Japan with Kids!

May 2005

School, Kindergarten and Day-care

For those of you who brought your child/children or are thinking about it,
I really recommend the WebSite

Japan with Kids


For parents of school age children, education is a major concern and elementary school education is probably the most difficult to deal with. Preschool and kindergarten age children usually have little difficulty in adjusting and pick up sufficient language ability to play quite quickly. Unfortunately there are some differences, depending on the school, as to what special programs are available for the foreign child. Some schools have programs in which volunteers teach basic Japanese, some provide interpreters for a short time at the beginning and even though all of the schools try their best to make the foreign child feel welcomed and at ease, non-Japanese speaking children are pretty much left on their own to pick up what they can sitting through regular Japanese classes. This is not to say, however, that your child attending a local Japanese school is not without its strong points.

As a whole, Japanese elementary school education is quite good and many foreign children have fairly good experiences in the local school, especially if they are given help with learning the language. Even if you are in Japan for only a short time, being exposed to the Japanese culture and language will benefit your child. Under present circumstances, the best solution is probably to find and attend a local school which gives at least some special attention to foreigners, and then also to keep up with their studies in their own language through a home correspondence course. School zones are strictly enforced and you will have to register your child in the school for the district where you live so this is an important factor to keep in mind when deciding on housing. Any foreign child who has completed alien registration can apply to the local board of education for a permit to register for public school or kindergarten. The board of education is also the place to find out more information about what services are available in your city. The cost for a public elementary school is minimal since the tuition is free and you only pay for the school lunch and P.T.A. fees and insurance, about 6,000 yen per month.

For parents who have to work there is help available at the local Jidokan (children's center), where there usually are two different programs run under the same roof.

  • The JIDOU-KURABU which is open to all kids after school until 6th grade, until 5 pm.
  • The Gakudouhoiku, which is a program where the parents actually enroll and pay a fee. This Gakudouhoiku program means that the staff is actually responsible for the childs well-being while it is there under their care. It includes supervision and insurance and is available until 6 pm and on Saturdays. This program usually only exists through the end of 3rd grade and is only available to children where there is no alternative supervisory person at home, i.e. mother works and grandma lives far away.
    The way the programs are run in actuality may vary a bit from city to city and even from one Children's Center to the next depending on the Chief Administrator's personality and vision.

    The cost of the supervised program for is around 5,000 yen per month paid to the ward office and another 2,000 yen for snacks and drinks paid directly to the jidokan. When the child attends all day long (for example on Saturdays when there is no school and summer vacations etc) they will have to bring lunch. From 5 pm they are generally asked to sit at a table and do their homework and the staff will assist them.
Comment from a foreign parent
"My son aged 7 attends the gakudo club at the jidokan in our area in Minato-ku. He enjoys it, has plenty of friends there and it has saved my life over two summers now.The program seems to be a good mix of structured and unstructured time. During the holidays the first hour is spent in the reading room with reading and homework. My son seems to pay a lot of ball games like dodge ball but there are all sorts of activities, including a drawing/crafts room. There are only 25 kids in the gakudo which means they are supervised, eat lunch together and are expected to attend unless otherwise arranged. Other children not in the gakudo can come and go in the jidokan as they like. It costs 2,000 yen per month for the afternoon snack fee. The leaders in charge are responsible about intervening, notably in a minor case of bullying. All in all it's great and my son's preferred destination after school."



Most Japanese children attend kindergarten for two years and some even for three. Public kindergartens accept children who are already four years old at the start of the school year, April 1st. Applications start in November the previous year. Apply at the city office. Public kindergartens will accept foreign children if they are registered and there is space available. The cost varies depending on which city you live in, but would be approximately the following: 10,000 yen - 20,000 yen for materials and items like bag and hat, etc. 5,000 yen - 10,000 yen per month for tuition. Some provide a school lunch, others expect you to bring lunch from home. The time varies too, but usually 9-13 or14. A bus service is very rare. Another option is private kindergartens, some are run by Buddhist temples or Christian churches (Protestant or Catholic), others are in effect private businesses. Children are accepted from three years and there is usually a bus service. Apply directly to the kindergarten. The cost is different depending on the place but something like this: 40,000 yen ~ 100,000 yen for the initial fee.

  • 30,000 yen ~ 80,000 yen for uniform
  • 10,000 yen ~ for material
  • 20,000 yen ~ 35,000 per month for tuition

When you choose a kindergarten, you need to find one that fulfills these 3 things

  1. It should be not too far away or have a school bus whose route goes near your house.
  2. You must be able to afford it.
  3. The kindergarten must have a place available and be willing to take a foreign child. It can take some time to find a place that satisfies these three things. I suggest you talk to your co-workers and the people in your neighborhood, ask them where they send their children.


Day Care

For foreign researchers who are bringing their small children with them and don't have anyone to take care of them during the day, there is the possibility of enrolling them in the public day care/nursery. Each city/area has their special rules and circumstances, so it is very difficult to explain about the daycare system since it can vary so much depending on where you live.
What follows here is based mainly on my own experience. If you want to know more about the area where you are, please contact JISTEC directly and we will help you.

The public Day Care is mainly for parents who are;

  • working
  • students
  • hospitalized
  • taking care of sick, handicapped or elderly person at home

If you are accompanied by your wife/husband and they are not working it will be very difficult to get your child a place.
Depending on where you live, the demand is sometimes greater than the supply and there may be a waiting list with the most urgent cases taking priority.
It is not uncommon for parents to put their children in private daycare while waiting for a place at the public day care.
Of course, some parents choose to put their child in private day care rather than public for various reasons, too.

To apply, you first need to visit the local city office where you registered (go to the children's service division) and get an application "kit". It has the documents that you need to have you host researcher/administrative office fill out for you stating your working hours etc.
Other things you probably will be asked for is;

  • A copy of your work contract
  • Alien registration cards and passports for all family members
  • A mother and child book (boshi techou)
  • You may be asked to submit a tax declaration in order for the city to determine the monthly fee
  • The fee is based on the household's total taxable income from the previous year
  • The fee, depending on the age of the child, is usually on a scale from 5,000 yen --- 50,000 yen per month
  • The Day Care hours are mainly from 8:30 am to 5 pm but extended care is available for an additional charge. Saturday care is also available and included in your monthly fee, but the hours can be shorter sometimes.

The public Day Care Centers are clean, well kept and brightly decorated. The staff is all licensed nursery teachers and include a full time nurse and a full time dietician, who plans all of the children's meals.
The children are divided into groups according to age and activities are well organized with lots of outdoor play and free play.
The lunch and snacks are prepared by the cooks and are simple and healthy. A monthly menu is also included in the monthly news letter. The children's diet is changed according to their age.
You will receive a description (in Japanese) of all the things you need to prepare for your child's entry into daycare, and what is needed on a daily basis. You have to provide things like; change of clothes and diapers, towels, etc.

Most "new to Japan" foreigners may find the regulations and preparations a little bit frustrating.
A positive attitude and an open mind is very much needed. The result will be that you can go to work, knowing that your child is in dedicated loving hands of people who will take care of the child to the best of their ability.