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Japanese Elementary School

Japan With Kids - Forums: Education in Japan: Japanese Public/Private School System: Japanese Elementary School

By Anonymous on Monday, May 10, 1999 - 12:39 pm:

Hi, We are going to Japan for 1 year this July. We have 2 children and are curious to know if they would survive in a Japanese Public school. We want them to learn as much Japanese as possible during this year. Does anyone know if they even offer Japanese as a Foreign Language in public elementary schools in Japan. My children do not currently understand any Japanese. In Canada, there are classes called ESL for foreigners in all grade levels at any institution. Would it be too difficult for a foreign child to adapt to the Japanese system?

By Tlytle on Tuesday, May 11, 1999 - 1:42 am:

I do not know if Japanese public schools accept foreign students who don't speak the language. I do know that most international schools require students to study Japanese language and culture at all grade levels. That is where my three children are going (we're also moving in July-- to Yokohama). We didn't look into Japanese schools, because we assumed the language barrier and vastly different education system would be too difficult for them to handle-- on top of all the stress of moving to a foreign country for three years. So if you only want them to get exposure to the language and culture, but are concerned about their fitting into the school system, you might look into an international school. There are located in most major cities. There are web sites that list them all. Good Luck!

By A.K. on Tuesday, May 18, 1999 - 12:25 am:

The Japanese school year runs from April to March, which might be a consideration. I've been hearing some good stories about assimilating non-Japanese speakers into the school system, but only for younger children (early years of elementary school). Older kids will have a much harder time. On the other hand, the private schools which run English speaking curriculums are devastatingly expensive (I'm talking a minimum of about 15,000 U.S. dollars per year.) They get away with such high tuitions because usually ex-pat contracts cover these tuitions for children of ex-pats. They tend to run their school year from September to August.

Home-schooling is an accepted and legal option. And it would leave time for attending a Japanese language course, joining activities such as a kyudo club (Japanese Archery), or otherwise finding a more gentle, interesting and enticing approach to gaining Japanese language knowledge, than being dumped into a Japanese public school.

Very young children will do very well in Japanese daycare and kindergarten, since they will absorb the language like sponges, and the nature of those age groups and the curriculum do not lend to negative behaviors other than the normal friction between kids sharing space and toys.

By Mel on Sunday, June 13, 1999 - 2:30 pm:

It depends which area you are going to live. Cities like Yokohama or Kobe have many non-Japanese residents, it might be easier to accept children who do not speak Japanese. I have heard of offering Japanese as a Foreign Language in some public elementary schools in Japan, but very rare. If you really want your kids to go to a public elementary school, you can choose schools which accept "kikokushijo" or children who have lived in foreign countries.
This site might help you to find, it is 'Monbu-sho" or the Ministry of Education in Japan.

By Helen on Friday, June 18, 1999 - 8:55 pm:

I attended a Japanese public high school when I was 17 and did not know any Japanese language and am now living here with my children for 2 years. I chose to send my twin 5 year old sons to a international english speaking school because I remember how stressful it was for the first 6-9 months that I attended the Japanese school. Basically that's about how long it takes the average child starting from scratch to pick up enough language to enjoy themselves. (Other friends who have chosen to put their children in Japanese schools here also agree with this estimate.) On the other hand this decision has made it hard (but not totally impossible) for my children to make friends outside of school. If your children are still under six years old some of the privately run yochens (kindergartens) may be willing to enrol them. Costs of fees varies as do facilities and styles of education. Some are Montessori or Steiner system.

By MrPatEdwards on Monday, July 5, 1999 - 1:59 pm:

I am late to this string however, I hope and feel my information can still be helpful. My son has been attending Japanese Public School in Japan for his third year. Today he is in the 7th Grade.

He arrived with no speaking, reading, or writing ability. Needless to say this was a total immersion for him and an exceptionally difficult challenge to both him and my wife and I.

The public school system not only differs in curriculm but in every facet of a childs day (right down to lunch meals). I must reiterate that it is exceptionally difficult and I would not recommend pursing this if you are not prepared for a low level of tolerance for foreigners by the classroom instructors who are unable to speak English. At times we found the system almost abusive of foreign students and our son.

To augment his speaking abilities, spoken English was discontinued and not allowed in our own household for more than a year. This helped "immensely" with our sons progress in communicating.

As our son began to understand more of the language to include and reading and writing, our next difficulty was gaining the instructor's confidence in treating our son as an equal with assignments and work. This was easily picked up by our sons peers who began to tease him and rather viciously at times. They also do not covet the broad thinking of western students. At times our son's teachers found his questions reprehensible and they often contacted my wife and I at home in the evenings to say so ("The Catch 22" try and learn without asking to many questions because you hold up the progess of the other students who do speak and read the language).

Fortunately with time and earth loads of patience our son emerged as an equal among his peers. He has also earned their respect and his place as a leader among them educationally and socially. He has even been elected class President at least once and, is a regular speaker on the schools broadcast committee.

May I suggest that if you have the option to prepare your children with Japanese speaking and reading ability that you start that process as early as possible (I really wished I did at many times during my sons crying moments as he tried to adapt). If that is not possible please first consider the private education resources that are available in Japan, for at least a year or two. Either of these two options would really be in your childs best interest. Otherwise I would catogorize total immersion of your child into the Japanese Public education system as "Extremely Difficult"!

Oh BTW, I forget to mention my wife is Japanese and was born and raised and educated in the Japanese educational system and she agrees strongly with what I am saying here.

I am sorry to convey a message so critical, however, I feel it is fair to share our actual experience.

I am happy to help as resource should you ever need assistance. Email me at- should you have further questions.

Kind Regards

By Lynda Watson on Sunday, August 15, 1999 - 4:09 pm:

We moved to Japan from New Zealand last December. Our son age 9 and daughter age 7 have been attending the local Japanese elementary school since January.

Although they are the only foreign students amongst 650 students, they have been extremely well accepted and I must say that the school has made a big effort to accomodate their needs. They do find not knowing he language stressful at times but it is surprising how much they are picking up. In addition, the school has kindly arranged for them to have extra Japanese tuition, which has been a big help.

We are in a country area so I am sure that things may be different in a city. However, we have to say that, to date, the experience has been a positive one. All their teachers have been wonderfully patient, as have their peers

Things are very different in a Japanese school, but there are many positive aspects to the system too.

If anyone has foreign children of a similar age attending Japanese schools then our children would love to hear from them. Being the odd ones out here does make them think that there are very few other foreigners out there in Japan!

