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Education: A Brief Overview of Education in Japan

A Short Introduction to Education in Japan

What’s the Japanese school life like? How does Japanese education differ from education in other countries? How will my/my child’s school life fair? I’m sure these are questions that frequently come to mind before coming to Japan. Let me share some main ideas on general education in Japan and introduce to you some of the educational facilities in Kyoto as well as some perspective on my own personal experience.


Japanese School Life and Features

Education System of Character Building
From a young age, the Japanese education system has centered its education around learning ethics, introducing dotoku no jikan (“moral hour”) in 1958. Children are routinely taught to bow before class begins or ends, clean the school all together and serve lunch to fellow classmates- heavily focusing on teamwork. This is a class that is dedicated to teaching and improving children's behaviorial skills, for example, mutual understanding, fairness, tolerance, and international understanding.

After School Club Activities (Bukatsu)
From junior high school, students begin to join after school club activities, which becomes a large part of student life. After school, students partake in routine practice which takes a lot of time due to the demanding level of commitment clubs can take. For the most part, this is usually only the case for sports clubs, while culture-related clubs (language, cooking, etc.) are generally less demanding. In international schools, bukatsu doesn’t play as much of a role in a student’s life (junior high/high school), but in university, this can change.

International school vs. Local Japanese school
International schools in Japan follow a western education curriculum (American, British, Canadian with English speaking programs) likely to have more of a focus on a global perspective and have students with diverse backgrounds in contrast to Japanese schools with most students being Japanese with a Japanese styled curriculum. International schools are much more expensive in comparison to local Japanese schools. Local Japanese schools tend to focus on rote memorization when learning English, beginning from a young age, whereas international schools may have better focus of both languages in a practical environment.

Although this is just a brief introduction, these are some features that may be quite interesting to take a look into.

General Education Facilities in Kyoto

[ Nursery/Kindergarten School ]
Kyoto prefecture child care facilities
Kyoto International School (2-14 years old/grade 9)


Kinder Kids International School Kyoto School
Little Gems International School Kyoto
Seibo International Preschool
Mariann Kids International School


[ High School ]
Doshisha International School (Grades 2-12)


[ Universities with English Programs ]

Kyoto University
Undergraduate (Civil Engineering)
Graduate (Economics, engineering, agriculture, energy science, informatics, biostudies/medicine, global environmental studies, science, management)

Doshisha University
Undergraduate (Liberal arts)
Graduate (Global management, science and technology)

Ritsumeikan University
Undergraduate (International relations, political science)
Graduate (International relations, economics, information science and engineering, life sciences, science and engineering, political science, technology management)


English Curriculum IB
(International Bacceulerate)
Kyoto International School
Doshisha International School Kyoto
Kyoto International University Academy

Learning in English
Ritsumeikan Primary School

My Personal Experience and Observations with School in Japan
I had a summer’s worth (approximately 3 months) in an elementary school in rural Kyoto when I was in the 5th grade and spent 4 years of my university life at the University of Tsukuba. From kindergarten up until high school, I received an American education. How did I fair in my local town’s Japanese school? What about my university life, what was that like?

In the 5th grade, I can clearly remember the differences of the Japanese school life in comparison to my school life on Saipan. I knew absolutely no Japanese at the time, so if I was communicating with other students, it was a lot of English, hand gestures, and facial expressions. As shy and awkward as I already was, communication was difficult, but somehow, my classmates were always nice and my teacher was extremely helpful in always trying to help me assimilate.

The big differences I felt from my school back home:
Morning and after class greetings (bowing) and the significance of cleaning and exercise. Most importantly, doing all of these things together. I think this was a part of creating cooperation and teamwork amongst students and appreciating others.
Cleaning seemed to be a significant part of the school that took place regularly. Although my school didn’t have a janitor like many schools do in the US mainland, we cleaned the class ourselves and one person was usually assigned to simply clean after class, but cleaning didn’t take place as regularly and wasn’t such a large focus. However, in Japan, everything had to be cleaned. During lunch time, we were instructed to serve meals, wash out our milk cartons, bring our trays to the cooking ladies, and brush our teeth. We also had to clean the entire school, all students of all classes together. We also ran laps in the mornings, and plucked out the weeds that grew on the track and field. Exercise included jumping over “tobibako” and swimming classes, something I was not used to. Another interesting thing we did to show respect was having to stand up, bow, and then sit down every before and after class in that order. Back home, saying the pledge of allegiance in sync with my classmates was our morning ritual and then simply going home after class ended.

My university life was in Japan and for 4 years in Tsukuba, Ibaraki- the north part of Japan. I joined the Global30 program by the Ministry of Education and had the majority of my courses in English (courses in Japanese by choice). The opportunity for foreigners to study in Japan seems to have steadily increased. If you do your research (I recommend directly asking several alumni for their honest opinions as Japanese university and your own country's curriculum etc. may differ greatly), find a program interesting (as respective university programs differ), and put your foot through the door, you may find yourself apply to a university in a foreign setting with new experiences waiting for you on the other side.

- Rikka


Well, that's about it!

I hope I was able to address some concerns!

If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask and Hacarus members will certainly assist you!


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