School Life in Japan

School Life in Japan

Summer vacation is almost over and Japanese students are about to go back to school.

School life in Japan is unique and we’re sure you’ll find many differences (and perhaps some similarities) to school life in your country, from school lunches to uniform to activities.

But no matter where in the world you are, our Back to School Stationery Pack (available from 1st August) will get you organized. We've got all the back to school supplies you need to start the new school term right!

ZenPop's Back to School Stationery Pack

When is the Japanese school year?

The school year in Japan starts in April. After the July break, Japanese school children return to school in early September.

In Japanese, children start school at 6 years’ old and their first 9 years (six years at elementary school and three years in junior high school) are compulsory. 

How long is a school day in Japan?

For most Japanese students, school starts around 8:30am and finishes at 3:00pm. However, most students attend after-school clubs for hours or juku (cram school) in the evening to do extra studying.

At one point, Japanese children had to go to school from Monday to Saturday, but that ended decades ago. Nowadays, some schools still hold classes on at least one Saturday a month.

What is school like in Japan?

1. School Uniform

As to be expected, the Japanese school uniform is cute and unique! Most Japanese secondary school students have to wear a uniform, of which there are two main types.

The first type, which more than half of Japanese junior high school students wear, involves a sailor blouse for girls and gakuran for boys, which is similar to the European-style naval uniforms.

The other type of Japanese school uniform is a blazer, which became popular about 30 years ago. Nowadays, some junior high school and most high schools have to wear this uniform.

No shoes allowed!

If you’ve travelled to Japan, you would have become familiar with having to remove your shoes before entering a Japanese home. In schools, students must also remove their shoes before entering the classroom and wear indoor slippers!

As school don’t often employ janitors (read on below to see who has to clean up), it helps dirt not be brought into the classroom and also preserves the children’s outdoor shoes.

2. Ways to Commute

There are no school buses in Japan, therefore students must travel to school by walking, cycling or taking a public bus or the subway.

Japanese school children walking to school

It’s common for elementary students to get a lift on their parents’ mamachari (bicycle), although some will walk or even take public transport by themselves!

For junior high and high school students, school is often further from their home, so they use a bicycle or take the bus or train.

Japanese school bus is Pikachu

Japan’s youngest students get to travel to school in style! Who wouldn’t be excited to go to school if you got to ride a super cute Totoro Neko or Pikachu Bus!

3. Lunch Time

Most public elementary and junior high school students are provided with kyushoku (きゅうしょく / 給食) or school lunch. It’s fresh, healthy and cheap. It often includes carbs (rice), protein, a side of vegetables, soup (usually miso), a glass of milk, and sometimes fruit.

As most schools do not have cafeterias, the lunches are distributed to each classroom. Students set the table for lunch and then everyone in the classroom will eat together.For students that don’t get kyushoku, they bring a bento (lunch box) to eat. These lunch boxes can be works of art, as parents introduce cute animal food characters to encourage their children to eat all their food!

Japanese bento (lunch box)

4. Cleaning up

One of the most-well known habits in Japanese schools, and perhaps in Japan in general (remember the clean stadiums during the World Cup?!), is that students have to clean up! 

Every day, after all their classes have finished, students clean up the school - not just their classroom, but also the corridors, bathrooms and so on. 

Japanese school children cleaning the gymnasium floors

You might think it’s weird for students to clean their school every day, but it’s normal in Japan and many believe that it teaches children lots of important life lessons!

Back to School Stationery Haul

Our September Back to School Stationery Pack is guaranteed to get you ready for the new school term!

We’ve included 10 kawaii, as well as multifunctional or really useful, stationery items that will make your school life much easier!

Order this month’s Back to School Stationery Pack before we sell out!

Order ZenPop's Back to School Stationery Pack