By juliatoo on Wednesday, September 22, 1999 - 8:23 pm:

Our children, son aged 8, and twin daughters, 6, have been attending Japanese elementary and yochien respectively, for just over a year. The first 6-10 months were so stressful -high levels of frustration, and some bullying in my son's case. We wanted total immersion in the language, after reading as many studies on bilingualism as we could, but found teachers either wanting to practice English to them, or suggesting as parents we were being harsh. Finally, they are active in the Japanese language in the educational setting. It has been a slow painful process, but more so for us as parents. The kids seem not to have felt the same way! It isn't easy, however we'd probably do the same if we had the choice again.

Are most people in this situation homeschooling in English? I find my girl is very keen, but my son identifies with the Japanese language more and shows very little interest. How are others doing in that area?

By Miki inoue swinburne on Thursday, December 23, 1999 - 4:08 am:

My wife and I are moving back to Japan after trying to live in Seattle Washington for over three years. We have two daughters aged 9 and 6 who were both born in Japan. My wife has tried her best to make sure they both know Japanese as well as English. During the summers the girls went back to Japan and attended Japanese school. Our oldest daughter had the most problems during these summer trips. The main difficulties were understanding the questions when written in Kanji. We have read all your notes and are very happy to see other poeple with the same concerns. We hope that when we move back to Japan this year that our girls with be able to adjust in school. We are worried about the other children accepting them as well. We will be moving to Hachioji, Tokyo in March 2000 before the school year starts. If there are any people in the area with similar experiences we would be very happy to hear from you.

By a gordenker on Thursday, January 6, 2000 - 9:30 am:

Does anyone have any experience with Kougai Elementary School in the Azabu area? It seems to have a lot of experience with foreign students -- currently, there are about 15 students out of a student body of 300. They offer Japanese instruction for foreign students who need it, up to 2 hours daily. Would love to hear from anyone who has tried Kougai, as we are considering it for our non-Japanese speaking, American sons, ages 5 and 8.

By Warren B. Roby on Tuesday, January 11, 2000 - 8:19 am:

Today I came across this forum, so please excuse my late contribution.

First of all, there are two books which are must reads for anyone considering putting foreign children in a Japanese school. Consult and look for the items by Conduit and Benjamin.

I will now share our family's experience. My Japanese wife and I took our 4 children to Japan for one year to give them an experience of their mother's country. None of them spoke more than a few words of Japanese before that. Their ages upon arrival were 15, 13, 7, and 3. The first 3 are boys.

All of our children had a wonderful year and all participated in some form of Japanese schooling and had good experiences. In this message I will only discuss the experiences of our third son who joined a first grade class in our neighborhood. I should say that we lived in Adachi-ku. It has a large number of foreign children, but most are Asians and long-term residents. Very few of the "elite" ex-patriates live there.

Our son started school about 2 weeks after the resumption of classes after the summer break. We had first thought of putting him in part-time and doing homeschooling of American subjects for which we had all the necessary books. But from day 1 he had such an excellent experience that we decided to abandon all of the US materials and let him go full-time to the local school.

For the first week my wife accompanied him and stayed most of the day. She translated for him and helped him get used to the classroom routine. But by the 4th day he was secure enough to be left alone. I should say that he is a quiet, shy boy, so we were amazed by this. For the next 5 or 6 weeks our son was given private lessons by the school principal and vice-principal. Some were formal lessons in Japanese, some were just playing games on the computer! Once our son was able to follow most of the classroom activity, the lessons stopped.

The above shows that the school made an exceptional effort to welcome our son. His classroom teacher did countless things to help him integrate himself. The children were friendly and helpful as well. He soon came to love school and to openly state that he did not want to return to the US. We believe he had a good kindergarten experience, but obviously he liked the Japanese school better.

I cannot emphasize enough how overwhelmed we were by our experience in this school. It stands as the highlight of what was an excellent year for our family and for me professionally (I was a visiting professor). The experience and the reading I did about Japanese education caused me to rethink my convictions about education. You must understand that our oldest boys and done all of their schooling in private, Christian schools. Their current school is a famous one in the USA. But I can say that the year our third son had in Japan was by far the best year of schooling we have given to any of our children to date. My wife and I are seriously considering relocating to Japan permanently so that our younger children can have the benefit of all that a Japanese elementary education can offer.

So please count me as one who is unreservedly enthusiastic about putting foreign or bicultural children in a Japanese school.

Warren B. Roby

By Sharon Vaipae on Saturday, February 5, 2000 - 12:59 pm:

Entering late into this discussion of language minority students in Japanese public schooling, but perhaps my comments will be of use to those who come later. My own two daughters arrived in Japan, and immediately began preschool at the ages of 3 and 5. Between the schools and the many J playmates, their language skills served them well up through the third grade and into fourth. It is at that point that the low- or non-contexted academic language and lack of home ability to assist began to be a factor in their school success.

We left Japan when they were in mid-fifth and mid-seventh grade. I personally recommend caution with middle school/junior high placements for the mental health of children and parents. What my children learned personally and socially as full members of Japanese elementary classrooms has and will continue to benefit them.

If you read Japanese, you might be interested in the book which a multicultural multilingual research team, with generous funding from JALT and the The Toyota Foundation, wrote for Japanese elementary and junior high teachers, _Gaijin seito ga yatte kito_ (Takahashi and Vaipae, Taishokan, 1996) - or perhaps present your child's teachers with it. The paperback details the results of a national survey of teachers, parents, and students, and the findings of repeated classroom observations, interviews, and eight case studies of children from various countries. It also attempts to give the teachers a cultural backgrounding on students from other countries, and to promote positive attitudes toward accepting foreign students into their classrooms. An English version of the study will appear in _Studies in Japanese Bilingualism_, S. Fotos and M. Nogouchi, Eds., Multilingual Matters, 2000. Don't worry about making me rich by purchasing the Takahashi-Vaipae book - we each get 10 yen for every book sold!

Returning to the U.S. for schooling is yet another academic minefield for my girls as they do not fit the usual ESL profile.

I am very happy that my children had the wonderful overall experience that they did have in Japan, but cannot recommend more than a few of the JSL school-based programs found - one in Fussa outside Tokyo, and the other in Osaka immediately come to mind. If you have any specific questions into which you think I might offer some useful insights, I would be happy to give it a try.

We really miss nashi and reasonably -priced sushi!

Gambatte, ne!

Sharon Vaipae, and Mele and Christa now in Tracy, CA

By kristine on Thursday, June 8, 2000 - 4:20 pm:

Can someone tell me the cost of sending children to a public school? ie. uniforms, fees, books etc.

