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Foreign Kids in Japanese Schools

Japan With Kids - Forums: Education in Japan: Foreign Kids in Japanese Schools
This is not the only discussion about Japanese schools! There is another heading with the title "Japanese Public/Private Schools". Also there is the feature article written by Lynda.
By on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 3:00 pm:

My family will be returning to Japan long-term and we are considering sending our children to Japanese school, and would prefer to send them to a school that has foreign students enrolled. Our thought is that at such a school, our daughters would not stand out as much as a school with no other foreign students. As my wife is Japanese, they already speak Japanese. Can anyone recommend such a school in the Tokyo area?

By Tomomi on Saturday, August 4, 2001 - 9:28 pm:

Hi, there.
We also have a son (Japanese / Australian) who can not speak Japanese and intending to live in Tokyo for the next few years. (due to my husbands work.)

I have found some good information from this BBS and follwing are some Japanese public elementary schools, which have "Nihongo Gakkyu (Japanese language class)" or "Kokusai Gakkyu (international class".

All in Central Tokyo area:

Minato-ku Kougai Elementary school in Nishi Azabu

Shibuya-ku, Jinnan Elementary school in Shibuya

Meguro-ku Higashine Elementary school in Higashigaoka, Meguro-ku

Shinagawa-ku, Yashio Elementary school in Shinagawa

I have more list if you need further information.

Kougai Elementary has more Western / European kids than others (I've heard.) Others tends to have more Non-Japanese Asian kids.

By Yoshimi on Wednesday, August 29, 2001 - 4:05 am:

We are moving to Japan on October, 2001. My daughter is 12 years old and she does not speak Japanese. However, we are putting her in a Japanese Public School because we cannot afford a private American School. We will be living in Matsudo-shi, Chiba since my husband's work is over there. I would highly appreciate if someone can inform me if there is a school in Matsudo that has English-Spanish speaking students so my daughter can play with them and feel more at home. Thank you very much in advance for your help. Best regards, Yoshimi

By Alice Gordenker on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 7:56 pm:

My American children have been attending Kougai (Kogai) Elementary School in Nishi Azabu, Tokyo for the past year and a half. This is a Minato-ku public school with about 320 students, including many foreign students. There is a Japanese-as-a-second language program ("Nihongo Gakkyu"). We are having a very good experience. If anyone wants information or advice, feel free to contact me.
The school's website is It includes some English pages.

By svaipae on Saturday, September 29, 2001 - 6:03 pm:

With this renewed discussion of language minority students in Japanese schools, I would again mention the chapter on this topic in _Studies in Japanese Bilingualism_, edited by Mary Noguchi and Sandra Fotos, published by Multilingual Matters, Clevedon, England 2000. It reports the findings of seven years of classroom, school, and family research with a variety of ages, mother tongues, and locales. This book is in English, and the same study in Japanese is _Seito ga Yatte Kita_, (A Foreigner Has Come) available from Taishoken. Now that I have returned my children to English-medium schools in the U.S., after eight years of Japanese schooling, my observations reflect on how their J schooling and acculturation affects them in a profoundly different setting.

Sharon Vaipae

By Phillip Stevenson on Monday, October 22, 2001 - 6:59 am:

I am in the process of applying for the JET programme and am worried about how my 10 year-old daughter will get by in school with no Japanese language experience. If we paid to send her to an international school we would not have enough money left over to live on. The postings on this thread are very positive, but are there any Japanese Public schools outside of Tokyo that have classes that cater to English speaking foreign children? I have to specify on my JET application form which area I would like to be placed in. It would be great if Tokyo was not my sole option.
Thanks in advance for your help.

By Cornelia on Friday, October 26, 2001 - 12:20 pm:

If you can think of it as an adventure, then there is a lot to be gained by you and your daughter no matter where you go in Japan. Tokyo is not the only big city for one thing. Osake/Kobe/Nara/Kyoto area has numerous opportunities to meet other English speakers. Hiroshima is a very pleasant area to live in, etc.

Much more important, to answer your points.

Your 10 year old is still young enough to be in elementary school where support is more or less universal in Japan especially for native English speaking children. This does not mean that there are any special programs. It only means that the principal and the teachers will usually design a bunch of adaptive measures to welcome your child and try to ease her way.

Please read the following article:

In 5th and 6th grade the kids start "cramming" for entrance examinations into a middle school of some rank. That's when the education system starts getting difficult to maneuver for "outsiders" and children with no Japanese ability. Your daughter will not have to deal with that since she is presumably not staying much past 5th grade?

There is a home schooling support group (via email) since you will probably want to continue her education in English at home after her day at the Japanese school. She will return to the USA with broader perspectives than her classmates and a whole new view of her own place in the world!

Very best wishes!

By Phillip Stevenson on Sunday, November 11, 2001 - 6:30 am:

Dear Cornelia,

Thank you very much for your advice; we are now feeling a lot happier about our daughter's educational opportunities in Japan.

I think we had been going about moving to Japan "backwards", ie: identifying a school first and then trying to get placed in that area, which was really restricting our choices and leaving us with a fear that we would be sent elsewhere for our placement. After reading your email I contacted the Japanese Embassy JET help desk and they agreed 100% with your advice, even to the point of saying that a Japanese public school might consider my daughter as an asset to the school! Now we can concentrate on going somewhere that we find culturally and historically interesting, rather than limiting ourselves because of to an area that we know has had foreign students before.

So thanks again for your advice, it has made us feel so much more positive about our moving to Japan.

By R K Khullar on Monday, August 19, 2002 - 4:47 pm:

I shall be living in Tokyo Academic Park, Tokyo Bay for a year from October 2002. My son, 6yrs and daughter, 5yrs wish to come over to Tokyo during November-April. I would prefer them to go to a nearby Japanese school. Would it be possible for them to get admission in such a school? I shall appreciate if you can give me the address of some Japanese schools in Tokyo Bay.
R K Khullar
Chandigarh, India

By Karen on Tuesday, August 20, 2002 - 7:45 pm:

Hi there,

There are probably dozens of Japanese schools in Tokyo Bay. It would depend on where you were living. Would you be placing them in school from November to April only?

There is extensive information on this site about the international schools in Japan. Their waiting lists are often fairly long so it is good that you are considering schools in advance.

Placing your kids in the Japanese school system will require a lot of patience on your part if you aren't fluent in Japanese. It might also be a very big adjustment for your kids if they don't speak the language.

Your first step would be to call your local ward office and inquire about their school system. Or have a Japanese friend do this for you.

If you know the name of your ward (ku) I can find the telephone number for you.

Hope this helps,


By KimH on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 6:01 pm:


My 10-yr-old daughter and I live in the California . I am sending her to a local weekend Japanese school to increase her language ability .

I'd like to know if there is a way that I can send her to summer school in Japan , either to a summer boarding school or to a Japanese Buddhist school.

If anyone knows about such program, please tell me .

By Selge Brothmier on Saturday, September 21, 2002 - 9:32 am:

I didn't actually grow up in tokyo but from my experience, everytime we got new student from different city, we made a huge deal out of it. and I was one of few that moved from Kyoto to Hokkaido during year 5. Although the time has changed I think kids would feel unconfortable for a while until he or she adjusts to the surrounding environment. But after all kids get along with each other no matter where they are from, what each other looks like.

But I think older kids will find it more difficult to adjust to a new environment.


By patrick laidler on Friday, September 27, 2002 - 3:09 pm:

konnichi wa,
I am considering applying for the JET programme in Kumamoto Kyushu...does anyone have any info on schools in the region? My daughter will be 6 yo.
thanks PLaidler Perth Australia

By Cornelia on Friday, September 27, 2002 - 4:17 pm:

Hi Patrick,
If you look under the English speaking groups page in the FYI section you will see one for the Kumamoto area. That would be a good place to post your question. I think you would get the greatest response there. Also there is some information about after school care in the discussions. (Do a key word search within the discussions.) Some elementary schools in Tokyo are big enough that they have their own after school care programs right in the school building, but I don't know about Kumamoto.

