Home > Japanese Culture > Elementary school life in Japan

Elementary school life in Japan

Thanks to Mugami, I got a topic to write in my blog. Thank you so much, Mugami.

This time, I’ll introduce you a life in kindergarten, nursery school and elementary school. As you know, I’m single and haven’t ever got any kid, so I sometimes might write wrong things in this article.

Before enrolling an elementary school
There are three choises for parents before enrolling an elementary school. 1. to enroll in youchien(kindergarten) 2. to enroll in hoikuen(nursery school) 3. to enroll nowhere

There are differences between youchien and hoikuen. At first, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology supervises youchien. On the contrary, the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry supervises hoikuen. Why? Because the respective purposes of their establishment have different. Simply speaking, youchien is established for the purpose to teach chiledren before an elementary school, hoikuen is established for the purpose to nurse children for fathers and mothers who have no time because they have to work.(ofcourse, children also can be taught in hoikuen) So in the respect of hours for children to stay, there is one of difference between youchien and hoikuen.

Incidentally, I don’t know if people these days would use this word in youchien or hoikuen. We called ‘playing around the ground’ or ‘playing with toys’ and etc oyu-gi.

Elementary school life
When you got six years old, you have to go to the elementary school. Some people go to the Public school, some people go to the Private school. We often call examinations to enroll private elementary schools or private junior high school o jyuken. jyuken means ‘examination’ and o is used as a prefix to make words honorable.

In Japan, we have to spend our elementary school life for six years. Before you enter the school, you have to buy randoseru, which is one of bags. You shoulder it and go to the school.

You can see what it is in this site.

When I was an elementary school student, we were allowed to buy only two-colored randoseru. Male students had to buy the black one and Female students had to do the red one. Time has changed. Now that people can choose many colors. It takes from about 10,000 yen to over 50,000 yen. I don’t know if it’s true, but celebrities buy much more expensive one.

We treat April as the beginning of the term and March as the end of the term for one year. In April, the first graded elementary school students walk through the arcway of cherry-blossoms, given a shower of applauses which say ‘Welcome to this school’.

The terms are divided 2 or 3 in one year. The ways to be divided is depending on the region and municipal governments. In my region, we have three terms in a year. My friend who lives in Yokohama told me they have two terms in a year. Between respective terms, there are holidays called haruyasumi, natsuyasumi and huyuyasumi. It’s also depending on the region, haruyasumi is generally held from March 25 to April 7. natsuyasumi is held from late July to the end of August. From December 25 to January 7 is treated as huyuyasumi. Except haruyasumi, teachers give us a ton of homework, especially in natsuyasumi.

Activities in elementary school
In addition to study, we have a lot of events in elementary school life. ensoku(field trip), shuugaku ryokou(school trip), gassyou konku-ru(contest of a chorus), gakugeikai(school play), undoukai(athletic festival), and club activities.

A lot of events might occur in shuugaku ryokou. makura nage is one of traditional games during shuugaku ryokou. It’s just simple. Just throwing your pillows against your opponents. I don’t know how we judge ‘win’ or ‘lose’ during makura nage. Other famous event in shuugaku ryokou is kokuhaku(to confess who you like or love) when we’re about to sleep. During shuugaku ryokou, we have to make groups and each group is lot a room to sleep respectively. After turning the light off, whispers start. ‘Hey, who do you like in our class?”Me? You say who at first!”Hey, I guess she is crush on you!”No way!”Yes way!’ Sometimes teachers come and try to check if students really sleep. Under such surveillance, the secret and kinda stand-by-me talk keeps going.

In shuugaku ryokou, students often strangely behave. You can see them buying strange souvenirs, such as bokutou(wooden sword). In the event of shuugaku ryokou, you must be careful with how much you can bring your snacks(called oyatsu). I don’t know how much recent rates of oyatsu when shuugaku ryokou are, but when I was an elemntary school students, I was allowed to pay 400 or 500 yen for oyatsu. The most important thing you must check is ‘including fruits or not’.

O.K. Next time, I’ll write an article about junior high school life.

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Categories: Japanese Culture
  1. November 11, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Hi, 🙂

    It’s the same here. We call kindergarten, pre-school. We also have nurseries. Both are managed by people operating them, with a few by government.

    The hours are from morning before parents or guardians drop their kids off, until around 3-5pm.

    We call elementary schools, primary schools. There are both public and private schools. The public schools are over-crowded. Is that an issue there?

    Field trips. Sporting activities. School choirs.

    • honeypotter
      November 11, 2009 at 9:37 am

      Hi, girlgeum!

      You also have both kindergarten and nursery in your country?

      >The public schools are over-crowded

      In Japan, the number of children has recently decreased, so many elementary schools try to merge. Ironically, children who live far from the meregered school have to go all the way to the school because the school nearby was vanished. It is said that one of problems.

      Yeah, other issues(I thought the word ‘issue’ as ‘event’. Was I correct?) Oh, it might sound strange… kyuusyoku In lunch time, municipal government prepare lunch for students and deliver it each school.

