Japan is a country full of surprises. Numerous people describe the nation as “not like what they’re used to,” and the country’s many distinct cultures and customs make it an interesting place to explore. Japan is noted for its fashion and entertainment subcultures, creative and futuristic technologies, old traditions that have persisted for generations, its combination of western and eastern norms, and world-class food. It has the world’s third biggest economy and one of the lowest crime rates.
Education has traditionally been seen as vital in Japan. The Meiji government developed a public education system in the late 1800s, significantly improving the country’s literacy rate. Even during the Edo era, more than 70% of all children attended school. In Japan, 99 percent of the population can read and write, and school is still seen as a critical stepping stone in early life.
Although there are certain parallels between Japanese and Western schools in terms of uniforms, tests, and grades, there are other characteristics of Japanese schools that many visitors to the country may find unexpected. Japan has shaped its young into the peaceful society it is now because to its unique educational system.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go to school in Japan? Here is a list of 10 of the most startling elements of a regular Japanese public school that I’ve encountered. You may discover that the schools here are nothing like the ones you attended as a youngster.
1. Students are not sent out of the classroom by their teachers.
Let’s face it: children are children. There will always be two or three (if not the entire class) who misbehave from time to time, regardless of their culture or place of origin! It’s only one of the numerous difficulties that teachers confront in their jobs.
Misbehaving pupils are routinely escorted out of the classroom in numerous nations outside of Japan. It is, however, a strict no-no in Japanese schools. “All persons shall have the right to obtain equal education…”, according to Article 26 of the Japanese Constitution, and as a result, Japanese instructors are hesitant to send kids out of the classroom. As a result, Japanese instructors have become accustomed to maintaining their composure while continuing with the class. This does happen in rare cases, such as when a student disturbs the class on a regular basis.
What a test of patience this must be! Because sending children outdoors would be viewed as their losing out on some components of the lesson, it is not done in Japanese schools.
2. For lunch, everyone eats the same dish, which is served by students.
Everyone eats the same meal at Japanese public schools, which is an unusual fact. Students have the option of purchasing lunch in a cafeteria or bringing their own lunch boxes, like in many other nations. Students in Japan, on the other hand, are taught to eat the same type of meal (regardless of their preferences) and finish it within the time limit.
Most Japanese public schools do not have cafeterias where students may purchase meals, therefore students do not have the option of purchasing their own meals. However, on rare occasions, handmade lunch boxes are permitted as long as the contents adhere to the school’s guidelines. This typically means “bento” meals are free of harmful foods and sweets. Rice, veggies, some type of fish, seaweed, and occasionally chicken are common ingredients in homemade meals.
I was astounded to find that students were responsible for carrying their meals from the school lunch room and delivering them to their classmates while wearing white masks, gowns, and bandannas the first time I witnessed a Japanese school lunch. They are also responsible for cleaning up and returning meal containers after lunch, all under the supervision of a teacher. How wonderful it is to teach children at such a young age about helping others and taking responsibility for keeping their surroundings clean!
3. In the classroom, students and teachers dine together.
Also, as a follow-up to the previous point, especially in junior high schools, teachers and students eat lunch in groups with their desks and chairs arranged to face each other. Growing up in a place where schools forbid students from eating in the classroom, it came as a complete shock to me to learn that the classroom is not only a place for learning but also for socializing over lunch. Except in certain primary schools, there is usually no cafeteria or established spaces for kids to take their meals, as previously stated.
While some may believe that this model is excessively restrictive because children do not get to eat lunch with classmates from neighboring classrooms, others may disagree. During lunch, however, children tend to congregate in small groups with only their closest classmates, which may allow them to mingle and interact with everyone in their class, not just their closest friends.
4. There is no way for students to fail a class.
Do you find this surprising? You’re not the only one who feels this way! This is arguably the most wonderful benefit a student will ever receive.
Students who do not do well in school in certain nations, such as the United States and the Philippines, are held back a grade to help them improve their abilities. Fortunately for the Japanese, regardless of their exam scores or accomplishments, they always graduate to the following grade. Even if a student fails every exam and misses every class, he or she is still eligible to participate in the year-end graduation ceremony. Only when kids take admission exams for high school and university do their test results matter.
This isn’t to say that Japanese youngsters aren’t expected to work hard! Japanese children work hard to acquire Japanese kanji so that they can read the required quantity at the appropriate age, in addition to their other studies.
5. There are no janitors on the premises.
Schools in Japan do not rely on janitors to keep them clean. Students, on the other hand, roll up their sleeves and clean every inch of their campus, even the restrooms. Yes! Students, teachers, school personnel, and even the highest-ranking school officials, such as the vice principal and principle, all pitch in to clean, with each individual allocated to a certain location.