By Joseph Tam on Monday, December 23, 2002 - 6:07 pm:


My wife (a Japanese) and I are planning to relocate to Japan with our 2 boys (6 and 8 yrs old). One of the major concern is our children's education.
Since international school is out of our financial means, public school is the only choice.
Having read through this (and other) discussion sites about foreign kids in japanese public school, I have gained a better understanding.
However, not much was discussed about the problems on bullying (and possibly other form of discrimination) which I heard is quite rampant in Japanese schools. Anyone has useful advice to share?

Furthermore, I would appreciate if someone can advice on the average monthly expenses for a family of four living in a big city like Osaka/Tokyo with humble (basic) demands on daily living. I know 'basic' is still subjective...but that's the best I can think of without writing down a long list.
Would 350,000 yen per month be reasonably comfortable (inclusive of apartment rental, elementary schooling for 2, daily meals for 4, transport, daily needs like toiletories,etc.. and the average things that you'll probably do without having to starve a few meals to do them)?


By Dennis Mobley on Friday, December 27, 2002 - 9:32 am:

Hi Joseph,

I would say 350,000 would be a challenge in Tokyo. If you have 2 boys, will you put them in the same room, or do they each need their own bedrooms? A 2 bedroom apartment will cost at least 180,000, but will more likely be in the 250,000 range in Tokyo. Add about 200,000 for living expenses and you're up to 450,000 for the basics. If that is too much, you'll have to start taking away (from either lifestyle of living conditions) until you arrive at a reasonable amount.

Good Luck,


By Emily Homma on Friday, December 27, 2002 - 12:52 pm:

Hello Joseph,

If you choose to live at the suburbs, say Saitama cities which are 15~30 minutes away (by train) from Tokyo, you could have a much better dwelling place of 2DK, 3DK (3 bedrooms, 1 dining/kitchen)or even 4DK 'mansion' unit/ apartment at the range of only 70,000~100,000 yen. Villages here are not so congested, and commodities are much cheaper. To save for transport, you could buy a discounted 3-month train pass (around 20% cheaper?)-like around 60,000 yen discounted fare for 1.5 hour train travel. A big percentage of Tokyo employees live in Saitama. A lot of families around here receive a family income lower than 350,000 yen yet still live a decent, relaxed, happy living.

Emily H.

By Cornelia on Friday, December 27, 2002 - 1:04 pm:

Cost of living for Tokyo/Yokohama is also discussed elsewhere in these discussion forums. Try a key word search (in the blue column on the left).

If you are locally employed, about 95% of employment contracts cover a transportation pass. If you consider that the two highest costs of living in a major metropolis are housing and transportation, it is quite possible to live on Y350,000 per month, even with a family of four. This means home-cooking of course. However, I often fall back on the Y61 hamburgers at McDonald's during the week, (not the rest, just the hamburgers) when I am just too tired to chop and peel. Open a can of mini-corn from Hanamasa (Y180) and a few glasses of milk together with the hamburger (s) and my daughter and I have made it through another dinner. If you don't insist on living in ex-pat neighborhoods, you can find housing that is cheaper. If you don't need a new building with lots of security you can also find good deals. Low end housing is cramped (just like in Manhattan). If your number of children/age/annual income fall inside certain guidelines you may even be entitled to Y5000 per month per child from the government. Get your clothes and toys from flea markets or through the classifieds and you'll even be able to set some money aside for a vacation. There are also a lot of wonderful things to do with kids for free in Tokyo. If you are a little bit frugal, it can be done with some style on a shoestring!

Another issue of course is whether or not you want to stay in Japan forever. Once you're here, you might find it difficult in the future to convince your spouse of another re-location!

About bullying, I have not yet seen comparative statistics between countries. My impression is that bullying is a common problem everywhere, not just in Japan. Various children are singled out for various reasons. The rather "noisy" foreign children that come from Western families tend not to be on the receiving end here in Japan. They are far too self-confident and "strong" to be easy victims. Some children from multi-cultural families may be more suceptible. In any case, the event of bullying is a possibility here as elsewhere and simply has to be solved somehow when it occurs. One thing we can all do is to teach our children that it is unacceptible behaviour, and that it is OK to report it to parents, teachers and anyone else who will listen, when it happens. We can also suggest that it is noble and the right thing to do to stick up for a kid that is being bullied. And of course we must also be open to the idea of our own child possibly being the bully... and if it happens try to figure out what the underlying reasons are for this behavior, etc.

By Joseph Tam on Friday, December 27, 2002 - 1:55 pm:

Thanks for all the advice.

With these information, it is easier for me to set my expectations right and also to know what kind of salary range to ask for when negotiating a benefit package (i.e. if I can get a job).

I supposed a monthly family income of Y500,000 would be necessary if the taxes (approx. 20% ??) are included.

I prefer not to live in a crowded city like Tokyo and Emily's respond seemed to suggest that by just living 15-20 minutes (by train) away from the city, housing and cost of living will be considerably cheaper...good idea.

I guess, bullying is something that we'll just have to be prepared for and to provide the necessary support to our children. Just wonder whether the teacher (and principal) plays an active role in protecting the bullied ones or in discipling the bullies.
I know this is going to be difficult because children are usually being bullied outside of school or during break time when the teachers are not around.

By Karen on Friday, December 27, 2002 - 8:31 pm:

Hello Joseph,

You might want to look into getting an apartment through the Urban Development Corporation which doesn't require a guarantor or key money.

We live in an UDC apartment that could comfortably (but very cozily!) house 2 kids and we are in North Tokyo past Ueno. Like Cornelia mentioned above, if you are comfortable being outside of expatriate areas, then you will find that the rents will come down a great deal. An added bonus is that you get heaps of cultural experience living out in the 'burbs!!

Note though, that when Emily mentioned 15-20 minutes out of the city, I think that she meant 15-20 minutes outside of the Tokyo borders. This would mean an hour or more commute every day each way into the heart of the city (which is not at all unusual here).

Good for you for doing your research ahead of time. It will certainly pay off!

Best of luck,

By Emily Homma on Saturday, December 28, 2002 - 12:13 am:

Dear Joseph,

When I said 15-20 minutes away from the city, I meant from a busy Tokyo border (like Ikebukuro where train lines meet). My husband works in Nakano which is near Shinjuku, a major center of Tokyo, and he spends around 1.5 hours travel time (each way) from our place in Kawagoe, Saitama (6 cities away from Tokyo). Other Saitama cities are nearer. It really depends where in Tokyo you'd be posted and where you'd reside. Cornelia and Karen have great advice reminding you of other factors aside from housing costs, and kids' education. There are not so many expats living in the suburbs which could mean that there are lesser expatriate support, lesser Japanese language assistance for foreign parents and kids (not all Jap. schools offer JSL), lesser forms of entertainment, etc. (but the heart of Tokyo is 'just' an hour away and once in Japan, a 1-2 hour travel is 'not unusual'). Some foreign couples here have managed to get by though by forming their own ethnic/int'l groups within their vicinity (depends on the number of foreign migrants too). There are really lots of things to consider before moving to Japan as Cornelia and Karen have pointed out; some would take a book to discuss. If your kids are very young I'd suggest that you spend more time with your family, so lesser commute would be a priority. Weigh between the advantages and disav. and decide as a family.

Good luck! Emily

By Pato on Thursday, May 29, 2003 - 9:29 am:

Sunday June 8th 15:00-17:30
International House (Roppongi Moto Azabu) Unitarian sponsored talk by Catherine Lewis (PhD and now Professor at Mills College, California)

"Educating Hearts and Minds" Comparing aspects of Japanese and North American elementary schooling. She looks more at the positive aspects rather than the weaknesses. Open to all, donations accepted.

By Reiko Matsuzawa on Saturday, July 12, 2003 - 1:13 pm:

Gregg International School
FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2003
10:00am to 2:30pm
call for more information

Parents and children are invited.
This is a great opportunity to experience our education for a day FOR FREE.

Bring lunch, suimsuit, towel and hat.
Experience our excellent academic program for elementary school students and fun filled activities for younger children.

