Top 10 Things You Need to Know Before Your Child Enters International High School in Japan

Know how to prepare for your high school's first full year!

Top 10 Things You Need to Know Before Your Child Enters International High School in Japan
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Japan is a beautiful nation. With natural and man-made marvels alike, the country draws numerous tourists every year. It is no wonder, so many families choose this nation as their temporary or even permanent home when moving abroad!

However, becoming an expatriate family can have a lot of complications. One of them is determining where your child will attend school. With so many educational options in Japan, the choices can seem overwhelming.

International schools are very popular options for expatriate families. These top-quality schools are private institutions, a sought-after learning format in the area. However, these schools can be very different from what expatriate families are used to, especially if their children previously attended school in American or European institutions.

Here’s what you need to know about Japanese high school and how different it can be from what your child might be accustomed to - and how to prepare for your first full year!

“Back to School” Season Doesn’t Happen in August or September

The typical school year in Japan is different from those in America and other countries in many ways, but one of the most obvious is that the school year usually starts in April. This is sometimes referred to as “sakura”, since this type of tree is beautifully blooming at this time of the year.

Uniforms Are Required

While wearing a uniform to school is usually only a private school occurrence in the United States, Japan largely requires it for students of every age and in every school. Prepare your children to don a uniform every day of school that closely resembles the ones your classmates wear. Wait for the evenings and weekends to dress up!

School Uniforms Change - and So Do the Seasons

Japan is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “land of a thousand seasons”. While this certainly isn’t true, the diversity in the weather is remarkable. Prepare for all types of weather, from warm, wet summers and windy springs to frigid winters filled with snow! The accessories the children wear with their school wardrobe should be appropriate for the season - even if that’s different than it was the day before!

Shoes? No Service!

While American schools require children to wear shoes indoors, Japanese schools are different. In Japanese culture, it is considered unclean and disrespectful to wear shoes indoors. Therefore, students are expected to remove their shoes just after entering and putting them away in designated boxes, lockers, or bins. However, the international schools may or may not follow this norm.

Strict Schedules and Silent Classrooms

In most high schools in Japan, the school day will look dramatically different than it does in America. Students are largely silent during class while teachers lecture, with the expectation of students taking notes to later study on their own. Classroom discussions are not common, nor is the raising of hands to answer questions or ask them. This is a practice that is not followed at international schools. Instead students are encouraged to discuss and debate.

Formal Interaction with Adults is Important

Respect for adults and authority figures is very important in Japan. Students are expected to acknowledge adults with respect every time they see them. They are also expected to greet and bid farewell to their teachers and administrators at the beginning and end of the class and school day. It’s a great way for expatriate children to learn cultural expectations.

BYOL - Bring Your Own Lunch

In many Japanese schools, lunch is not provided by the school. Instead, students are expected to bring their own meal, usually in a package referred to as a “bento box”. While packing lunch is something that is commonplace in the United States and other nations, it is almost universally the norm for Japanese children.

This may differ in international schools, where meals may be provided. If this is a concern for your family, be sure to check with your school before the year begins!

Clean Up Your Mess!

Another thing you won’t find in Japanese schools is a janitor. Instead, students and teachers are expected to clean up after themselves. When children are too young to do this, teachers will take care of it for them while teaching them cleaning skills. High school students, though, are expected to keep their school and their personal areas there clean! Again, in international schools this may not be the norm, but you can always call up the school and confirm.

School Clubs Are a Huge Focus of Campus Life

Many schools have extracurricular clubs and activities in the United States, but Japan puts a far larger emphasis on them. Even at International school, students are encouraged to participate in these clubs, some of which last for hours after the school day. Your child won’t be bored while attending school in Japan, that’s for sure!

Being a Foreigner May Actually Give You an Advantage!

As an expatriate, you or your child might be worried about fitting in in their new international school in Japan. However, that worry may be for nothing - and they may be in for a great surprise as they will meet students from their home country and other exotic countries from around the world!

In many international schools, children hail from different parts and the halls are interesting and exciting. Your children may receive lots of social interaction and find a place for themselves in a world. It is a good idea to prepare your child for the many questions other students may have about life in your home country and accept and field them as patiently as possible. You’ll likely find that your children are thrilled to have so many new friends - and may want to remain in Japan for the rest of their educational career!

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Katie Leslove
Katie Leslove
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Katie Leslove

I am an explorer, blogger, traveller and a creative thinker. I am exploring the world with my creative vision to learn more and more about this optimist world.

See all posts by Katie Leslove