Every day, Japanese schools allot for “souji,” or cleaning time. Some students wear a tenugui (bandanna) on their heads and sit in quiet for a few minutes before cleaning to meditate and prepare their minds and bodies, a practice known as “mokuso.”
Students are taught not simply to clean up after themselves, but also to be responsible members of society, according to this unusual Japanese school tradition. They are absolutely unfamiliar with the notion of employing someone to clean up the school for them.
6. Even during school holidays, students and teacher continue to work.
As I was getting ready to leave the school for my first summer vacation in Japan, I said farewell to one of my co-teachers and wished him a happy holiday. What was his reaction? A long sigh. I learned from that point on that teachers do not truly receive vacations, save on national holidays, because they must continue to work in order to fulfill their responsibilities at school. Students at junior high school are members of their own clubs, which are normally overseen by instructors, and certain activities, as well as sports training, continue during the holiday time.
But hold on! There’s more! Furthermore, students are assigned a large amount of homework to accomplish during their summer break!
7. The identical school bags and indoor shoes are used by all students.
To keep the school clean and prevent dirt from being brought inside, Japanese schools require pupils to wear distinct indoor shoes within the facility. Students also dress the same by wearing identical shoes, as Japan is recognized for being a place of peace where everyone performs at a similar level without anybody sticking out (one well-known saying, which is contrary to the western belief that individualism is important, is “hammer the nail that sticks out”).
Not only that, but in junior high schools, they utilize the identical school bags with the school’s logo emblazoned on them, as well as reflective safety stripes to minimize nighttime traffic accidents, as most students come home late by bike or on foot. Similarly, primary pupils have their own “randoseru” (uniform trendy backpacks).
As a result, pupils become members of the organization and represent the school as a whole. There are also additional restrictions concerning uniform and how pupils exhibit themselves in schools. For example, students are not allowed to dye their hair, and they are not allowed to have piercings or wear a lot of makeup.
8. Club activities in the morning and after school
Every day, students who are members of sports clubs participate in club activities before and after school. Sports clubs, for example, require youngsters to run several kilometers each day in order to keep in condition. As you can think, this leaves students fatigued, drowsy, and sweating in class because they are all expected to get up early and come home late to satisfy their club activity commitments. It appears to be a lot of hard work, requiring perseverance, devotion, and tenacity!
Clubs are also quite popular, and almost every student participates in at least one. They are extremely proud of the club and strive to meet and exceed expectations.
9. Japanese schools are not as technologically advanced as you may believe.
Although Japan is one of the most advanced countries in terms of science and technology, seeing inside one of their schools may make you reconsider. Pen and paper are still favored over technological gadgets in many circumstances. However, technology has gradually crept into the system to aid in the improvement of instructional materials and facilities in Japanese schools.
However, despite Japan’s high-tech inventive image, not every school has the most up-to-date and high-tech equipment that visitors may expect. For many years, old schools, in particular, have not been modernized! Many elementary, junior high, and high schools around the country still use antiquated CD players, printers, and fax machines. Electric fans are the most widely used ventilation to save power instead of air conditioners, and in the winter, central heating is extremely unusual, with only kerosene heaters accessible in most situations.
Furthermore, rather than using whiteboards as in other countries, lessons are still frequently taught using traditional teaching materials with textbooks as the primary focus. However, as previously said, technology is slowly finding its way into the system, with the internet and computers being gradually incorporated in some schools for class presentations. As a result, older Japanese schools have also been renovated.
10. Sleeping beauties are found in classrooms, not castles.
Studying in Japan entails a lot of hard work and perseverance, with homework and assignments throughout vacations, school clubs and activities even on weekends, and cleaning the entire school. Apart from participating in morning and after-school club activities, the majority of students also attend “juku,” or cram schools, where they may study harder or learn new languages. They are also assigned a large amount of homework each day, leaving them with very little time to recover and sleep.
As a result, pupils who can no longer battle exhaustion and sleepiness are more likely to fall asleep during class. You might also be surprised to learn that professors tend to let them be because they can’t do much about it and probably sympathize with their exhaustion! Although a teacher may bring a student’s attention to napping in class once or twice, a student getting chastised for sleeping is uncommon.
Visitors will have a better understanding of how Japanese culture has been sculpted into the harmonious society it is now thanks to this glimpse into the everyday life of a student in a regular public school in Japan. If this seems like the sort of school for you or your children, be sure to bring lots of dedication and willpower, since going to school here isn’t all about what you might see in Japanese anime.
This structured school environment, on the other hand, prepares pupils for the difficulties of life, which need such hard effort, dedication, and ambition to succeed. What are your thoughts? Do you think the west can benefit from Japan’s educational system, or do Japanese students work too hard?