By Laurel on Saturday, June 10, 2000 - 2:08 pm:

Dear Kristine,
I have a six year old son who just entered first grade at public school in April. Here are the expenses as I know them so far:
*lunches 4,000/month
*PTA 500/month

Equipment costs are shockingly high! Elementary school students do not wear a uniform, but I needed to pay:
*15,000 for a special backback (price will vary, this was on the low end, but not the lowest), and an additional *23,990 for gym and pool wear, indoor shoes, etc, etc.

Apparently the school can make me buy things whenever they choose - in May I had to pay *2,600 for some markers and special paper. Probably there will be more demands like this.

I am a single mother with a low income, so I can get subsidies from the city. The city runs a special subsidy program for single mothers, or those families in which the father (ie the wage earnier) is disabled. I applied for this when the school notifed parents about the program in mid-April, and was granted a
*subsidy of 1,000/month for supplies plus 4,000/month for lunches and a
*one-time equipment cost subsidy of 19,800.
These benefits are very generous, covering almost all the costs of sending my son to school!

When I applied for the afterschool program I submited a statement of income, and I was automatically considered for and granted an
*exemption from paying the monthly fee (so I don't know the normal costs. Snacks and the parent association dues run *3,030/month which I do have to pay).

I hope this information will help. Feel free to e-mail me with questions.

P.S. June 11 - I should have mentioned that I live in Soka City, Saitama Prefecture - a 45 minute commute from my job in the northern part of Tokyo.

By Tim Dennis on Friday, June 16, 2000 - 11:33 am:

I've discussed this with my better half, and the below is a representation of our school fees for our children attending the local Japanese Elementary/Middle Schools. This is a source of frustration, cause I don't fully understand where the fees go to for school seems my wallet is always being drained for one reason or another. Quite different from public schools in the states, where I still pay taxes to.

Uniform (Middle School) summer pants and shirt (one each) 8,000 yen
Uniform (Middle School) winter jacket 20,000 yen
Uniform (Middle School) winter pants 5,000 yen
* note, the above price is for one each, it is recommended to have at least two sets of pants/shirts, to allow for laundry. The jacket can be laundered (dry cleaned) over the weekend.

The elementary school doesn't require uniforms except for physical education.

Physical Education Uniform (Elementary/Middle School) short pants and shirt 8,000 yen
Physical Education Uniform (Elementary/Middle School) warm-up suit 15,000 yen
Physical Education Uniform (Elementary/Middle School) shoes 3 or 4,000 yen

*School supplies: paid to school in Apr/May 20,000 yen per child
*School supplies: Individual purchases: price varies (notebooks, pencils, erasers, glue, tape, stapler, colored pencils)
*School supplies: class room supplies, 2,000 yen per month, per child

School Fee: If the class is going on a field trip, the parents pay the transportation fee.

PTA Fee: 2,000 yen per child, however the price is reduce for additional children.

Transportation Fee: depending upon the distance from the house to the school, the kids may ride a bus to commute. For my oldest son to commute, the bus fee was 250 yen each way.

Housing fees: since I live on base, I can only refer to the fees paid by friends living out in town, and of course these are Okinawa prices...

3 bedroom apartment, with two parking spaces 120,000 to 200,000 yen monthly electric fee with out using the air conditioner and limited clothes dryer use 15,000 yen additionally there will be fees for water, trash, gas (propane for the stove/water heater) and potentially a building maintenance fee.

Food cost: We average around $100.00 in food per week, and we're a family of six. This is buying on the USA base....I don't know the local prices.

There are so many variables when trying to calculate the cost of living state side or overseas. Individual family standards play a big part. This relates to the size of the housing you accept and your choices for heating/cooling and washing/drying. If the kids attend public or private schools. If day care/after school care is required. The family choices for entertainment. Are both parents are working or only one, and the family transportation requirements.

I don't know the cost of living in the Tokyo area, but hope some of the above info might shed some light. While 450,000 yen per month sounds like a lot, individual choices and local prices can quickly absorb it. The access to low cost housing would be determined by the work visa, and payment of local taxes. Also, the low cost housing is normally small quarters, two bed room, joint dining room/kitchen, and bathroom.

Some companies also offer housing or a additional allowance for housing, but I didn't see any mention of that in your e-mail. I'd recommend, that the husband travel over solo at first and make the housing arrangements. Then the family can follow, and the transition is a lot easier...

If anyone figures out the school supply issues, please let me know. Schooling is expensive, and I didn't even mention the cost of after school study classes. They cost around 7,000 yen per subject, for two classes a week.

Oh...the elementary students also carry a book bag/back pack, which cost 20,000 yen. I forgot that because my mother-in-law bought them for our boys...

Hope this helps...!
Tim, Okinawa

By Tim Dennis on Saturday, June 17, 2000 - 10:34 am:

> Thanks. The good thing about the book pack is that it is built to last at
> least through all of elementary school. Do the packs change shape or size
> with junior high and high? I don't think I've seen high school students
> carrying them. Must change.

Yeah, and the book pack is abandoned for more stylish pack in the upper grades of elementary school, and I've never seen them in the middle school. It's not a requirement..., just a tradition. When the teachers come to visit at the beginning of the school year, they're also looking for a study area/desk for each child. I guess the kitchen table isn't considered appropriate. But I have to wonder about the quality of their public schools, when so many students attend after school schooling in order to make the grades for high school and college. But...I'm sending mine, in hopes of better grades too...

I talked to a friend today, who stated he'd been offer $100,000 USD per year to work for a contractor in Tokyo, and after screening for and the cost of American standard housing, the cost of private English schools for his two children, the travel distance to work, etc., he declined the offer.

Is it really that bad in Tokyo?


By Lynda on Monday, June 19, 2000 - 7:49 am:

Iím happy to answer your question as best as I can, but we live in a country area, not Tokyo! I would guess that things would be more expensive there. However, there would also be a wider choice of products.

For a start, I would say that the actual cost of living for a family with five children would be fairly high if they all eat as much as our two! That amount of money doesnít sound like an awful lot to me.

Iíll concentrate on the school type expenses though:

Our children go to a public school. We donít pay any school fees and all textbooks are provided free. In addition the children receive free medical and dental checks and often seem to do extra, out of school, activities that we are not charged for.

We have to pay for their school lunches. These are subsidized and it costs around 5,500 yen per month for each child.

Our school has a school uniform. This works out cheaper once we have the clothes because we donít have to worry so much about buying lots of different outfits. In fact, Saturday mornings when it is freestyle can be a real pain!