  2. November 12, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Hi honeypotter,

    Some schools here are overcrowded too. There’s one teacher for about 35-37 students. School starts at about 8:45/9:00am and ends at 3:00/3:15pm.

    We’ve been experiencing school violence like stabbings, fights, attacks with rocks and other weapons. A student was killed a few years ago. And just a few days ago, two students were stabbed. They’re still in the hospital. We used to have police in the schools, but the government took them out.

    We’re building schools; there are a lot of children. That’s one thing you can talk about. Population decline. Over here, the population is growing. Women are constantly having babies. Not a bad thing, right?

    No, just use event because you’re discussing other things that take place in the school, like activities.

    If you were discussing problems or situations, then you would use the word issue.

    Children bring their lunch and/or buy their lunch from lunch vendors at the school. If they can’t afford this, the welfare department provide lunch for them.

    Talk about karaoke too.

    I’ll leave you with a song. Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N’ Roses.

    Take care. 🙂

    • honeypotter
      November 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm

      Hi, girlgeum, how do you do?

      stabbings, fights, attacks…Actually, in Japan, such incidents sometimes occur, but I think the number of such crimes might be fewer.

      >Women are constantly having babies. Not a bad thing, right?

      Yeah, that’s a good thing for economic growths of your country. On the contrary, the birth ratio of Japan is declining and the bumber of elderly people is increasing.

      Oh, Seet Child O’Mine? The song started by only the guitar? Yeah, it’s a good song. I like ‘Home Sweet Home’, too 😀

  3. Mugami
    November 13, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Hey, Thanks for the shout out man! 🙂 Glad I got your ‘creative juices flowing’. 😉 Nurseries are for babies under 2 years old. Daycare is where you drop off your kids while you work. They just watch them. Preschool is for kids from 3-4. Kindergarten is for 5 year olds. It is the first real schooling the kids get. Kindergarten is in the same place as elementary school (so that’s grades K-5). Junior High is grades 6-8. Then High School is grades 9-12. You can pay to go private school, but most are religious. Also there’s a placement test every other year or so that is used to rate the kid’s learning curve as well as the school’s ability to teach effectively. There is USUALLY 20-30 kids per teacher. Higher than that and the school will split the class. If too many classes are high they split the school, building another for the other half. In my school, we only had homeroom 4 times a year. With 4 classes a semester for 8 classes a year. Each class was 1 hour & 45 minutes long. School was from 7:45am ‘ti 3:15pm.

    • honeypotter
      November 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm

      Hi, Mugami, how do you do?

      5 years in elementary school, 3 years in junior high school, 4 years in high school? Oh, there’s a little difference from Japan.

      >Also there’s a placement test every other year or so

      It’s a noticeable point and I think we should adopt it. In Japan, ofcourse we have periodical tests during elementary and junior high school, but we have not placement test like you said before the examinations to enroll high schools. I thik the ways in Japan is not so effective.

  4. Mugami
    November 13, 2009 at 6:24 am

    And I never heard of afterschool clubs until I learned about japan. People get shot or stabbed alot in the innercity schools but nothing makes the paper unless it’s a white kid in trenchcoat commiting mass murder. It’s really screwed up. It’s like the press only cares when white people die. Pathetic. Anyways, off that subject. Gang membership has been linked to the lack of outlets for youths to feel a part of a group. If we had clubs here; we would have a lot less violent crimes.

    • honeypotter
      November 16, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      What a tragedy…by the color…Media treat them differently…

      I often watch movies describing school life, such as ‘All The Right Moves’, in which Tom Cruise acted in his younger days. In the movie, he belonged to a football club. There is no such a club in elementary or junior high school?

  5. Mugami
    November 17, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Only sports. Mostly all schools have damned football, basketball, and the track stuff (100-meter, 300-meter, hurdles, crosscountry, highjump, running longjump, etc.,.), and some have soccer, swimteam, hockey, lacrosse, and tennis. Outside of that, you’re on your own. Which means, ‘get the hell of school property if you’re not in one of those!’ No cooking club, martial arts, book club, art club, etc.,. Hell, you’re lucky if they have art CLASSES! We used to have French, German, and Spanish classes when I went. My girlfriend graduated 5 years after me and they where down to just Spanish! I don’t want to learn mexican! I’m glad I got out before that. Nothing against mexicans but, I’ve seen maybe a 20 since I moved to Pa! And I don’t think English should be displaced because of the huge number of immigrants from mexico who came here without being able to speak english. Why not Japanese (because of tech jobs), German (because of industry), and Chinese (because of economy, labor, and size)?

    • honeypotter
      November 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm

      Oh, you had many classes about languages. Spanish…many people in your country can speak Spanish, so the needs to talk in Spanish are probably demanded? But as you wrote in the last line, I also think it’s more important to learn Chinise than ever. When I enrolled the university, people around me told me that I should learn Chinese. However, I chose Russian…lol I don’t understand it at all. A few years ago, I had a chance to talk with a Russian, but we talked with each other in English, not Russian. 😀

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