Parents are welcome to talk to teachers and see the school.
Highly qualified teachers are available for individual advising sessions for elementary school parents.
All are welcome.

Gregg International School is a warm and inviting place with a spacious playground.
Our summer school program is in session until August 1.
After school English classes are taught by qualified teachers.

The school is less than five minutes walk from Jiyugaoka station on Toyoko Line.

Jiyugaoka is 12 minutes from Hiroo and Ebisu via Naka Meguro.
10 minutes from Shibuya.
A few minutes from Denenchofu and Futago Tamagawa, 20 minutes from Yokohama.

By shan E. Stratton on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 5:24 am:

My wife and I will be moving to the "Tokyo Area" with our 3 children (7, 5 and 1) for 2 years. No way can we afford the international schools. Are there any public schools that you may suggest that would be a little easier for our kids to adapt? Any public schools that may cater to American students? Any public school that may have more American students than most? PLEASE HELP! Thanks Shan

By Brendan Behan on Sunday, January 4, 2004 - 6:12 pm:

I live in the Chiba City area and I have a young son in a Japanese elementary school. I am starting to really get worried about how little he can speak English. It seems to be a losing battle using English at home since his mother and his schooling are Japanese.
Does anyone know of any international schools in the Chiba area? Are there any affordable ways to get an English education in Japan?

By Bethan Hutton on Wednesday, January 7, 2004 - 8:32 pm:

Just saw this article on the online Yomiuri - doesn't offer any practical information, but at least the Japanese press are picking up on the issue.

Help urged for non-Japanese schoolchildren

Yomiuri Shimbun

"What do you call a clear sky without clouds?" volunteer Japanese-language teacher Junko Kaji, 40, asked a 13-year-old girl.

The girl took a few seconds to answer and said, "I guess, that's 'kaisei' (fair)."

The girl who came to Japan with her grandmother, following her Filipino mother and Japanese father who came to Japan earlier, attends a middle school in Toyama.

She takes Kaji's 1-1/2-hour class at the municipal-run Toyama Cosmopolitan Association every Thursday afternoon, improving her Japanese a great deal. She jokes with Kaji and smiles, saying she has made many friends at school.

But at first, she experienced difficulties at school because she could not understand classes given in Japanese. She could not make friends either.

The number of children accompanying parents who come from abroad to work in Japan is growing at primary and middle schools. Measures to help such children learn the language and become acquainted with Japanese customs are urgently needed as these children are more prone to truancy as a result of not understanding classes and being bullied.

According to the Toyama Prefectural Board of Education, there were 150 such children studying at the prefecture's primary and middle schools in 1993. This figure had almost doubled to 283 by last year.

However, as of May 1, there were only 13 instructors in the prefecture giving extra-curricular Japanese-language classes to children in need of support, including Japanese children who lived overseas.

The 13 teachers have to serve 33 primary and middle schools, which means each teacher has to cover two or three schools.

Miyuki Nakayama, 34, taught some of these children at primary and middle schools in Takaoka and Kosugimachi in the prefecture for three years until summer.

"I could visit each school for only a few hours, once or twice a week, so I sometimes had to cover too much material in a short period of time, or just ended up listening to children complaining," she said. Nakayama said she was not allowed enough time to give good Japanese-language classes or to support the children psychologically.

Some of these children refuse to go to school, often because they cannot catch up with classes or are isolated or bullied at school.

According to Nakayama, some parents stop sending their children to school due to the lack of adequate communication with teachers.

In particular, many of these children find it difficult to keep up with the speed of classes at middle school, where they also do not enjoy club activities that become increasingly competitive. They do not feel comfortable with the seniority system of calling older students senpai and younger ones kohai.

Some of those who drop out of school or who refuse to go from the beginning work during the day, but others just sit at home.

"They receive no support to help them keep up at Japanese schools, so they don't gain sufficient ability to go on to high school, and many of them give up on schooling in the first place," Nakayama said.

A survey conducted last fiscal year revealed that only 25 children with foreign parents study at public or private high schools in the prefecture.

In 2001, Nakayama launched an organization to support children of non-Japanese citizens, through which she exchanges information with other supporters of foreign residents, recycles school items and gives lectures about the situation in which these children find themselves.

However, most Japanese people are not even aware that there are non-Japanese children who do not go to school.

"There should be places where these children can drop in, such as public halls of local communities, where volunteers will help them study," Nakayama said. "We need to set up a support system that helps them on daily basis."

By Mono on Thursday, January 8, 2004 - 9:31 am:

Dear Bethan,
Thanks for the link! I was planning to write about a similar program in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki for Shan and Brendan.

There is a group of trained volunteers in Tsukuba who go to schools (daily or as needed) to teach Japanese privately to a non-Japanese speaking child or in a very small group. (There are international schools in Tsukuba, but I believe they only cater to children who understand English or those who wish to learn it.)

Recently, Ifve read a book written by this group. It may sound harsh, but personally I thought it didnft offer much for those who have a non-Japanese speaking child(ren). Itfs a collection of stories of the gstrugglesh that these volunteers have gone through, so I think it must be very useful for the communities/groups/schools that are planning to launch a similar program. However, Ifd highly recommend this book to anyone who are planning to send their children to public schools in Japan.

What it looks like:


By Caroline on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 2:38 pm:

Does anyone know if there are any Japanese public schools in the Musashino-shi or Mitaka-shi area (or nearby) that have "nihongo gakkyu" or "kokusai gakkyu"? Thanks!

By Trupti Gandhi on Monday, April 5, 2004 - 7:48 pm:

hi everybody!!
we have enrolled our 6yrs old son in a japanese public school in meguro area... any tips to make it a pleasent experience for him??

By Admin on Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 2:27 pm:

Dear Trupti,
I would highly recommend that you join the Japan Learning Web e-list even if you just start by reading the archives, at:

There is a huge diversity in situations represented by members on this list but in general they have kids in the Japanese system and are supplementing with after-schooling. All ages, from first grade through to high school. A few (like me) have their kid in a private school. But I participate in this e-list to keep abreast of all the options, since I have no idea if I'll be able to keep up the private school for much longer.

By Sarah Mayo on Friday, April 9, 2004 - 8:24 am:

We will be relocating to Tokyo this summer (2004) and likely live in Denenchofu. Does anyone have recommendations on specific Japanese schools with nihongo gakkyu or kokusai gakkyuin programs in this area? My daughters are in years 2,4 and 6 and speak no Japanese. I appreciate the difficulties that my year 6 daughter may have because of exams, etc but in our case the decision for Japanese schooling would not irreversable. We will have the option of enrolling her in an international school if it doesn't work out. That said, I would like for it to work out! Any thoughts?

By Tara on Saturday, April 10, 2004 - 12:10 am:

Your 6th-grade daughter should have no trouble with the entrance exams for junior high because she will qualify to take a special exam for kids who have been in-country for 21 months or less. It is your 4th-grade daughter who will will have difficulty with her exams, as she will have to sit the same exams as the kids who were born and raised here.

My eldest arrived in time for April enrollment into 5th grade. Had he arrived in July of 5th grade, he would have qualified for the "special exam" for returnees, but since he arrived in April, he had to sit the same exams as the Japanese kids. Not a pretty picture.

By Sarah Mayo on Saturday, April 10, 2004 - 8:54 am:

Tara, thanks for the insights on exams. If I understand the exam schedule correctly my year 4 daughter might be able to dodge the bullet if our tour in Japan is limited to 2 years. Either way it is helpful to know that in the short term my year 6 daughter will be able to cope.

When your son arrived did he have Japanese language skills? If not, how long did it take for him to become capable in spoken Japanese? 6 months? I ask because my kids had a similar language immersion experience when we lived in France. They spoke no French when they began at a French school. I found that after about 3 months they were communicating quite well, and by 6 months they were very comfortable with the French language and their school work. Is this a realistic scenario for acquiring verbal competency in Japanese? I fully recognize the barriers to literacy presented in learning Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji and would expect written fluency to be much slower going.
School work aside, I am also curious whether they will be able to learn enough Japanese to make friends and play in reletively short order. I have found that if they have friends at school the business-end of school work goes a lot easier.
Again, I would appreciate any thoughts on these matters.
Thank you

By Reiko Matsuzawa on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 7:00 am:

Gregg International School
Open House
Saturday, May 22, 2004
from 10:30 to 12 noon

Great opportunity to see the school

The English speaking children attending Japanese schools during the week are especially welcome regardless their nationalities.

