Surviving Japanese Kindergarten (Yochien)

jpn kindergarten noticesI thought preparing for Japanese kindergarten (yochien) was overwhelming. In hindsight, it`s a breeze compared to the responsibilities given to Yochien mothers once school begins – especially as a foreigner. This is my experience, as well as some tips, for surviving the first two months as a yochien mom.

If you plan on sending your child to yochien, and you are non-native, find a Japanese friend who will translate all the notices and emails for you. All notices are in Kanji. There are a lot of them.

Surviving Japanese Kindergarten (Yochien)

  • jap kindergarten gymKeep on top of the notices as they list events, schedule variations, uniform changes, etc. (e.g. notices informing parents of a `morning session` or a holiday for a certain grade on a certain day not listed on the school`s annual calendar; parent-teacher conference week where children are released at 11:30am for that week; days where your child needs to wear a certain uniform or article of clothing; etc.)
  • Keep your Yochien instructions and rules book handy as you will have to refer to it throughout the year.
  • Get organized. Translate important notices into English and store them into labeled folders. You can use these as reference in the subsequent years at yochien. Keep a large wall calendar noting `special days` (e.g. PTA meetings, uniform changes, half days, `special` holidays, uniform change days and school events).
  • Be prepared to attend numerous meetings and school events the first couple months.
  • jpn kindergarten PTAAttend PTA meetings. Attendance is required at my son`s school (2 – 3 times/month) even if you have an infant (a mother attended with her 6 week old). They usually last about 2 hours depending on the number of mothers willing to volunteer for `tasks`. Every mother has to volunteer for something. If you miss a meeting or fail to volunteer for a task one will be assigned to you.


  • jpn kindergarten obentoMaking obentos. Use leftovers from the previous dinner and pack the food in tight. If you cook the obento early in the morning let the food cool before placing the obento lid on top to prevent spoilage. Use an icepack in summer and make the obento look `colorful`. Rumor has it that you will get a `notice` if your obento doesn`t meet the school standard. This has not happened to me – yet.
    *This site has helped me tremendously
  • Purchase a pair of slippers/indoor shoes and a shoe bag. You will need this every time you attend a school event held indoors.
  • Purchase a security badge carrier, one that goes around your neck, and keep it handy. You need it to pick up your child. Every yochien parent has one from a cheap 200 yen carrier all the way to a 5000+ yen leather carrier. I`ve even seen a handful of mothers with diamond encrusted leather badge carriers.
  • jpn kindergarten school mtgIn addition to the daily cleaning of your child`s uniform, drinking cup and obento utensils is the weekly cleaning of your child`s indoor shoes (this is a first for me) and bags.
  • Lastly, attend as many meetings outside the PTA meetings as you can. This is a great way to get-to-know the mothers in your child`s class. Some may even speak a little English.



P.S. Take a look at our `Education in Japan` archives for additional information on Japanese Kindergarten, Parenting Groups and Resources. Moving to Japan? Read our Guides on making your move an easier one; from the Best English Speaking Doctors to the Top Japan APPs for Expats and Tourists.


Surviving Japanese Kindergarten (Yochien)

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