Why we chose a Japanese school
Photo © Elena Derevstova
We relocated back to Japan nine years ago from the USA, returning to the same Tokyo bed town with our American-born kids. Unbeknownst to us at the time, one of Tokyo’s major international schools is located in the same town. It was pure coincidence, but most people automatically assumed that we chose our residence expressly for its proximity to the school.
If Tokyo had been a short-term hiatus before moving back overseas, I think we would have chosen international school. However, since we expected to stay long-term in Japan, the local school system seemed the best choice. We have raised our kids to cherish their blended cultures, but at the same time, we felt it was important for them to share the same childhood experiences as their peers in Japan.
As a working mother, there was also the matter of convenience: Attending the local elementary school has meant the kids have all their friends right in the same neighborhood, and could also attend the excellent public after-school care program.
In general, Japanese public elementary schools get a big thumbs-up from the majority of foreign parents. In addition to the academic subjects, I love the fact that my kids get several hours of PE, music and art each week, and a nutritious hot lunch daily. There is also plenty of opportunity for interaction amongst the grades, helping to create a friendly environment. Our area is not a haven for international families by any means, but there are more than a dozen bicultural kids among the student body of about 500 kids.
With the number of international schools in Tokyo steadily increasing, if we were just starting out in the educational system now, it is possible that we would choose a different route. And the path diverges at junior high and high level, with many more educational choices. For now, however, Japanese school is pretty cool!
Louise George Kittaka is a New Zealander and the mother of three children in the Japanese school system. When she isn’t running around after her kids, she enjoys collecting “Aliens” movie memorabilia.