A Guide to Japan’s Nursery Schools

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Nursery schools are basically the first step a child takes into the social world. This would be the first time that they are away from their parents for a long time, meeting and interacting with a variety of people. Just imagining their little one in a nursery school is enough to get some new parents emotional. Thus, choosing the first school for your child can be a very difficult process for people. Finding the right Japan school, location, timings, teachers etc can take a toll on parents. It’s not just the little ones taking their first steps, but also a first for the parents.

In Japan, education prior to elementary school is provided at kindergartens called yochien and also at day care centers that are called hoikuen. In Japan, a majority of the yochiens are run by private institutions. This is mostly because the compulsory education system does not cover the preschool years. This might change in the future as the government is trying to foster better discipline and behaviour in children at a young age. According to data sources, about 60 percent of the kindergartens are privately owned and operated. 

Nowadays, most nurseries also double as day care centres with an increasing number of families having both parents working. In a typical nursery school, the educational approach is unstructured with emphasis on play time, but some nurseries offer activities such as drawing, swimming and music lessons. Sometimes, parents send their young children to attend these extra activities after school so that they can accommodate their office timings and the kids learn as well.

The different types of schools

Starting it off with the nursery school facilities, they fall under two categories : ninka and mu ninka. There is an in between as well known as the Ninshoi hoikujo.


Ninka schools are government funded and the facilities provided by these Japan schools follow the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. They regulate the class size, student teacher ratio, class dimensions etc. As these schools are publicly funded, monthly tuition is set on a sliding scale based on the taxable incomes of parents/guardians. Because of this, parents can expect to pay anywhere between 0 yen to upwards of 60,000 yen per month. These schools provide entry on a point based system with single parent families and families where both parents work getting priority. But, be aware that getting into a ninka school is a tedious and time consuming process that involves a lot of paperwork.

Mu Ninka

With a mu ninka or a ninka gai, the schools are not set on the guidelines of the ministry. You will find a variety of curriculums and class sizes with these. In this case, you don’t necessarily have to go through the government, you can directly apply to the school. A lot of parents are not very convinced with these schools as they think that they might not be fruitful for their children and fail to provide the proper environment as it does not have government backing. That is not always the case but one should always do thorough research regarding the school before enrollment. 

Mu Ninka schools provide day care facilities that can be extended to holidays as well which can be a major plus point for parents. Another main attraction with these schools is that they provide english classes. Getting a hang of a new language at a young age is always better, especially english, in a country like Japan as it gives a good and strong base for the future. As these schools are not government funded, you can expect to pay around 50,000 yen to 70,000 yen.

Documents required

Please keep in mind that these are roughly the documents that you might need to bring-

  • School entrance permission (This is for foreigners)
  • Photographs 
  • Birth Certificate
  • Proof of residential address
  • Medical certificate

For nursery schools, the institution will look into the parent more than the child and the requirements may change according to the school.

A Typical Day

A typical day in a kindergarten would be close to this.

9:00am: Arrive at the kindergarten

9:00am-11:00am: Play time, craft-making, activities, lessons

11:30am: Lunch

After lunch-2:00pm: Classroom activities.

2:30pm: Pick-up time

Japan can be quite a tricky place when it comes to enrolling your children but the facilities available are absolutely wonderful. Before you make the final decision make it a point to have a campus tour and speak with the facilitators as well as with other parents.


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