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Japan With Kids - Forums: Playgroups and Pals: Niigata
By Justine Blackburn on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - 3:01 am:

Hi, I don't know if you can help me, My family and I are moving to Niigata prefecture in May for at least 18 months.

We have a 3.5 year old boy and we really want to make sure he get to spend time with kids his own age.

We have been told by our relocation company it's unlikely we'll be able to get him into a kindergarten because we speak very little japanese (Our son uses English only)
Only my husband will be working with our son & I on Dependants visas.

We really want to make sure he gets plenty of kiddy contact with his peers, does anyone know how we can acheive this?

It'll be a long 18 months for us all if he can't play with kids his own age!
Thanks for your help! Justieb

By Admin on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - 6:23 pm:

Dear Justine, Niigata is a big place. Do you know where in Niigata you are going to be?

By Bethan Hutton on Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - 11:21 pm:

Justine, there's no real reason why your son shouldn't be able to go to kindergarten (yochien) even if you and he don't speak Japanese.

It might be a bit difficult to start with, but if you have someone Japanese-speaking (from the relocation agency or your husband's company?) to help you with the initial application paperwork and explaining the day-to-day routines, I'm sure you would be fine. Plenty of foreign children start at kindergartens or childcare here with little or no Japanese, and most pick it up quite fast. If you work hard at learning basic Japanese that will help a lot, but you may also find that one or two of the other mothers or teachers know enough English to help you understand the notices handed out by kindergartens.

Certainly it would be difficult to get your son into a popular private kindergarten after the academic year has started (April) and with no Japanese, as entry can be competitive, but most areas also have more laid-back local kindergartens, either privately run (often attached to churches or temples) or run by the local authority, which basically accept anyone as long as they have space. If you are in Niigata city there should be a reasonable choice. Some might actually be excited to have a foreign student, specially an English-speaking one, as I would guess there are not many native English-speaking children around in Niigata. You just need to find a friendly local Japanese speaker to smooth the way at first.

One thought - was your relocation agent actually saying you wouldn't get him into hoikuen (nursery/childcare) because you won't be working? This is probably true, as criteria for acceptance usually include having both parents working, except at some private hoikuen.

If you really can't get him a place at kindergarten, you can obviously try hanging round local parks, jidokan (children's halls) and so on, but you might also want to consider something like offering private English classes to mothers with children - you chat in English to the mothers while your son plays with the children - or offering to teach people Western-style cooking, that sort of thing.

By Anolinde on Sunday, July 1, 2007 - 4:13 pm:

Hello .. I'm looking for an English-speaking playgroup (or to start one!) for my soon to be 9 month old daughter in the niigata/shibata area. Anyone out there?

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