Our brand new SATURDAY SCHOOL is just for YOU!!!

Art, Music, Reading,and much much more in our sunny and well equipped classrooms and fun activities in our spacious school yard with trees and flowers.
Saturday School started in April and has been so much fun for our students.
We love to share the joy.
Saturday School is for children aged 3 to elementary school age.

Also we have SUMMER SCHOOL
from June 14 to August 13.
9 weeks summer fun
age 2 to elementary
You can attend 1 to 9 weeks of your choice.

Please call 03-3725-8000.
We send the information and application form to you.

Please call 03-3725-8000,
write to
and visit
for more information.

The school is open from Monday to Saturday 9 to 5.
You are always welcome.

Gregg International School is a few minutes from Jiyugaoka station on Toyoko Line.
Jiyugaoka is easily accessible from Meguro, Denenchofu, Shibuya, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Hiroo, Tamagawa and Ebisu.

By Michael and Kyoko on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:52 am:


Me and my wife are getting ready for our move back to Tokyo. We are moving as an
ex-pat family via my company.

Me and my wife have a newborn baby and want to know if there is any groups Japanese or ex-pat Americans that get together ect for support and fun... My wife is Japanese but has no idea of how to raise a baby in Tokyo. :-)

Next question is regarding location. What would be the "best" possible location for a family with a small baby to live in Tokyo? Of course I want to live in central Tokyo.

Thanks for all your help!

Mike and Kyoko

By Yuri Goda-Nomura on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 4:19 pm:

To Michael and Kyoko

I am not sure where you will be working but I live near Yoga station, which is close to Seisen International School as well as St. Mary's. There's a huge park Kinuta, as well as the Baji Equestrian park. 10 minutes to Shibuya via train, and very easy to get to Yokohama. It is not like Azabu, but enough people who speak English and I myself have made lots of friends. I am Japanese/American raised in California all my life. There's a baby group close to my house that meets on Fridays, 500 yen every session. I hope this will help you.

If you have questions, you can e-mail me.
Good luck with your move!

By Michael and Kyoko on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:01 pm:

Thank you for the help and information.

Mike and Kyoko

By Linda Gondo on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 8:43 am:

Hi Michael and Kyoko,
Before we were relocated and were thinking about where we were going to live in Tokyo, we did quite a lot of research on the internet as well as talking to our relocation company and other expats, and thought we knew more or less the suburbs where we wanted to live. However when we actually got here we realised that we wanted to live in a completely different area. My recommendation is to wait before you get here to committing to one area or property. We also found it necessary to walk the areas as you really can't tell by car. Also even within neighbourhoods the mood can be vastly different even a street away. Just one more thing: Many of the rental prices shown on the real estate web sites can be negotiated down quite substantially, especially now as the rental market is still soft. So if you see something you like but it may be out of your budget it is still worthwhile asking about anyway. We also found that many houses and apartments are multilisted and some agents are better at negotiating the price than others depending upon their relationship with the owner. So if soemthing really strikes your fancy and is multilisted it is worthwhile contacting the different agents about the particular property to see who can negotiate the best deal.

Hope this is helpful, good luck!


By Eric Schmitz on Tuesday, July 6, 2004 - 5:46 pm:


My children are currently attending Jinnan Elementary School in Shibuya-ku in Tokyo (next to NHK and not far from Yoyo-gi park).
I tried to find the school address on the web but I could not find it.
Could someone who has access to a phone directory send me the school address?
thank you very much,

By Peter E on Tuesday, July 6, 2004 - 10:20 pm:

If you mean this one here:

(thats NHK to the north)
Then the answer is:

in English:
tokyo, shibuya-ku udagawacho(??) 5-1

And the URL used to find this was:

HtH., P

By Eric Schmitz on Wednesday, July 7, 2004 - 1:13 pm:

To Peter E (from Eric Schmitz):

Thank you for your reply to my asking for Jinnan Elementary School.

I am unable to read the address as you posted it (perhaps I don't have right software, although I do have Japanese fonts loaded as the yahoo map shows up OK in explorer).

Perhaps you could write it in english as I am back in the US.

I do not read Japanese but from the map, I think it is right location, very close to NHK. Also swimming pool seems right location!

Thank you for taking time to help me.

By Anna States on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - 3:06 am:

This is not info on schools, but it can help anyway - everyone looking for a great book to keep the kids up on their English AND teach them Japanese, you should take a look at THE UNORDINARY ELEPHANT. It's a children's book printed in both languages - so perfect for bilingual parents and kids! I promise you'll love it!

Just click on shop for more info!

By Bethan Hutton on Monday, May 30, 2005 - 10:07 am:

This story is from the Japan Times, about a new school for non-Japanese or returnees of high-school age:

International kids to get free school

A nonprofit group promoting multiculturalism will open a free school next month in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, for foreign children or Japanese children who have a limited command of the Japanese language due to being raised by non-Japanese parents, group officials said Saturday.

The Center for Multicultural Information & Assistance took the step to help children aged 16 or older who do not qualify for the free public education and those who have trouble adjusting to Japanese schools after finishing junior high school overseas, they said.

Because of their poor command of Japanese, these children often end up failing high school entrance exams or even becoming socially withdrawn, the officials said.

"We want the children to maximize their talents to triumph in their lives, even though it seems difficult now," said Wang Huijin, the group's representative.

The Japan Times: May 29, 2005
(C) All rights reserved

By Marie Kawachi on Saturday, June 11, 2005 - 4:11 pm:

Hi Bethan,

I emailed this information to a friend of mine and she went to Arakawa ward to inquire but she was told that they don't know anything about this organization.

I wonder if you can give us more information regarding this matter. Thanks in advance.


By Bethan Hutton on Sunday, June 12, 2005 - 9:54 pm:

I only saw the story in the paper and posted it here as I thought it might be of interest, so I don't know any more details personally, but I just did a Google search for the name of the organisation and found it on this page with a list of help/advice centres for foreigners in Tokyo:

The contact number they give for the Center for Multicultural
Information and Assistance is
03-5825-1290; near Kuramae Station (Oedo line, I think - near Asakusa) and it's open 12-8 every day offering consultations in Tagalog and Chinese.

If for any reason that phone number doesn't work, perhaps your friend could contact the Japan Times and ask if they have any more information? If she gives them the date of the story (May 29th) they may be able to track it down.

By Bethan Hutton on Tuesday, June 21, 2005 - 11:38 am:

Here's another article about the school, and there's a website address at the bottom:

Multicultural school opens for international students

By Chie Masuda

TOKYO EGetting into high school as well as adapting to the new school life in Japan can be difficult enough for Japanese students, but even more so for students from other countries.

It's also tough for the children of international marriages, especially between Japanese and Chinese, Korean and Philippine spouses. Some of those couples have children from previous marriages, and not being able to speak much Japanese, these kids have all sorts of problems getting into Japanese high schools.

To help such children, a nonprofit group promoting multiculturalism, the Center for Multicultural Information & Assistance, opened a school in Nishinippori, Tokyo, on June 1, to tutor children who have a limited command of the Japanese language due to being raised by one or both non-Japanese parents.

"Currently, there is no school to help international students to get into high school in Japan," says Koichiro Sekiguchi, the head director at Multicultural Free School. "Japanese language schools are helping mostly students who have already graduated from high schools. Those programs are not sufficient for 15 to 16-year-old students."

Multicultural Free School is aimed at that age group. Because of the difference in school systems, and because Japanese public high schools do not allow students to transfer during semesters, those students have to wait until April to start their next school year. In the interim, Multicultural Free School helps them improve their language skills.

