6 Interesting Facts About the Daily Life at a Typical Japanese School That May Surprise You!
Japan is the land of many surprises with its unique customs, food specialties, amazing train network, “cute craze,” and numerous high-tech inventions.
On top of that, there are also several aspects about Japanese schools that may be surprising to many visitors of the country.
With its own educational system, Japan has independently molded its youth into the harmonious society it is today.
Have you ever wondered exactly what school life is like in Japan?
Here is a list of 6 things that I consider the most surprising aspects I’ve come across at a typical public elementary school and junior high school in Japan.
1. Everyone eats the same meal for lunch and students serve it
One interesting fact about Japanese public elementary and junior high schools is that everyone eats the same meal.
Unlike in many other countries, students are able to pick and choose between buying their lunch at a cafeteria or bringing their own lunch boxes.
Most Japanese public junior high schools do not have cafeterias where meals can be purchased, so students don’t get the chance to buy their own meals.
Instead, students are trained to eat the same kind of meal (regardless of their preference) and finish it in the given time.
But on the odd occasion, homemade lunch boxes are allowed for certain occasions as instructed by the school.
The first time I experienced a Japanese school lunch, I was amazed to learn that students are responsible for taking their meals from the school lunch area.
There are selected students who serve them to their classmates while wearing white masks, gowns, and bandanas.
After lunch, they are also responsible for cleaning up and returning meal containers – all under a teacher’s supervision.
How awesome is it to teach children all about serving others and taking responsibility for keeping their environment clean at such an early age!
2. Students and teachers eat together in the classroom
Adding to the previous point, students eat lunch in groups with their desks and chairs arranged facing each other (at least in junior high schools).
Growing up in a place where schools prohibit eating inside the classroom, it was totally surprising for me to learn that the classrooms in Japan are not only a place for learning but for enjoying each other’s company over lunch as well.
As mentioned previously, there is generally no cafeteria or a set area for students to go and eat their meals (except for some schools).
Some may think that this style can be too exclusive since children do not get to enjoy their lunch alongside students from the other classrooms.
However, this can actually help them mingle and interact with everyone in their class, not just their close friends.
3. Students can’t fail a grade
You’re not alone.
This is probably the most glorious perk a student can ever have in their life.
In countries like America and the Philippines, students who do not do well in school are held back a grade to encourage them to further improve their academic performance.
Luckily for the Japanese, they always advance to the next grade regardless of their test scores and performances.
A student may fail every test and even skip classes, but is still able to join the graduation ceremony at the end of the year.
Their test scores only matter when they take entrance examinations to get to high school and university.
4. Students and teachers still work even during school vacations
As I was getting ready to leave the school during my first summer vacation in Japan, I bid goodbye to one of my co-teachers and happily told him to enjoy his vacation.
A deep sigh.
I discovered from that moment on that teachers do not actually get a vacation (except national holidays) as they still need to go to work to keep up with their responsibilities within the school.
In junior high school, students are members of their own respective clubs.
Usually, teachers supervise these clubs so certain activities and sports training cannot continue throughout the vacation period without the teachers.
But wait, there’s more!
On top of that, students are also given tons of homework to complete during summer vacation!
5. Students use the same school bags and indoor shoes
Japanese schools require students to wear separate indoor shoes within the school building to maintain its cleanliness and prevent dirt from being brought inside.
Also, since Japan is well known for being the land where everyone performs at a similar standard without anyone standing out, students dress the same by wearing similar shoes.
Not only that, in junior high schools, they also use the same school bags provided by the school with an emblem of the school’s logo, as well as reflective safety stripes to avoid road accidents at night since most students return home late by bike or on foot.
Likewise, elementary students also use their own uniform fashionable backpacks called the “randoseru.”
6. Morning and after-school club activities
Most students who are members of sports clubs have club activities both before and after school every day.
As expected, this usually results in tired, sleepy, and not to mention, sweaty students during class as they are all expected to wake up very early and return home late to fulfill their club activity commitments.
Sounds like a lot of hard work, persistence, commitment, and determination are required!
With this insight into the daily life of a student at a standard public school in Japan, it helps visitors understand how the Japanese culture has been molded into what it is today.
Which point out of these 6 did you find the most interesting or surprising?