Have you wondered what the high school life in Japan is like? There might be many things you never knew about!
How Do Japanese Students Study?
The class size in Japan tends to be larger than in the United States. A typical high school class has 45 students, which is larger than the 36 students on average in junior high school. Unlike the image of a high-tech Japan, a typical Japanese classroom is equipped with traditional green boards and physical textbooks. Students will stay in the same classroom for most of the day, while teachers rotate from one class to another based on the subject.
Compared to the style of its western counterparts, teaching and learning in Japan still mostly revolves around rote learning. Teachers will teach to the students with lectures taken straight out of a textbook, and students are expected to diligently take notes and memorize in order to do well in exams. Perhaps this is the reason why students in Japan are quite shy and less likely to participate in debates and discussions than students in other countries.
A fact that might be surprising to many people is that, regardless of their scores on exams, Japanese students always get to proceed to the next grade. The only scores that truly matter are those for entrance examinations, which will determine which high school or university the student will attend. School life involves a great deal of ritual and routine, designed to enforce discipline and a sense of responsibility, as well as to build a person’s character.
High school in Japan lasts three years. An academic year starts in April instead of August or September, and a shorter summer break is compensated by the longer spring break. The school year is divided up into several terms (semesters), and schools adopt structures whereby they split the year up into two or three semesters.
Like most places in Japan, schools in Japan are often kept exceptionally clean. However, as surprising as it sounds, the cleaning work is done not by janitors or cleaning staff hired by the school as in western countries, but by students themselves. It is a typical sight at Japanese high schools to see students cleaning the classrooms, hallways, schoolyards, and other campus facilities that they use. Thanks to this, students learn to be considerate towards others when using a common space, as well as self-responsible for keeping the classroom in good condition.
Outside of the Classroom
While Japanese students spend relatively long days at school, it does not mean that they only have classroom lessons from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.! High school students in Japan tend to be very much involved with bukatsu, or club activities. These club activities are usually held before and after school. Sports clubs are especially known for their rigorous training schedule that spans five days a week and continues during school holidays. Some common sports that many high school students in Japan participate in are baseball, basketball, and handball. Students are very dedicated to their training, as they have plenty of opportunities to compete and bring pride to their school name in tournaments held between schools at the regional and national levels.
Among cultural clubs, there is a wide variety of possible clubs that students get to choose from, ranging from traditional arts to more contemporary hobbies. Some popular clubs include choir and art clubs, brass bands, tea ceremonies, flower arrangement clubs, and go games (a strategic board game played with black and white stones).
Besides the everyday routine of classroom lessons and extracurricular practices, no high school life in Japan can be complete without the mention of special events that take place throughout the year. Students and teachers spend a large amount of time, often spanning numerous weeks, to organize large-scale events like Sports Day, when students compete in races and games such as tug-of-war, or Culture Festival, where they decorate their classrooms and set up booths to sell handmade food and give dancing or singing performances. Through these activities, students learn the importance of collaboration and solidarity to contribute and work together towards a goal. Students also get to go on excursions to culturally important cities full of historical sites, such as Kyoto and Nara, during the year.
School entrance and graduation ceremonies take place in April, when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. This becomes the favorite memories of students for years to come, even after they grow up.
What the High School Experience in Japan Teaches You
Considering how a day of a Japanese high school student is extremely packed, challenging, and busy, it is admirable how they can manage their time and succeed at both their studies and extracurriculars. Japanese high school students tend to form very close-knit bonds with their peers due to a large amount of time and hard work that they share together. In all facets of school life, from tough lessons at school to demanding extracurricular trainings, students are taught to be humble, diligent, and dedicated. They are also taught to place the collective benefits beyond their individual selves, which creates a sense of community that follows them throughout their lives in the Japanese society.
“School Curriculum in Japan (School life)” – Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Educationhttps://www.kyoiku.metro.tokyo.lg.jp/en/about/number.html
“School Life in Japan” – Facts and Details http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat23/sub150/item830.html
“The Busy Life of a Student Studying in Japan” – Greenheart Travel. https://greenhearttravel.org/blog/high-school-japan/the-busy-life-of-a-student-studying-in-japan