One 16-year-old Chinese student who is now studying at Multicultural Free School to prepare for the entrance exam to a Japanese high school next spring, said she came to Japan last July after graduating from middle school in China. She first went to a Japanese language school, where the classes mainly served as prep for Japanese colleges or universities. After failing to get into a high school for the 2005 year, she contacted Multicultural Free School.

Classes, which are taught four days a week at an apartment from 1-4 p.m., focus on students' writing, speaking and reading skills in Japanese. The tuition is 30,000 yen a month. There are three teachers so far, including two Japanese and one Chinese who used to teach at a public school in Tokyo.

Multicultural Free School is looking to expand the program to include night classes from July for students who are already in Japanese schools, but have problems adapting.

For more information, visit the school's website at

June 20, 2005

By Georgie Kanekiyo on Saturday, November 12, 2005 - 6:37 am:

I would like to hear about the Kougai Elementary school in Nishi Azabu. I am planning to move to Tokyo next April and my ex husband is Japanese and so my 2 boys have had quite a bit of exposure to the Japanese language but cannot really comminicate in the language nor write and read as we have only ever lived in Australia. They are aged 7 & 10 and I would love it if they could go to Japanese school where there are other foreigners and if he school does conduct any of the classes in English. Or my other choice I guess is Nishi MAchi international school. thanks

By Amber Matthews on Thursday, March 23, 2006 - 6:37 am:

When I was ten, my Dad gave me the choice of going to the local public school or an American school. At the time, I was very much into Indiana Jones, and decided to do what HE would have done... so I opted for the foreign experience. I was the only foreigner in my school, and the adjustment period for me took about 6 months. After that, I felt more comfortable. I picked up more of the language, and I got a new teacher. We moved two and a half years later, but the wealth of experience gained has helped me in ways I'm still discovering. I'm 26 now, and finally writing about my experience. Learning a foreign language through immersion, even at such an "old" age of ten, is priceless.

When I returned to the American system when I was 13, I had a difficult adjustment period again, but it was more social than anything else -- the kids in Japan were so much more innocent! I bounced back in my English classes, and did well the rest of the time I was in American schools. In High School, I studied Japanese via satellite (very small class!) and then decided to go a different route in university -- I studied Russian. I am very grateful to my parents for letting me study at the Japanese elementary school -- even more grateful that they made me keep going after I wanted to quit!

By Edlyn on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 3:43 pm:

Our daughter is going to public yochien in Hatagaya and we live just half a block away from Nakahata elementary school. However, an acquaintance (Japanese Mom, American Dad) recommended that we send our daughter to Jinnan or Hatashiro as they have more mixed and/or foreign children. My husband is Japanese and the neighborhood school has no non-Asian foreign children although there is one half-Philipino and one half-Chinese student. The acquaintance son has been badly teased at the school for having an American father and was sent to Jinnan. I have also noticed the kids giving her hard stares and looks and whispering when we walk by the school on the way to Yochien.

My question is, does anybody have a child at either Hatashiro or Jinnan and do you have any comments on it? If all of my daughters Yochien friends go to Nakahata I am inclined to send her but there but if they are scattered I want her to go to someplace well she will be accepted.

By Lindagondo on Sunday, September 9, 2007 - 9:47 pm:

My daughter started ichi nensei at Jinnan elementary school last April. It`s only been one term, but anyway here are some of my observations.

Positive points

*The school is very eager to give an `international` impression. It seems to be one of the selling points of the school. For example when we went to open day there was a large banner in the front entranceway which said `Jinnan welcomes foreign students`.This naturally attracts students whose parents wish to give their child somewhat of a more international perspective, and I think perhaps the students are more tolerant beacuse of this.They have English lessons once a week, with a native English speaker and so this I think breaks down the anti-gaijin barriers somewhat. Other non Japanese parents whomhhave spoken to have told me there is very little bullying and that it is a friendly place.@

*There is a also a dedicated `international` class for students who cannot speak much Japanese. Apparantly the teacher in this class can speak English also.

However if your daughter has attended yochien and is mostly understanding and communicating then they may suggest that she attend regular class. Neither of the regular ichi nensei teachers can speak any English. This may not be a problem for you, however it was for us.

*Large, spacious, light filled classrooms, clean toilets, gym,library, music room, nice playground, swimming pool,psychologist. Good facilities especially for Tokyo. Very secure building with a security guard.

*Excellent after school and school holiday club.

*Japanese support for those students in regular class (although availability depends on the timetable). My daughter has one hour support Japanese per week.

*Very nutritious lunch provided every day.

*Most of the Japanese mothers at the school are quite friendly once they know you but can be shy and reluctant to approach at first.

Negative points

Large class sizes because of it`s increasing
popularity. In ichi nensei there are now two classes of thirty four children. (Last year in ichi nensei there were only twenty five children per class.

The regular classes have inflexible rules which do not take into consideration the needs of individual students.
Some examples :My daughter did not bring the correct materials for an art class and was told to `sit out` the lesson. This was not her fault and an oversight on our part (mostly because I can`t read the newsleters properly).

Over the summer break each child was given an `asagou` (Morning Glory) plant to look after and to keep a diary of how many flowers and plants it developed each day etc etc. We were going to Australia for five weeks and mentioned to the sensei that we wouldn`t be able to look after it and asked her for suggestions. Her answer was to give it to a friend or relative to look after for us and for that person to write the entries in the diary. I would have thought it would have more educational value for my daughter to tend a plant in Australia and write the entries there rather than `pretend` to have done it.

*My daughter still likes to use her fingers for addition and subtraction, however this is forbidden in class. She has gone from liking maths to disliking it because of this reason. Apparantly the educational philosophy is that if they use their fingers then they become reliant on them, however I disagree. One should first of all move from the concrete to the abstract I think.

*Although they say they welcome international students, there is no communication support at all for poor kanji reading parents of children attending regular class.

Having grumbled about the above, I really think in the overall scheme of things the negative points are more to do with my unfamiliarity with the Japanese school system and poor communication. I think if your daughter can speak well and you can speak and read fluently she`ll probably do really well there.

As for us, we will be returning to Australia in a year or two anyway, and I just don`t think it`s worth the frustration and stress of not communicating properly with the school so we are looking at moving to an international school. It`s not the school`s fault, after all we are in Japan! Nevertheless given the fact that they advertise themselves as being so international I was quite disappointed with the lack of help and support I was given. (My spoken Japanese actually isn`t too bad, the newsletters my daughter brings home every day are the big problem.)
Sadly to say I think the whole experience would have been much so much more positive for us if my daughter knew either knew very little Japanese and was in the international class or was very comfortably fluent and I was literate.

For what it`s worth.......

Please let me know if you have any other questions


By Edlyn on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 8:01 am:

Thanks! That was really helpful. You raised a lot of issues I hadn't even thought of. I was thinking I just didn't want her to get teased but I can see we may have bigger issues to deal with. I'm actually quite shocked by the not counting with your fingers as I have been teaching both of my children to use their fingers when solving math problems. I can see this will be a problem no matter where she goes.

Her language skills are fine but I have problems with the kanji and a daily newsletter will be a problem for me as well. We get a monthly newsletter now and that is a little problem but at least at Yochien they put most everything in hiragana so the kids can read it. They also give us a daily verbal run down and that is what is probably replaced by written instructions at elementary school.

I always read these really great stories and articles and have even met people who come from foreign countries and put their 2nd or 3rd or 4th grade students in school here and what a great experience they have and how everybody was so helpful but my own experience in Japan is that you are pretty much on your own and I really appreciate that you have been so honest. We really like our yochien and as you say, this is Japan so of course I can't expect anybody to speak English but I am treated like all the native speaking Moms and I never get a pass, even if I don't understand something. Nobody steps forward to give me a hand. The stakes are pretty low in youchien but much higher in elementary school and I would hate for my daughter to be made to sit out a class because of my mistake. Not sure how to deal with that either. We are like a 10 minute walk from yochien now and some days I have sent obento when she doesn't need it or not sent it when she does, or forget her pool bag on swimming day or send an umbrella instead of a raincoat (sometimes they want umbrellas, sometimes raincoats depending on what I don't know!) so I often make the trip back and forth a couple of times taking things and bringing things home.

