

Photo_ShowaKinenPark_CosmosThere are a number of play areas and parks with rope courses at convenient locations within the city. Many of these charge a small entrance fee.

(original photo by nakimusi; CC BY 2.0)

5 min. from Shinanomachi Sta. [Map]
7 min. from Meguro Sta. [Map]
Bus from Nishi-Kasai Sta., Kasai Sta., or Kasai Rinkai Koen Sta. [Map]
The largest park in Tokyo area (165.3 hectares / 408.4 acres). So many areas to explore, including the entire 14km of cycling course, many sporting activities, outdoor barbeque, and variety of kids playground equipments such as giant bouncing domes.
10 min. from Tachikawa Sta., JR Chuo Line [Map]
Nishimachi International School
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