Your best bet is to try to obtain things second hand. We have been given just about everything by local parents. This seems to be quite common as families are quite used to swapping their childrenís clothes around. This may be something that we experience more in this area, but it saves heaps of money. In turn, we pass our childrenís clothes on when they have outgrown them.

Our elementary school uniform/equipment list consists of:

Helmet 1,000 yen
Summer outer shirt 2,000 yen (you need at least two)
Winter outer jacket 2,500 yen
T shirts 1,500 yen (you need at least two)
Shorts 1,500 yen (you need at least two)
Track pants 1,000 yen upwards (any style OK)
Indoor shoes 1,000 yen
Gym Shoes 1,000 yen
School cap 500 yen
Drawstring shoe bag 1,000 yen
Plastic book bag 500 yen
School bag (landoseru) 15,000 yen upwards
Pencil case, pencils etc 2,000 yen
Painting set 1,500 yen
Calligraphy set 2,000 yen (from grade 3)
Swimming costume 1,500 yen
Swimming hat/cap 500 yen
Swimming bag 1,500 yen
Swimming towel 1,500 yen
Recorder 1,500 yen
Umbrella 1,000 yen

Thatís about it. I have probably forgotten odd things and they will need extra equipment in the higher grades. The most expensive item is the school bag. We managed to get them recycled, but it may be more difficult in Tokyo. My prices are very approximate and have been rounded up or down. Boys will often need different colors/styles to girls.

The other expense we have is actually getting the children to school. They travel by public bus and this costs approx 10,000 yen per term for each child. We live about 4 km away. Again, this would be different in Tokyo.

As you can see, the initial outlay can be quite high. You wouldnít need everything at once though, and, if the school doesnít have a uniform policy, then the children can just wear what they already have.

Hope that this has been of some help. Regards, Lynda Watson

By Scott Hancock on Monday, July 17, 2000 - 5:57 pm:

In reference to your friend decling the $100K...

If one is of the mind to 1)go to international(English) school instead of Japanese public school and 2)live in American standard housing and these must be paid out of the 100K in addition to other living expenses, then the answer is "yes, Tokyo is that bad".

$100K is about 9,000,000 yen gross. From this is withheld Japanese income tax and social insurances- total about 20-25% depending on dependents(?). Leaves you about 7 net.

US standard housing for 3BR apartment in central Tokyo can easily be 1,000,000/month, or let's say 700,000 at least. Call it 10,000,000 a year in rent FOR US standard housing.

International schools are pretty close to 2,000,000 per kid per year. Weird, huh.

Oh yes. My favorite. Parmesean cheese is $7.50 for a middle size can. :)

FWIW, Scott

By SusanIshijima on Friday, August 18, 2000 - 1:45 am:

My husband (Japanese) and I (not Japanese) are considering a move to Japan in the next few months. We have a 5 year old daughter who will be starting kindergarten here (NY) and we are trying to decide what kind of yochien she should attend. Her Japanese is minimal, but she is a fast learner. We are considering living in the Nerima - Narimasu - Hibarigaoka area. Any suggestions on schools or areas? We have lived in Saitama before, so we do know the area. Just concerned about schooling.

By bambi_wolcott on Monday, August 21, 2000 - 8:24 am:

We will be going to tokyo to look for housing in the coming week...we ARE getting our housing paid for but NO education costs for my 6, 4, 3 year old children. My 6 yr old son has already started kinder. here in Atlanta, Ga (US)... I am considering putting him in public school in tokyo and also homeschooling. After reading you board, I see references to "yochien"... how is this different from school?
Also, do you know if my 4 1/2 yr. old and my 3 year old are eligible for public schools?... by the way we are narrowed down to two apartments both in the Hiro area.
Any input would be much appreciated! Bambi and crew

By Tracy Williamson on Saturday, August 26, 2000 - 11:40 pm:

We are about to move to Tokyo as well. In response to Bambi's message, I believe yochien are for ages 3 to 6 (?) and can be either public or private. We want to send our 3 yr old to a Yochien in the Shoto area. Does anyone have any experience with this? Tracy

Note from TWK moderator:

yochien = kindergarten
It starts at about age 3 and finishes around age 6.

By Alex Morrison on Sunday, October 22, 2000 - 8:33 am:

I am British and my wife is Japanese. We have two kids a boy 2 and a girl 1. My wife and I had lived in Japan for over three years before returning to Scotland. We lived in Nara prefecture. At the moment we are living in Scotland. We have been considering returning to the Kobe area of Japan. Our reason for returning to Japan has been pompted by our long term concers about iving in rural Scotland and the long term opportunities this area offers our kids. We are particularly worried about the lack of opportunities for our kids to meet and become involved with other Japanese people and culture. The progress to becoming bilingual in such a mono culture therefore becomes a little more uncertain.We have been considering putting our kids through private Japanese schooling, and obviously supporting this with a pro active attidude towards English at home. I have been following the discussion threads here and I was wondering if anyone could share their experiences. We are slightly different as we are going to be bringing our kids up in Japan.

By a gordenker on Thursday, November 16, 2000 - 8:02 pm:

My kids have been in Japanese school for 8 months now. My oldest is in third grade at Kougai Elementary in Nishi Azabu, Tokyo; the younger is in the public kindergarten in the same building. They both came to Japan with no Japanese and are now speaking quite well; the older one is reading and writing at a second grade level, more or less. The third-grader had a hard time of it but has adjusted, made friends and is largely enjoying himself. The kindergartner has been having a very positive experience. If anyone wants to know more, please contact me.

By devi on Thursday, February 15, 2001 - 2:39 pm:

My husband and I are living long-term in Tokyo and have two children, ages 5 and 3. At present, the kids are in Japanese hoikuen, and they are bilingual E/J. We are thinking about whether to have them go to a Japanese elementary school up to junior high (we're thinking we'd try to get them into one of the attached schools) and then switch them to international school, or whether to start them right off in international school. My husband and I are both Americans. My husband's spoken Japanese is good, and he has some reading ability and a little writing ability; my spoken Japanese is minimal and I have virtually no reading and writing ability. We think that it might be a good idea to send the kids to Japanese school initially so that they will know enough Japanese to be able to live and work here should they choose to as adults. But I worry that, because my Japanese in particular is so minimal, I won't be able to participate in their school life, to talk with their teachers, to help them with their homework, etc. Also, we are told by various friends with kids in international school (including Japanese friends) that the Japanese school environment is not a healthy one: the education methods are too rote, there is too much emphasis on conformity, and so on. The reason we would like our children to either start in international school or switch there by the time they start junior high or high school, is that we would like them to go to university in the U.S. and have native ability in everyday and academic English.
We'd very much like to hear from anyone who has thoughts on/experience with this kind of situation. Additionally, with regard to international schools, we are considering the American School in Japan (ASIJ), the Yokohama International School, and Nishimachi. We'd like to hear from anyone who has had good/bad/indifferent experiences with any of the above, or recommends a particular international school. Thanks.