My daughter is half Japanese and like your daughter speaks Japanese pretty well and that probaby is worse than if she spoke no Japanese. They expect more from her and I guess more from me.

I guess I need to tour the schools and see which principal seems the most accomodating to us. Maybe being the only American mom would get me some help with the written instructions or at least a pass. I am literally 2 minutes from Nakahata and would hope they would call me if I didn't send something but it doesn't sound like at Jinnan that was an option.

By Lindagondo on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 10:18 am:

Glad to be of help. Another option may be to have a look at Jingumae elementary school. They don`t have international support as far as I know, however I have heard this years ichi nensei only had sixteen in the whole class, apparantly many students from that area opted to go to Jinnan instead. I`m guessing next year may be the same, with such a small class I wonder if you may get a little extra help? I`ve no idea if this is the case or not, however I wonder if it would be worth investigating. If the class teacher spoke a little English it may be an option. The problem is, I don`t think you are going to be able to know how big the class is going to be until just before your daughter starts school. I wonder if you can register for two schools and have one as backup? Also, it may be a little far to travel?? Nakahata sounds very convenient.....

Another idea I am considering is home schooling. I will do this if a place in an international school does not come up soon. There are tonnes of resources out there and I don`t think it`s as daunting as it seems. Typically homeschoolers end up being a year or two of their cohort I have heard. This is easy to understand, I think an enormous amount of taken is wasted at school. For socialisation I plan to let my daughter attend art, dance and swimming classes and hope to make contact with other homeschooling Mums.


By Bunny on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 10:33 am:

I haven't seen daily newsletters from the shogakko at all. I don't think there is such a thing in Nakano. Though it does sound like the sort of meaningless make-work they would engage in.

Number 1 daughter seems to know what she has to take. The do seem to encourage independance and expect the child to walk to school on her own.

In general, I agree with Lindagongo's post. It just isn't worth making mountains out of molehills, I have no idea how our Morning Glory survived, let alone had 109 seeds.

As to home schooling it is stressful unless you have absolutely nothing better to do with your life. Make sure your husband, pet cat, etc can look after the kids so you can unwind!

I think that exclusive home schooling is madness, since if you're paying taxes, you're paying for school. You may be better off sending them to local school and tacking on the English (french, whatever you speak at home) after. Most of it at shogakko age is vocabulary building.

PS: C-Beebies rocks. If you have relatives in the UK, have them record it almost indiscriminately.

By Edlyn on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 10:49 am:

The independence thing you mention is really frustrating for me. They already took my 5 year old on an overnight trip. I thought I was the only Mom that said no and they pressured me and eventually paid my babysitter to go along if I was let her go. Mind you they wouldn't think of letting me go. Its all part of the getting kids to separate from the family and be part of the group. Of course I finally caved and then found out there was another hold out, a Philipino Mom. She was finally persuaded when she found out I allowed it. I told her had I known there were two kids not going (coincidentally the two kids with foreign Moms) I would have held firm.

I am definitely going to walk my daughter to school although she keeps insisting that once she starts elementary school she is going to walk to school and take the bus by herself. I will fight that battle in another 6 months.

I can understand you wanting to home school though. My husband and I have already discussed homeschooling our children starting around 4th grade or else moving to another country. Definitely the higher the grade the more issues we have with the system. But hopefully we can have a couple of good years with the school system.

By Lindagondo on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 12:29 pm:

Bunny, I know quite a few people who home school their kids and they and their kids love it. It`s not for every child and parent perhaps, but I`ve heard many good things. I`d be interested to hear some more opinions on the home school experience. Is it really that stressful? Any home school Mum`s or Dad`s reading this?

Edlyn I make a point of walking my daughter to school every day. Probably your area is quite safe, however our area is not (Kamiyamacho).We receive a weekly newsletter from the ward office which tells of the incidents in the area and I feel that it`s just too risky. The busy traffic is another concern. The ichi nenseis are encouraged to walk home in groups, but often this doesn`t happen and the kids end up walking some distance apart.

By Bunny on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 1:28 pm:

It's pretty safe where I am, the worst threat is probably the chagetsu scooter weenies trying to achieve escape velocity going up the launch ramp. Sorry, I mean, up our road that you can barely get a Kei-Car down.

Did they give your daughter a bohan buzzer?
Recently we got a letter from the school about the bohan buzzers exploding. They are incredibly badly made, no wonder you can get them in the 100yen shop.

Home Schooling;
Possibly with only 1 child, it isn't that bad, I have 2.5 and stress does seem to be a significant issue during school holidays. They have far too much energy and the 0.5 makes it difficult to take them out I guess.

The home school thing we have is British, which may, or may not be your cup of tea. All things considered, I think it is good value for money, the better half thinks it's quite difficult but she's doing a great job. If anyone is interested, I can find the name/URL/etc

By Lindagondo on Monday, September 10, 2007 - 2:28 pm:

Our buzzer started to make noises when my daughter was walking, so we took it off. A good idea in theory, however like you say they are very poorly made.

Which British home school program do you have?I`d be intereseted to find out.



By Lindagondo on Sunday, September 16, 2007 - 11:32 am:

I`d just like to clarify one point regarding the international class at Jinnan, sorry didn`t want to mislead anybody...

As far as I know,(which isn`t that much since I`ve only been there a term) the `international` class at Jinnan is a Japanese language support class, not really a long term full time class. Most children in the class commute from other schools and attend for one or two hours a week with the main intention of getting the childrens` Japanese good enough to eventually join the mainstream classes.I think children who have absolutely no Japanese at all may attend more than this, but in this situation I think it would be more intensive one on one teaching rather than groups (but best to check).

By Bunny on Tuesday, October 9, 2007 - 8:05 pm:

Check the batteries haven't gone rotten, that's what was wrong with ours. replace the batteries (which cost more than that thing did) and its fine.

Home Schooling:

Primary Home Education

Do check the packing list *VERY* carefully.
Other than that, it's quite excellent. Shipping can be expensive and the resulting box was too heavy to lift!

We have lots of English books now, from Oxford Reading Tree (Floppy etc) and their homework stuff is more than enough to keep busy.

Note, my kids go to Japanese school, they do this, and ballet (classical, Japanese teacher.)

By Tomkat on Saturday, December 15, 2007 - 11:08 am:


We are moving to Toyonaka/Osaka on January first.
We have a seven-year-old and an almost five-year-old son. Does anyone have a child enrolled in Sakuraidani
Do they have a nihongo gakkyu program there?
Does anyone on this list have any children enrolled there?

My husband will be doing research at Osaka University. I would appreciate any information about the above mentioned school or any other clubs or extracurricular activities that you have found beneficial.
My children and I have a smidgen of limited Japanese but my husband is somewhat fluent and should be able to read first grade Kanji and notices from the school.
Thanks so much for your help.

Kate Narita

By Gaela on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 12:00 pm:

i would welcome any experience testimonials of both foreign parents having elementary and middle school aged children going to Japanese schools in Tokyo area.
thank you.

By Juliehickey on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 4:13 pm:

My husband and I are both foreigners who have been living in Japan for about 6 years. After the first year we decided to pull our children who were going into Kindergarten and first grade out of the international schools and put them into Kogai Elementary (local Japanese school) so that they can learn both the language and culture.
We have had no regrets. This particular school which is part of Minato-ku is used to having foreigners and actually has a program to integrate them better and provide one on one support. First 3 months I was a bit concerned, but nearly 5 years on and both my husband and I are very pleased with the outcome. There is the obvious language and cultural benefit, but in additional to this we have found the focus on mathematics and science to be a bit stronger.
We plan on keeping them in the school until they both graduate (6th grade) then transfer into an international school because at some point I see the likelihood of them attending an English speaking university higher than that of a Japanese university.
Downside, is they do need to take supplementary English classes after school to help with their future transition and ensure they can also read and write in English. Speaking is no issue as that is our main language at home. I also think the older the child the harder the initial transition is and am sure part of our positive experience started with both sons being so young when they went into the Japanese school system.

