Japanese School Year – All Questions Answered

Whether you are an exchange student, a foreign learner, or parents who are moving to Japan, it is crucial that you know what kind of education you or your kids will enroll in. In this article, we not only reveal all the basic information regarding Japanese education but also discover a whole Japanese school year.

First, what is the Japanese school system like?

Compulsory education in Japan lasts 9 years, from the Elementary School to Junior High School. See the Japanese school grade by ages in the below chart:

 japanese school calendar

Japanese school system

Like in other countries, there are two types of schools in Japan: public school and international school. Foreign students can register in both, and it is optional for them to follow the mandatory program. In an international school, the program will depend on the education system of many other countries. Check the Japanese education system for more details!

International school in Japan

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One thing to bear in mind is that if your family move from abroad to Japan, your kids may have to change their grade. The reason is that in Japan, the rules for school grades are quite unique. Kids have a birthday between April 2nd and April 1st of the next year are in the same grade. So if your child was 6 years old before April 1st, he/ she will enroll in the elementary school that year. But if he/ she was born later, he/ she has to wait for the following year. However, parents can always require the school to move their kids to a lower or higher class.

japanese school year

Elementary students in Japan

When does school begin and finish in Japan?

In Japan, children go to school from April to March. But they may study according to yo either a two-semester or three-semester system.

japanese school year

A class of junior high school students

The three-semester system is dominant in popularity. In this system, students have the first semester between April and August, the second semester between September and December, and the next 4-month period is the third semester. At the end of each semester, there will be a break, called Summer, Winter, and Spring holiday respectively. Summer break is usually a little longer, approximately a month, while other breaks will be a few weeks maximum. You may read the below table for clearer information.

School year calendar

How many days a week do Japanese students go to school?

Five days during a week (Monday – Friday). Children in Japan normally don’t go to school on weekends but there are still some exceptions. On Saturday, a few schools still open classes.

when does school start in japan

Japanese students walk to schools.

If you do a simple calculation, you will see the volume of school days per year is around 210. That is the minimum estimate. Including other non-academic events, the number can rise up to 240 days.

How much time a day do Japanese students study at school?

The daily schedule is up to each school in different regions, but the typical one will start from 8 am or 8:30 am to no later than 3:30 pm. That means six and a half hours at school every day. In the first and second year of Elementary school, kids will go home an hour earlier. But after classes, children in Japan usually start their club activities like sports until 5 or 6 p.m and attend extra classes at juku (cram school) in the evening.

 japanese school calendar

A juku (cram school)

When it comes to junior and high schools, students study for 6 periods, each of which is around 50 minutes long, daily. Then students clean the classrooms in shifts and join after-school clubs. Most school rules note that students attend one compulsory club activity once a week. Whether or not you want to join other activities is totally up to you.

Japanese students extracurricular activities

School timetable

Let’s have a closer look at a sample school timetable for a high school student. First, he or she commonly takes part in the morning assembly which is kind of a brief meeting. It is also called the homeroom period within which headteachers distribute documents, mark the attendance, make some notification and help students to plan their day. After 4 periods in the morning, students gather at the homeroom to eat lunch. In the afternoon, they get only 2 classes before the end of the day clean-up and maybe another quick homeroom meeting.

when does school start in japan

The timetable of a Japanese high school

If your kid’s school has classes on Saturday, typically, they just have to study in the morning and are dismissed at 1 pm. Besides, there should be a weekly longer homeroom meeting in most high schools. This is because high school students are in a critical time in their lives.  They need some help on vocational orientation, better understanding and reflection of themselves as well as upcoming advancement from one grade to another. The specific topics have already prepared by the teachers. These discussion topics are planned by teachers and scheduled beforehand.

Watch the following videos to find out more about a school day of a high school student in Japan:

What are some holidays throughout the Japanese school year?

Except for 3 major breaks I mentioned above, the Japanese school year is also interrupted by quite a few other national holidays. I name some most popular ones below:

japanese school schedule

Holidays during the Japanese school year

There are some strange names here, so let me explain briefly.

  • Respect for the Aged Day, as its name tells, is to honor the elder. For example, we would give the older member of the family flowers and cards.
  • Culture Day, or Bunka no Hi in Japanese, is a really interesting holiday when art exhibitions and parades are held to appreciate the prominent artists’ work.
  • Autumnal Equinox Day, otherwise called Shūbun no Hi, happens on the date of Southward equinox in Japan Standard Time. It may fall into 23 or 24 September depending on the time zones.
  • Constitution Memorial Day is the day to remember the important historical events that the current Japanese constitution was founded. Fun fact, it is a section of Golden Week.
  • Vernal Equinox Day or Shunbun no Hi in Japan is another non-religious holiday that celebrates the Northward equinox in Japan Standard Time.
when does school start in japan

Children day in Japan

What are some Activities and Events in the Japanese School year?

Apart from official study time at school, Japanese students are highly active in extracurricular activities. For example:

  • Entrance Ceremony: a celebration for entering elementary school children and junior high school. It usually has the presence of parents.
  • Opening Ceremony (Shigyô shiki): a celebration for the start of every semester
  • School Trips (Shûgaku ryokô): There is typically a minimum 2-day long excursion for last year students and various short trips for students to study outdoors (called Kougai gakushû)

a Japanese class observation

  • Class Observation / Parents’ day (Jugyou sankan/ Koukai jugyou): parents pay a visit to an actual class to observe their kids studying and have a conversation with the teachers
  • Sports Day (Undou kai / Taiiku sai): parents are encouraged to join with their kids
  • Music and Play Appreciations (Ongaku / Engeki kanshôkai): its purpose is to promote the children’s interest in arts and music
how long is the school year in japan

Bunkasai of a school in Japan

  • Student Performance and Cultural Festival (Gakugeikai, Bunkasai): performance of students
  • End of the Term Ceremony (Shûryô shiki)

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About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.