Elementary school in Japan

 We spent quite a lot of time reading up about what it’s like for primary school, or elementary school here in Japan. But once we enrol Rayyan to his new school, we weren’t prepared about how much different it is from Malaysia’s primary school or sekolah kebangsaan! 

Thought I’d compile everything I’ve learned here for reference. 

Firstly, in Malaysia, Rayyan and Rafiy were enrolled in kindergarten with Mandarin language classes/basics so they learned a lot about the language. Once Rayyan turned 7, he enrolled in SJKC near our house because they already have the basics of Mandarin. Plus we always hear good things about SJKC vs. regular SK - and my husband particularly was adamant that they go there. (He was made to learn Mandarin when he worked at a Japanese company in Japan, so he’s of this belief that Mandarin would an essential language in future)

So 2022 happened when the primary 1 kids started later in March 2022 due to Covid. Since we moved to Japan in July, Rayyan had only experienced SJKC for about 3 months. 

We registered Rayyan for elementary school in our district after doing the whole registration for address, health insurance etc at the city hall office as per the country’s requirement. Surprisingly, in our area (Funabashi) there’s an elementary school that a lot of gaijins (foreigners) go to, so the sensei (teacher) there have a lot of experience teaching international students. Felt so relieved hearing that! Since Rayyan has no background of Japanese language, we would depend a lot on the teachers to ensure he learns Japanese faster.

Once we’ve done the registration at the school (with a whole lot of forms to be filled in), we were given a list of school supplies. Now this is where it got interesting - we had no idea the amount of supplies he needs! Basically everything in this list are compulsory:

  1. Randoseru (school backpack) - lucky for us, we were loaned one by the school cos the randoseru here costs almost RM1000+😂
  2. Book bag - like a tote bag to put books in
  3. Lunch pack bag (bento bag) 
  4. 2 pieces of cloth for bento mat
  5. Uwabaki (school indoor slippers)
  6. Uwabaki bag
  7. Gym suit and hat
  8. Gym suit bag
  9. Small cloth/towel for cleaning and cloth clip
  10. Disaster prevention hat and cover

Luckily, we were given a set of handmade bags sewn by our friend here in Chiba. She gave it to us when she found out we have a son going to elementary school. I was puzzled at first “why did she gave us so many different bags??” But turns out they’re all so useful!

See? So many bags! But the one thing I’m grateful for is their randoseru is not that heavy as they leave their books in their lockers inside the classroom, so the heaviest thing Rayyan would carry everyday is his bento lol. That alone puts Japanese education far superior than Malaysian, sadly. 

I wish Malaysia education ministry can learn one thing (or ten) from Japan’s.

While for uniforms, his school doesn’t require one - they only need to wear casual attire everyday. They have gym attire for physical education:

Rayyan was soo happy to start at his new school (as you can see from this picture haha). He had about one month in August during summer break to learn basic Japanese, so I taught him (from what I can recall from 10 years ago lol). He did surprisingly well on the writing of the hiragana, katakana and kanji probably because he has basic Mandarin - the style is different but the learning method is the same. Soo glad we made the decision to start their Mandarin early.

As for subjects, since Rayyan is in Year 2 here (elementary schools in Japan start their year from April to March, instead of January-December so Rayyan is in Year 2 since his birthday is in February) he learns:

  1. Japanese language
  2. Mathematics
  3. Living environment studies
  4. Music
  5. Art and craft
  6. Physical education
  7. Ethics (moral education)

This is such a stark difference to the subjects he used to learn in his kindy and SJKC Primary 1. In fact, science subjects in Japan is taught in Year 3, which is next year for Rayyan. That’s mindblowing to me, because in Malaysia kids as young as 7 years old are expected to excel in this subject already; in English and Malay somemore.

As for his daily schedule, he’s expected to arrive at his class by 8 am, and they will start first period at 840 am. Their day to day timetable varies, the earliest he would finish school is by lunchtime (when the teachers have district-wide events) and the latest is by 335 pm. But Rayyan is always looking forward to school so far, a stark contrast to his previous SJKC school haha.

When asked, Rayyan would always say he likes Japanese school more. I think it’s because since he’s still new, the teachers rarely ask him to answer questions in class like his peers, because he would say “sensei speaks in English nicely to me” and “my previous teachers in Malaysia always scold me” 😂 he’s never complained about school before so I didn’t know about this, but nice to see him adapting well so far.

Oh, the kids here are also given an iPad each to be used in classes and to do homework at home. When we first got it I was really worried that he wouldn’t know how to take care of the iPad (as well as his peers) but soon he seems to be taking care of it well (after several threats we made to him lol). How do the Japanese kids do it, I’ll never know - they seem to be so good at taking care of stuff. Well, that shouldn’t be so surprising at all.

Some additional points:

  • Kids are required to walk to school, instead of cycling or by car. So I had to walk Rayyan to school for about a month before he learned the route well enough to on his own
  • Kids here learn Japanese language starting Year 1 of elementary school, so Rayyan is catching up at Year 2. I pity him so much but I pray that he will get through this phase insyaAllah
  • We received a Pocketalk (digital translator, like a smartphone but only for translation) as a loan from the city hall so he’s been communicating with his peers using the Pocketalk
  • He needs to bring bento to school since they don’t provide any halal food, so I’ve been making his bento everyday and enjoying it!

My hope is that my kids would be adapting well here soon - I can’t wait to see them enjoy their youth in this new culture and environment. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, of course - if you’ve read this you’d know - but I will always have their backs to help them get through this. 

Let me know if you want to know more about schools in Japan!


  1. Hai kak zatil, sy nas, kohai aaj25 ☺️ nak tanya kot2 kak zatil tau subjek2 yg kids darjah 5 kena belajar kat elementary school nihon

    1. Hi nas! Oo dekat nihon jgk ke skrg?
      Rayyan skrg darjah 2 elementary school, kalau darjah 5 subject lain sikit rasanya hehe tapi kalau google - nihongo, maths, science, music, arts, home economics, gym, moral edu. Rasanya mostly subject ni je kot :)



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