By Scott Hancock on Friday, February 16, 2001 - 1:12 am:

I assume you've read all the posts above. The ones from Mr Pat Edwards and Gordenker seem to speak to your point. Mr. Edwards' comment seems very complete- telling you both sides as it were. I would point out that even within this, his wife is Japanese.

We have two kids at Nishimachi. So, that tells you our decision. Families and kids vary so much, it's impossible to give you a direct answer that is guaranteed to be correct. There are also several posts representing families who have been happy with Japanese school. But, I would say Mr. Edwards' comments seem very close to most people's feelings.

The other point I notice in your post is that you give as a reason for considering Japanese school, "We think it might be a good idea.. so they will know enough Japanese to live & work should they decide to live here..". That does not seem like a very compelling reason to endure the hardships Mr. Edwards cites. You could accomplish your stated goal with the Japanese taught at Nishimachi or ASIJ supplemented by a tutor. (Although they would miss some of the cultural component.)

Putting kids in Japanese school is biting off a big committment- for both the kids and parents. It doesn't sound like you are that motivated from the tone of your question.

For what it's worth....


By Sharon Vaipae on Friday, February 16, 2001 - 12:45 pm:

Below is information on a new book that may be of interest to those families considering schooling their children in the public schools.

My two daughters went from yochien through fifth and seventh grades in Japanese schools. There was good and there was not so good, but by far their greatest problems related to school came after entering U.S. schools. Here, neither their language abilities nor Japaneses cultural experiences are of interest or value, and many schools are unprepared for those whose profile differs significantly from the more common ESL student who has not grown up speaking English at home, and is not a native Spanish speaker.

I was very pleased with my daughters socialization and care in Japanese schools. Indeed, they came away with valuable social and personal relationship skills that were nurtured in the daily classroom routines. Some of the points mentioned were originally of concern to me also, but I found that creativity in neither of my girls was dampened, and learning basic skills rote is often the best way to do it. Both girls are good in math, and perhaps it was the strong beginning in Japan that enabled them to continue to excel in math here. It is common for 2L speakers to continue to compute mathematically in their first literate language throughout their lives.

Here is the info on the book mentioned, and I included only the more relevant chapter titles. Although the publication date is 11/2000, it was first available here in the U.S. just last month.

Sharon Vaipae
now in Tracy, CA

Mary Goebel Noguchi (Ritsumeikan University) and Sandra Fotos (Senshu University), Eds.
- A bilingual Japan creates the need for a new discourse. This book provides the vocabulary for this. Scope and depth of contributions raise volume above conventional level of review of the literature
Studies in Japanese Bilingualism helps dissolve the myth of Japanese homogeneity by explaining the history of this construct and offering empirical studies on different facets of language contact in Japan, including Ainu revitalisation, Korean language maintenance, the Ryukyuan languages, schooling through Japanese immersion, language use by Nikkei immigrants, Chinese "War Orphans" and bicultural children, and codeswitching and language attrition in Japanese contexts.
Preface, John Maher (International Christian University, Tokyo)
Introduction: The Crumbling of a Myth, Mary Goebel Noguchi
2. Japanese Attitudes Towards Bilingualism, Yamamoto Masayo (Momo Gakuin Daigaku)
8. Language Minority Students in Japanese Public Schools, Sharon Vaipae (Niigata University);
9. Bilinguality and Bicultural Children in Japan, Mary Goebel Noguchi (Ritsumeikan University);
10. Bilingual Education of Children in Japan, Katoh Gakuen;
11. Codeswitching Among Students in an International High School, Yuriko Kite (Kansai Univ);
12. Codeswitching by Japan's Unrecognised Bilinguals, Sandra Fotos (Senshu University);

Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 22 (BE22) Multilingual Matters
November 2000 Format: 234x156mm x+400pp
Hbk ISBN 1-85359-490-3 £69.95/ US$99.95/ CAN$139.95
Pbk ISBN 1-85359-489-X £29.95/ US$44.95/ CAN$59.95
This book (and all Multilingual Matters books) can be ordered via our secure, fully searchable website This offers free shipping to any address in the world, airmail where

By ANITA BYRNES on Thursday, February 22, 2001 - 9:45 pm:

Re Tokyo International School

We are having a pretty positive experience at TIS. My son started in kindergarten last Sept, having gone to a Japanese nursery school (hoikuen) for 3.5 years, where his first language became Japanese (I think). I wanted more emphasis on English, and he has learned to read it very fast, as have all the kids (my impression anyway). I'm not familiar with Montessori, so can't compare, but with small class sizes, children are able to proceed at their own pace, although it is not multi-age. They don't aim for a bi-lingual program and follow the home-room theme in the Japanese classes which are twice a week in kindergarten, at two levels- native or near, and beginners. I think a number of parents would like more emphasis on Japanese. The curriculum is a mixture of US/UK/Canada and Australia, which also suited us since it was closer to the system which we may return to at some point.

Having been in the Japanese hoikuen system, which was excellent, Japanese elementary school was an option for us. However my son has really blossomed in the last six months, which is not a criticism of the japanese system, probably an indication of the expanded world of, and attention given, in this international school anyway. He has also become more cheeky though.

I was very impressed with the commitment of the Japanese teachers in the nursery school and the ethic of getting all the kids to a certain level, whether it was skipping rope, origami, helping with the lunch etc. Also with things like the level of performance on sports day and occasional performances - perfectly practised.

Just some impressions - hope it helps.
You should realise that TIS currently only goes to 4th grade (only one class in 3rd and 4th I think), but they are growing the school.

By Tom on Thursday, March 1, 2001 - 12:04 pm:

We are an english/japanese family with a four and a half year old daughter in an international kindergarten - she is bilingual but slightly better at japanese - her 'mother tongue'. We would like to eventually send her to a local japanese elementary school, but would like to find one which has a few 'mixed race' children like her, so that she doesn't feel too self conscious. We live in Setagaya-ku, between Sangenjaya and Ikenoue, Does anyone have any suggestions of elementary schools that might be suitable? Or, are there families like us out there in Setagaya who we should 'team up with' in two years time, and all join the same school together?