Hope that helps.

By Drdo1 on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 4:50 pm:

We were in chiba, not Tokyo, so I'm not sure if you are interested in our testimony. But our daughter went to pre-school, kindergarten and then 1st and 2nd grade in an all Japanese school.

Both pre-school and K were a fantastic experience. The school was accepting and did not make many issues with our 'differences'. Teachers tried hard to communicate with us in any way they could. Our child had plays, skits, drumming performances, seasonal activities, sports day, etc just as any Japanese student would. As parents, we felt welcome in the school even though there were only a very small number of foreigners attending.

Elementary school: a totally different experience! Not a good one, either! There were over 800 students and only a fist-full of foreigners. The school made no effort at all to help accommodate those of us who could not read or speak much in Japanese. The daily papers, homework, forms, files, tasks, PTA expectations, ceremonies, cleaning days, sporting events were not explained in any special way to the few of us.

Our child did not receive any extra help with kanji, instructions, assignments or expectations. She was expected to perform, act and do as the others. No one in our home was Japanese; all of us came from the US. My husband and daughter spoke quite well, but none of us could read much at all. We had to go to neighbors on a weekly basis...weekly! After a few months of this, they got annoyed and we got embarrassed. We put a lot of pressure on our child to fend for herself since we felt so out of the loop. If we were in Tokyo or a school that had 20 or so 'outsiders', then I believe we would have had more support. (I had to take documents to my place of work and ask a co-worker to translate them; usually there were 6-10 papers, some important, others garbage. At 1st, they were gracious and helped...but after a few months of this...well, it made it harder every month.)

Private schools or international ones were far too expensive for us, so we had to attend regular Japanese public schools. As the year progressed, our frustration heightened. We spoke with the teacher, principal and school counselor several times in a 12-month period. We were not heard, so in one way, we sort of gave-up on the school and trying to get them to assist.

Our daughter made some friends that she has remained in contact. That was the best part of her schooling-making cherished friendship with a few of her peers. We returned to the US, even when we weren't ready to leave, mainly because of the frustrations with the schooling.

By Bunny on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 5:09 pm:

Tokyo schools don't have that many outsiders, it really is, integrate or forget it. Teachers practice triage early, so if your son/daughter is a deadloss in year one, send them somewhere else. They also wont do anything if the grandson of the local yak is a complete dick and in your son's class throwing chairs at the teacher.

If anything the quality of teaching is lower in Tokyo, you're better off in the Inaka...

Just out of curiosity, ask your daughter the answer to " 7 / 0 = ?"

By Edlyn on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 8:38 pm:

My daughter when to youchien (kindergarten) and first grade in a school in central Tokyo, in Shibuya ward. She was the only "foreign" student in the school. My husband is Japanese American so she looks Japanese and her fellow students were surprised she did not speak fluent Japanese and attributed it to her being baka so they bullyed her because she couldn't understand them sometimes. As she was the only non-native speaking Japanese student we got NO help from the school. We were completely on our own. After one year we did decided to return to America because it was so difficult for her socially. In retrospect though, I regret that decision. My son was only 3 when we returned to America and didn't have the opportunity to go to youchien which was a wonderful experience for my daughter. I also think that we may have been able to overcome some of the difficulty she was having in the school. I have enough Japanese friends to know that I wouldn't have my kids in public school in Japan past about 4th grade but I think the first few years would have been fine. It was a great experience. I just wish we had been better able to cope with the bullying which our Japanese friends and the school didn't think was a big deal.

By Gaela on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 11:41 am:

Thanks for your messages;

My son is actually 10 and has been in a Japanese school since we arrived in Japan a year ago: he started in year 3 and gradually in parallel with year 4. He started in year 5 in April.
The school has been really good, giving him extra Japanese classes but he doesn't make many friends, and probably because I don't understand school papers, he doesn't have any club activities and tehre's not much communication between the school and me and I can't help at all with homework. So we were thinking of alternatives. The only ones we could think of were 1-Finding another school with at least one other "total foreigner" so that he doesn't single out so much; 2-Home schooling which he is very keen on but .... 3- International school: quiet out of our means and very far from@where we live. Any another alternative?

By Shikokumom on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 9:49 pm:

We're in the same situation.
I was an ALT years ago so I know what the deal is with the triage system AND how ridiculously overworked the teachers are. It sounds harsh but making the extra effort to help out the foreign kid is not a priority for them.

Things are great at the yochien right now. We decided to put our son there instead of at the English preschool that we work at because international school is not an option.

We want to make sure he's properly socialized in Japanese (ie can hold his own if he ever runs into trouble with the other children). He's made friends at the kindy and many of them will be going to the same elementary school together next spring.

Our preschool has an optional after-school Japanese class once a week and a Japanese teacher teaches the kids maths, kokugo, hiragana etc. Our son has been taking the class since he was 3.
He has homework and we do our best to make sure he has it done. If there's anything we don't understand, we ask our Japanese co-workers for help.

We both work full time but whenever possible, we attend events and occasionally socialize with the other parents at the kindy. We are fortunate that there were 3 moms in a class of 35 who speak English and they have been gracious with helping us out.
Some of the students at our preschool will also be going to the same elementary school next year and we have a very good relationship with their parents.
Fingers-crossed that they will be our lifeline next year.

One alternative you can look at is to hire a private tutor to help your child with his homework from school.

Where do you live?
Find out if there's an "international" club in your area. What I mean by that is the "gaijin groupies" - Usually retired/ semi-retired Japanese people who are keen on meeting foreigners.
If you're lucky, some of them will be retired teachers or principals etc.
You can also source out your local ALT(Assistant Language Teacher) or CIR(Coordinator for International Relations) - foreigners who work for the Board of Education who teach at elementary and junior high school or who work at the city office. They will also be well connected and might be able to help you find people who can help you.

The other benefit to becoming acquainted with your local ALT/CIR is that they usually know which are the "good" schools and which are the "bad" schools. If you really wanted to transfer, you should find out what the situation is like in the other schools. Just because there are other foreigners there, it doesn't mean your child will have a better time.

You MUST find a way to get your child involved in some sort of club or after school activity. There's also usually a gakudo (after school program) at your son's elementary school and teachers help out with homework.

As a parent, find a way to socialize with the other parents in your son's class. That connection is worth it's weight in gold. For example, have a small get-together and invite 2 or 3 kids from your son's class that live in your neighborhood and their parents.

I know it's difficult sometimes to do this, but as foreigners, it is up to US to make ourselves understood. Unlike most of our home countries where foreigners are given plenty of support, we have the hard task of sharing who we are so that others will know that we're not all that different. And with children, this is very important. Not everyone in this group is fortunate enough to be in a cosmopolitan Japan like Minato-ku in Tokyo (no offense intended).

Also highly unorthodox but it may help you son, is to write a letter to his homeroom teacher and ask for advice (DO NOT WRITE TO ATTACK OR CRITICIZE). In my experience of living in Japan, humbling oneself before others, putting your situation in the hands of others, generates the best possible outcome. Send the letter in your native language (I'm guessing French) and Japanese - find someone who can translate using the humble form. Be open about your fears and worries as a mother. "Your assistance in these matters would put me in your debt" or "I would deeply appreciate your advice in these matters" - would be a nice touch. Do you bake? Teachers love snacks and treats. If you write the letter and baked cookies or cakes for everyone to share in the staff room, they will sit around and talk about you, your letter and your son. At the very least you've raise awareness of your situation and maybe, just maybe, someone will take your cause.

The other alternative is homeschooling.

By Gaela on Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 10:42 am:

Thanks for your long reply and all the tips which I have taken note of.
You say you are in the same situation but you do seem to have younger children; what do you envisage when they get to Junior Hign School?

By Shikokumom on Friday, June 8, 2012 - 1:31 pm:

Ahh, if we can afford to send our children to an international school by then, we will - but that's not likely to happen.