By Ann on Friday, March 2, 2001 - 11:19 am:

To Tom,

Why not visit the schools in your area, talk to the principals, observe the classes? You might find that some of them are very receptive to and/or already have some foreign or "double" children. Good luck.

By S.R. on Monday, March 5, 2001 - 5:41 am:

I am whole-heartedly considering a move to Japan with my elementary aged child. I am a single mom and would teach English in Japan with an undergraduate degree in English. We have been to Japan before but do not speak Japanese. This is my conscious concern: We are of Japanese descent, I am half Japanese (not my concern). BUT my concern leans to the other half- Black American. Although not all of Japanese society (of course), I do know from personal experience and numerous accounts from Japanese friends, that many Japanese habor racial prejudices, in particular, against kokujin people. Does anyone have any comments or personal accounts that may relate to my concern (daily living, housing, other employment opportunities etc.).

By Jackie on Friday, March 30, 2001 - 2:21 am:

To Devi
We have 4 children in the Japanese educational system: 2 in shogakko and 2 in yochien. Our experience in a Shibuya-ku school has been wonderful, both socially and academically. As to where to send your children to school, no one solution fits every family, you have to gather all the information that you can and make the choice. (Pretty generic advice, but true).

To maintain the English and keep the children at grade level to slot back into an English speaking school is an enormous job. This is what we intend to do. When we first were contemplating going the Japanese route we had the good fortune to meet a speech therapist and long term resident in Tokyo who had done lots of research in this area, having sent her 3 children to Japanese schools and switching them to an international school at different points--usually 3rd/4th grade. Here was someone who had done what we wanted to do successfully, so we followed her plan. Beginning in yochien (preschool) we found an English tutor who comes to our house two times a week and works with each child for an hour. She is an experienced teacher who taught in an international school for many years, so she knows within what range a 1st grader should be, is familiar with the different books that a 4th grader would be reading, knows when to introduce cursive, etc. She leaves homework for the days she's not here, around 15 minutes/day for the kindergartener and 20-30 minutes/day for the elementary aged children. On top of this, we aim to read for 15+minutes/day in English. The additional burden to us as a family: cost for tutoring; time spent doing the homework with the kids (on top of the Japanese homework); 2 afternoons a week that the children have the tutor that they cannot play or do other activities. If you are thinking of doing swimming, piano or joining the baseball team, figure how little "free time" will be left. How much easier our life would be without this extra burden! For us the trade off is still worth it, but it is a close call. It is a lot of work. If the cost of the tutor is too high, you could still keep up the English, but then it's that much more of an effort: finding the materials, planning a lesson, and keeping abreast of what your child should know for each grade.

In terms of your involvement in the Japanese school, I would recommend your reading Gail Benjamin's "Japanese Lessons". She is very adept at pointing out the expectations regarding parents. I can speak, read and write Japanese pretty well, so the information sheets that are sent home are not a problem. You could get around that problem by asking the teacher to write in the renrakucho what are the things that you need to prepare (gloves, bentos on outing days) and scheduling changes and special events. This would save your having to weed through the less important papers and information. (How to Spend Spring Break: "Let's try to go to bed early and get up early" or "How to avoid Catching a cold") I have found helping with homework to be difficult: Particularly the reading comprehension. Some of the 1st grade stuff is above me (making compounds out of words) and 30% of the 3rd grade stuff that stumped my 3rd grader stumped me. You could get a Japanese tutor for this, though. A Japanese university student for about Y3,000 one hour a week. There are workbooks for reading comprehension or kanji or whatever it is your child needs that you can't help with. The tutor could go over the returned homework with your child, read together, and do some of the reading comprehension together.

Japanese elementary schools really run the gamut. There are some things that they all share (work in hans, lunch, textbooks, undokai, etc), but academic level, attitude towards foreigners, friendliness of the school can vary greatly among individual schools. You could check out the different schools in your neighborhood and some of the private schools and see how they are. Although you are assigned a school based on your address, you can switch to another school. The ability to do this varies from ku to ku. (Shibuya-ku is pretty laid back on this.) Finding a school that is willing to accomodate you and welcomes the diversity you bring will make all the difference in the world.

Good luck in your search...Jackie

By Ann Gables on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 11:21 am:

Anyone interested in elementary schools in Japan should check out the education page in The Japan Times every Friday. There is a new series written by an American woman whose kids attend public elementary school. It will be in the Japan Times every other week. The first one appeared on April 6 and was really interesting. It can be accessed on the paper's website ( The link for the article is I think it is going to alternate with articles about kindergarten in Japan.

By Peter Gray on Tuesday, June 5, 2001 - 1:33 pm:

We just returned to Tokyo after a brief posting to the UK (1 year). My wife is Japanese & we met here, and lived on and off in Tokyo for a total of 10 years. Our 2 children (boys 3 & 5) were born here, and the oldest one went through the first 2 years at Meguro Salegio Yochien in Himonya, Tokyo, and then Maeda Gakuen [a Japanese kindergarten] in London. The experience in both places was excellent; great facilities, caring teachers, and a very warm student body. There were 2 or 3 other children in each school from mixed backgrounds, but it didn't seem to be a big deal at all. Our problem is that we speak Japanese at home & our children basically speak no English. The easiest thing (and we thought long and hard about it) would have been to send them to either local Japanese public schools, or a Japanese private school (provided we could put them through the cram school preparation needed to pass the entrance exams). The problem with that is that we don't intend to be in Japan forever, and the headache 2-3 years from now of trying to transition non-English-speaking kids into the US school system has caused us to look towards the international school solution. We'll see whether we made the right decision...

There's a tendency to generalize about Japanese schools, but as other posters have noted, it really depends. Some public schools are more open and helpful, others more xenophobic. I found in visiting some schools and talking with teachers that 'foreign children' per se were welcome, but there were some legitimate worries about the hassle of communicating when no one in the family had a decent command of Japanese. Same with the local private schools (which can be almost as expensive as international schools). In any event, children of any nationality in Japan on resident visas have a legal right to attend local public school, regardless of whether they speak Japanese or not. The key is to find a 'good' school, and accept the system on its merits. Personally I think the approach to elementary education here in Japan has distinct advantages over the US/European approach, but it really depends on you and your children's personality, and perhaps sense of adventure as well.

By Cornelia on Tuesday, December 4, 2001 - 2:14 pm:

Grading schemes used in Japanese education system vary widely but maybe the most common schemes are somewhat as follows:

Elementary school may use a scale that looks something like this:
very good -- (taihen yoi)
average or usual -- (futsuu)
needs more effort -- (mou skoshi)

Junior High and High School:
5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, five being the best and one being the worst.

A, B, C, D, and F, A being the best and F being the failing grade.

By Michael on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 11:16 am:

The Japan Times article by Alice Gordenker mentioned by Ann Gables above (April 12, 2001) is very well written. Subsequent articles can be found at:

By LDSmom on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 8:39 am:

I am so grateful to all the positive messages posted on this board about Gaijin children attending public schools! I think your experience in the system has a lot to do with your attitude and what you want and expect out of your Japan experience. Thank you for all your useful information!

By Karyn Robson on Thursday, June 27, 2002 - 6:38 am:

Look into Tokyo Metropolitan Kokusai high school in Tokyo (Meguro-ku). It is a public high school, but is designed for the japanese student who has lived overseas.

note from admin: the link for this HIGH SCHOOL has changed to

By Joanne Jackson on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 11:11 pm:

Audio Visual, Children Literature:
I have just published two new Childrenís Storybook CD in five languages.The picture storybooks are enjoyable to children of reading age or preschool.
Those of younger years can hear and see the story being told.
Each page has a print-out option and a print-out coloring book with clear text and voice. Just pop the CD into the computer and up comes the book.The children can hear the story being told in English as well as another language. Full colour illustrations. Click on mouse and pages will turn back and forth as the story is being told. The Garden Miracle comes in English-French-Spanish 1SBN 0-9731901- 2-4
English-Chinese-Japanese ISBN 0-9731901-3-2
Grasshopper Day Exclusive comes in English-French-Spanish ISBN 09731901-1-6
These wholesale for $14.US plus tax and shipping cost.
Will send flyer if interested: May view on website..
Thank you, I hope to hear from you. Author & designer
Joanne Jackson
112 Haun Rd Box 1503
Crystal Beach, Ontario Canada
L0S 1B0

By Paula on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 10:44 am:

We've been here almost 3 years now and soon discovered that where my husbands company had placed us were NO english speaking kids after 6months we decided to put our son into the local preschool to learn Japanese. Boy he cottoned on fast, by the time he was 4 he was almost fluent. Now at almost 6years old he sounds like any other local kid. He's been going to a private japanese Kindy (Andersen Kindergarten) that has a couple of native english speaking teachers as well, which I get more use out of than he does but wonder if there are any elementary schools with native English speaking staff.
We'll probably be here another 3years at least so its important to me that we find a good school within our budget I personally am against uniforms for elementary kids, the ones here just aren't practical so want to go with a public school. Anywhere from Yokohama to Chiba and up as far as Saitama, we can move. What are your recommendations??

By Cornelia on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 9:54 am:

13 July 1999, the Dallas Morning News printed an article written by local Fulbright Memorial Fund teacher Judy Kramer. In the article, she describes her experience visiting Japanese schools. The article is available for $2.95 from the Dallas Morning News archives on-line. If anyone reading this happens to have access to a copy I would love to see it! I happen to think $3 is a bit steep for 787 words.

"Teachers and students bow to each other at the beginning of class. Readers start at the back of their books, and students learn four types of letters and sounds. After several hours of lessons and several breaks, students help serve a hot lunch from pots delivered to each classroom. About 2:30 p.m., students clean the school. All but the youngest students then go to club meetings before they leave school at 5 p.m.

Sound different from the school you attended? It's the norm in the 40 ..."

page 16a, word count 787

By shan E. Stratton on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 6:08 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 Ritu on Friday, March 26, 2004 - 9:22 am:

My daughter turns 6 in June this year, 2 1/2 months after the April 1 starting date for elementary school. She would begin elementary school in the USA in September. Any advice on if/how I can persuade the Minato-ku ward office to make an exception and allow her to join the April 1 class in shokakko this year? Or is the effort futile? I know how rule driven the system is here, but was wondering if anyone had any experience/advice on this. She would go to Kougai Elementary in Nishi Azabu which has a Japanese language program and she would be eligible to go to jido kan.

Thanks much.

By Pato on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 1:19 pm:

"Gov't to allow children to study more difficult subjects

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 at 02:57 JST
TOKYO ĀEPrimary school pupils will be able to study more difficult subjects from next spring as the education ministry has relaxed its rules on the content of textbooks in its screening process, ministry officials said Tuesday.

The new textbooks to be used from next spring will also allow elementary school pupils to learn about more advanced topics that were deleted from their current textbooks, including mathematics and natural sciences. (Kyodo News)"

My comments: I always thought writing was far harder than math or natural sciences myself!

By Trupti Gandhi on Saturday, April 3, 2004 - 7:14 am:

Hi everybody!!
I have enrolled my son in a japanese primary school (shogakko). Any tips are welcome to make it a pleasent experience for him.
regards, trupti:)

By Susan Phatsadavong on Thursday, September 2, 2004 - 3:27 am:

By Susan Phatsadavong

we will be moving to

Does anyone know any school that are nearby this area? I am all ears if anyone has any comment or suggestion for us.

By Anna States on Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - 3:12 am:

Everyone looking for a great book to keep
the little ones up on their English and
teach Japanese at the same time, should
take a look at my new children's book THE
English AND Japanese - so perfect for
bilingual parents and kids!†

check it out at:

you can also email me at:

By Cornelia on Sunday, March 27, 2005 - 4:35 pm:

An interesting article from the New York Times on private primary-school entrance exams by a Japanese mother.
"Making the Grade"
By Kumiko Makihara Published: March 20, 2005

By Pato on Thursday, September 29, 2005 - 11:47 am:

School violence
Steps needed to control violent schoolchildren
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Statistics indicate that the growing tendency among young people to use violence on others without a second thought is affecting even primary school students. Educators and parents, who must be alarmed by the problem, must confront it.

There has been a sharp increase in school violence at primary schools nationwide, accompanied by a decline in violence at middle and high schools.

According to statistics compiled by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, there were 1,890 cases of violence at primary schools in the 2004 academic year, an increase of 290 from the previous year. This means the figure has hit record highs for two consecutive years, the worst sets of results since 1997, when the ministry conducted its first survey on school violence.

In one reported case, a fifth-grade student jumped on and kicked a teacher who was teaching him the proper way of greeting people. In another case, a sixth-grade student started a fight with a classmate over a trivial matter and kneed him in the face. Another sixth-grade student suddenly lost his temper during a break between classes and smashed windowpanes at a school building.

It is particularly disturbing to see that the number of cases in which primary school students assaulted teachers in the 2004 school year increased by 30 percent from 2003.