I do not have a lot of faith in the public education system here - mainly because the teachers are insanely overworked. Also, the decisions made in terms of textbook and curriculum have nothing to do with the children.
It's all politics - who's connected to the publishing company etc.
In some areas of Japan, some teachers are hired not on the basis of their skill or merit as teachers but because their parents or grandparents were teachers themselves or their family has connections.

The regular public school system is basically training ground for the majority of drones that will keep the country going. It's indoctrination on how to be Japanese. This is why it's extremely difficult for foreign kids to fit in. Not only do they stand out physically, but culturally they cannot fit into the mold that Japanese children are hammered into.

Kids lucky enough to have the brains and/or whose parents can afford to send them to private school will be streamlined and groomed for higher levels of employment.

To answer your question: We plan to leave Japan long before our son gets to be in Junior High School. Being a teenager is bad enough but being a gaijin teen is worse.

By Bunny on Friday, June 8, 2012 - 1:53 pm:

Tokyo schools aren't great because it is the easiest place to get teacher qualifications. Do a few years duty and move back to wherever. There is no incentive to interest the pupils, so no effort is made. (Throw in the grandson of the local yak being a complete dickhead etc.) Considering that, the quality of teaching is better the further from Tokyo you get ^^;
(There's also the kyoiku-mama + Juku insanity here.)

While on the subject of private schools, those attached to universities have an interesting issue. Once you are in, you get a free ride all the way to graduation. Thus it is entirely possible to graduate Keio and be a useless goit, just because you started at their yojisha (a nursery school by any other name).

Far cheaper to go to Keio at university age and be smarter than all the others that have come up from below.

Strangely, I don't seem to have any of the problems other posters have. Perhaps I am doing something right? Number one will be in Junior High next year. Her current complaint is "I don't want to wear a uniform, they AREN'T CUTE!!"

I don't understand this "home-schooling" thing at all. It sounds like a recipe for a hikky. School isn't just about education.

By Gaela on Friday, June 8, 2012 - 2:13 pm:

Hello Bunny,
Is your number 1 in Japanese 6th Level of public elementary school? If so, are you and her father both foreign and how long has she been in Japan? My problems just come from the fact that I never even "looked at Japan" until April 2011 and after a year of studying Japanese, I can read so little that I cannot understand the school papers. Hence my son doesn't do any after school activities and it's pretty non-gaijin an hour west of Tokyo. Quality of teaching maybe better but the communication with locals proves scarce and slow.
I agree with you, school is not just about education but when it becomes "anti-social" for your child, you might need to think about drastic changes.
Thanks to both for your "lights" in the matter.

By Drdo1 on Friday, June 8, 2012 - 3:07 pm:

We might return to Japan in about 8 months, as my husband is still there, even though our daughter and I returned so she could get some academic English (reading/writing) under her belt.

Does anyone know of some schools that ARE working for their foreign kid(s)? Where they have support, extra help, after school or during it; where we might not be the lone outsider?

We are thinking of Chiba or Tokyo to relocate. I prefer Yokohama but it's too far from my husbands business.

We want a Japanese school where:
**they are open or more accepting to non-Japanese (all 3 of us are from the US).
**they have support, assistance or help for kids who need help with homework or explanation of prints and handouts (our child speaks Japanese and knows her kanas and about 100+ kanji)
**they have someone to work with the parents understanding events, clubs and schedules

Is there a school like that out there at all?

By Bendel on Friday, June 8, 2012 - 5:58 pm:

We have young children (our oldest is in first grade and the younger two are in yochien), but have been relatively happy with our experience with Japanese education so far. I don't know how many schools meet your requirements, but Kougai and Honmura in Tokyo (Minato-ku) are known to be very gaijin freindly.

Kougai would definitely meet your first two criteria, though I'm not sure about the third. There are many foreign and half-Japanese students in the school, and since it is in a very international area everyone is used to and accepting of foreigners. The school also offers Nihongo Gakkyu, which is extra Japanese tutoring several days a week (the equivalent of ESL in the U.S.). As far as events and schedules go, teachers will certainly try to answer any questions you have, but they aren't going to translate every notice for you. If you plan to have an outside tutor for your child (we have one come to our house once a week, which has been useful) you might ask the same person if he or she can look over the notices you receive and translate if necessary (many aren't very important).

I think there are probably a fair number of schools out there that will meet your first two requirements, but the third will be more difficult, especially if you don't speak much Japanese. Many teachers and administrators will be willing to help, but you will need to make a big effort as well (and it will probably help if you can find an occasional translator to help you with documents).

Good luck!

By Maricel_gonzale on Friday, June 8, 2012 - 11:24 pm:

Hi all!

Thanks for all the helpful information, tips and advice, it helps a lot!

We are moving in Yokohama this coming October, I have an incoming first year high school, a son and a 2nd grader, a daughter.. I am not worried about my daughter, I know she can adapt. I am worried about my son, who will be in high school... If you can give information and advice about high school education in Japan, I will really appreciate it a lot!


By Shikokumom on Saturday, June 9, 2012 - 11:00 am:

There are pros and cons to homeschooling. I have friends who homeschool their kids and have adult friends who were home schooled. If college is an important aspect to your child's future, Google statistics for homeschooling and college, and you'll see that home schooled kids tend to score higher than traditionally schooled children. They may lose out on certain social aspects but for the most part my adults friends are pretty cool folk and quite successful in what they do. It all depends on how the parent does it. I think there's a thread on JWK about this. There are better resources available now for parents who want to homeschool so it is a possible alternative but a obviously a huge commitment from the parents.

As for the comment about Tokyo schools - it's not that simple.
You have to think about demographics and the area the school is in. Schools were built in certain zones. If the school is in an area where historically the population was labourers, the student body would be different from an affluent neighbourhood where education has a higher emphasis.

I'm not 100% on this but from what I understand, because Minato-ku residents generally have higher incomes than other ku's, they pay more taxes which in turn provides them with better services.

Out in the country you would have schools where most of the kids come from fishing families or farming families. If education is not a priority for the families of those kids then the overall quality of the school suffers. Teachers lose any real interest in teaching those kids and look at their profession as merely a job, not a career.

There are schools in the countryside in areas that have been historically "burakumin" or lowest caste. It's now virtually unknown in Tokyo but there are still areas where it's a huge problem in the countryside - and the schools suffer.

In the outskirts of Tokyo, in certain ku's where there are plenty of foreigners from the Philippines, Brazil, "secret" Koreans and Chinese, the schools have a ridiculously hard time getting sorted out. Many of those children, Filipino kids for example, are raised by single mothers who work night shifts like snack bars or conbini bento assembly. Not only do you have problems with language and culture, but the mothers/parents themselves have very little education themselves and don't have an understanding of what education is all about. Compounded by apathetic teachers, you have a huge social problem that affects not only the school community but the whole community at large.

For those of us where international school is not an option, we have to remember that the system, where ever you are in Japan, is NOT meant to accommodate foreigners.
We have to a) conform(when in Rome. . .); b) make sacrifices(homeschool); c)make it a mission to slowly change the system from within at the cost of our children's future(Occupy Mombusho (Ministry of Education)).

The other alternative - which many others have already done, is to go back to our home countries.

By Akaneth on Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 6:07 am:

Hi everyone , we are moving to Yokohama by march and I am looking for a school for them age 6 and 11 they don't know how to speak Japanese , somebody please help me to find a school that better for them in kanagawa ken ,thank you

By Mirdiffmom on Thursday, December 26, 2013 - 5:29 pm:

Hello everyone! I am moving from Dubai to Tokyo with my two young daughters (age 5 and 2.5 by the time we move). I am very keen on sending the girls to a local Japanese school and the real estate agent I'm working with recommended this site to me. We speak no Japanese although I have been to Japan myself once as an exchange student years ago and another time for work a few years ago. I have no idea how long we will be in Tokyo for but the plan is to immerse ourselves totally into the local culture. Some of the comments here are quite thought-provoking (overworked teachers, little support for foreigners, bullying) but I would appreciate any and all feedback - the positive and the negative!

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