Teachers have good reason to be disturbed to realize that an increasing number of students are making them the targets of violence. Their sentiment is demonstrated by the remark made by a primary school principal in Yokohama who said, "[Teachers] are finding it difficult to deal with violent students because using force to overpower them could be seen as physical punishment."


Some students lack social skills

In many reported cases, primary school students physically attacked others on the spur of the moment. The education ministry has said those children lack patience and do not know how to build good relations with others. The ministry has concluded these students find it difficult to control their emotions.

Primary school students have homeroom teachers. This may make teachers feel they should tackle problems on their own, instead of discussing them with other teachers, according to the ministry. The lack of cooperation among teachers in dealing with problem students could encourage such children to use violence against others, the ministry said.

The increase in primary school violence is not unrelated to the recent decline in the age of juvenile delinquents. An increasing number of primary school students appear to be willing to resort to violence. Readers probably remember that a sixth-grade girl was slashed to death by a classmate in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, in June last year.


Parents' role crucial

Questions should be raised about the number of cases of school violence in primary schools last year. In one prefecture, for instance, there were no reported cases of school violence, compared with more than 120 in an adjacent prefecture. The figure stood at more than 300 in Osaka and Kanagawa prefectures, contrasted with only 43 in Tokyo.

According to the ministry, prefectural governments apply different criteria in determining the seriousness of each case to be reported to the ministry, despite there being a set of standards created for that purpose. We believe the latest statistics on school violence may be the tip of the iceberg.

What should be done to halt the tide of violence? The ministry has said it will do all it can to encourage teachers and administrators in each school to cooperate in dealing with problem students.

What can parents do? Are they doing what they should to prevent their children from enjoying video games, television shows and comics filled with violent content? And it is a foregone conclusion what will happen to children if their parents abuse them or assault their spouses habitually.

Parents should rethink how they spend their time with their children at home.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun Sep. 28, 2005)

By Caroline on Friday, October 7, 2005 - 11:20 am:

Are there any foreigners (both parents) with kids at PRIVATE Japanese schools? I would like to hear about your experience. We are highly undecided as to where to enrol our daughter for elementary school. Our options are a Japanese private school (Musashino-Higashi) and the French Lycee in Iidabashi. Do private schools easily welcome foreigners? Has anyone had experience with Musashino-Higashi? I'd love to hear your comments!

By shan E. Stratton on Thursday, December 18, 2003 - 5:55 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 Kellyb on Friday, November 30, 2007 - 7:54 pm:

Hello, we are bringing our two sons aged 4 and 6 to Japan and would like them to attend pre-school and school somewhere. We will only be here for 7 months. Does anyone recommend a public school/ pre school that accepts English speaking children, (prefer not international pre-schools) I would appreciate any sugestions.
Thanks, Kelly.

By Yuko_k on Saturday, December 1, 2007 - 11:20 am:

Hi Kellyb,

I am assuming that you wish to experience the "local" life rather than special schools. First of all, let me explain the system.

In Japan, 4 year old children attend kindergarten (yochien) until they reach elementary school age. Children who had their 6th birthday during April 2nd, 2006 to April 1st, 2007 are now in 1st grade of elementary school (shogakko) until March 2008.

A lot of kindergartens are private organizations and there isn't much difference between the public ones. There is a great chance of your 4 year old being accepted for 7 months. However, an adult must accompany the child to and from the kindergarten, so you may want to choose one near your residency.

Any resident in their proper age, no matter the nationality or language have the right to attend public elementary school. However, you are to attend the one in your fixed district and you have no choice.

Kindergartens and elementary schools are usually built apart since they are not related as organizations.

So basically, it depends on where you plan to live. There are several school districts in one ward (ku).

If you haven't decided where you're going to live, for starters, you can contact the local ward office of the area you prefer, and ask them for more details on education possibilities, although many may not speak English. In Tokyo however, each ward has an international exchange lounge.

Or if you're simply asking for areas that are used to expats, just name the city you wish to live and your nationality, and hopefully someone will be able to give you advise on this forum.

By Admin on Monday, December 3, 2007 - 8:02 am:

Mmmmm, sorry, but I think that in many Tokyo wards you can now petition for a different school from the one your address is officially assigned to. Bunkyo-ku definitely. You may not get it, but I've heard several stories where it did not seem to be a big deal (not like getting into hoikuen for example).

There is a discussion on Japanese yochien (kindergarten) and also on Japanese elementary schools under the Education sub-topic called Japanese Public Schools.

By Akaneth on Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 6:13 am:

Hi everyone I'm Akaneth somebody help me to find a school for my kids they don't know how to speak Japanese we are moving in kanagawa ken Japan on march much better if the school has a foreigner kids too but not so expensive thank you

By Drdo1 on Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 10:43 am:

January 17, 2013

We're in the exact same situation. We're arriving in late February to the Yokohama area. Our child speaks some Japanese, but has forgotten a lot. We are from the USA; we speak English. The International Schools are a bit too expensive for us, but we may go that route since the Japanese schools are hard for kids her age (10). If there were more foreign kids in her class, then we'd be ok.

Does anyone have any direction for us? Two choices:
Less expensive International School OR
A well-mixed Japanese school

Thank you.

By Thekubos on Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 11:10 am:

Horizon -- that's the name of the school. They are less expensive than the "big name" international schools. Here is there website:

Hope this helps.

By Drdo1 on Friday, January 18, 2013 - 2:01 pm:

Thanks TheKubos for the quick response.

I realize private education is costly. And the costs in Japan are no different, apparently. It's still hard for me to justify $7,000+ for overall fees, just initial fees--even though they are a one-time deal. Then, to add tuition! Yuck! ...for a 4th grader. Ouch.

To add to this, I am an educator. My undergraduate degree is in education, but we've tried the homeschooling once. It's not as easy as it sounds~at least it wasn't for us!

So in the end, it appears we must choose either:
a) free J-education with language frustrations OR
b) choose the expense of private schools with less language issues.

I'm venting...thanks for the website.

By Thaly1001 on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 10:06 am:

Unfortunately, most of international schools seem to be in the same range of "expensive" price... :-(
I advise St Maur School near Motomachi Chukagai Station. There's different nationalities there (English, French, Belgium, India, Spanish, Japanese, etc...). All of the mothers are very welcoming. What is good for mothers is that there's an "adult enrichment program". so they can have some activities at school after droping off their kids.

By Marycoll on Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 5:21 pm:

Having trips with kids is very exciting but expensive.There are a lot of ways that children can increase the price of your journey. Maybe they called and ordered room service or just made a long-distance telephone call in the room. No matter what your kid is doing, you almost always need extra cash to pay for a kid on a journey. Learn more at:

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