7National holidays New Year's Day: January 1 Coming of Age Day: January 15 (for those 20 years old)Foundation Day: February 11 (founding of Japanese State)Vernal Equinox: March 21Keep Japan Green Day: April 29 (remember Emperor Showa)Constitution Day: May 3 (celebrate Japan's constitution)Children's Day: May 5Respect for the Aged: September 15Autumn Equinox: September 24Health Sports Day: October 10Culture Day: November 3 (celebrate Japan's heritage)Labor-Thanksgiving Day: November 23Emperor's Birthday: December 23
9Education in Japan Grade Educational establishments AgeGradeEducational establishments3-4Kindergarten (幼稚園 Yōchien)Special school (特別支援学校 Tokubetsu-shien gakkō)4-55-66-71Elementary school (小学校 Shōgakkō) Compulsory Education7-828-939-10410-11511-12612-13Junior high school / Lower secondary school (中学校 chūgakkō) Compulsory Education13-1414-1515-16High school / Upper secondary school (高等学校 kōtōgakkō, abbr. 高校 kōkō)College of technology (高専 kōsen)16-1717-18
10School Calendar: April 1 – March 31 Example: Takashima High School (Tokyo, Japan) 2009:April 6 Opening CeremonyApril 9 Welcome PartyApril Health ExaminationMay MidtermsJune 4 Sports FestivalJuly 1-6 Final ExaminationsJuly 7 Proficiency TestJuly 17 Closing CeremonyJuly-August Summer CampSeptember 1 Opening CeremonyOctober MidtermsNovember School TripsDecember 7-10 Final ExaminationsFebruary 19 Proficiency TestsMarch 2-5 End of Year ExamsMarch 8-9 Ball GamesMarch 13 Graduation CeremonyMarch 25 Convocation Graduation Ceremony for new studentsSchool calendar: For most elementary, junior high, and high schools, the school year in Japan begins on April 1 and is divided into three terms: April to July, September to December, and January to March.Some schools follow a two-term schedule. The gradual transition from a six-day school week to a five-day week was completed in Many private schools, however, continued to hold Saturday classes, and in recent years some public high schools have obtained special permission to reintroduce Saturday classes to give them more time to cover the necessary subjects.
11Introduction and Greeting おはよう/おはようございます。Good morning/Good morning sir/miss.わたしのなまえは_____です。My name is _____.こうこう___ねんせいです。I am in the __th grade.しゅみは_____です。My hobby is to _____.
12Life of a High School Student - In the case of Yu MizushimaFrom the Japan Forum.
13Hi! I’m Mizushima YuI live in Yokohama in Kanagawa prefecture. I'm sixteen years old. In second year at Prefectural Tsurumi High School, I belong to the photography club. I love taking pictures, especially of people. When I'm carrying a camera I can strike up conversation with people I might not usually approach. I've found taking photo-graphs can be a means for establishing communication with all kinds of people. In the future I want to become a journalist good at both writing and photography.
14Growing up Photo album made by Yu in the first grade [Top] several months[Middle] 4 years[Bottom] 6 yearsThis is a photo album I made when I was a first grader. The comments in the pink balloons are by my mother. [Top] Not yet one year old. Yu: "I turned over for the first time. I looked very pleased with myself. I did it right!" Mother: "You often had heat rash, so I bathed you frequently." [Center] Four years old. Yu: "It was Hinamatsuri (Doll's Day). I became a big sister." Mother: "After your sister Mamiko was born, you suddenly became more independent and began to help me often." [Bottom] Six years old. Yu: "This is a picture of me and my friends on the day of the elementary school entrance ceremony. I am old enough to go to school. I was looking forward to that day very much. I guess I got bigger." Mother: "You love school and you go out the door early in the morning full of energy. I can concentrate on the housework and the laundry without worrying about you. I hope you make lots of lovely friends."
15Taking picturesOn weekends and holidays, I and other photography club members go out to take pictures about twice a month. We plan together where to go, often choosing places where people are likely to gather. Sometimes we go to photograph graduates of our school who are engaged in some interesting work or activity, or to take nightscapes. [Left] Taking pictures of the Minato Mirai 21 area, a landmark in Yokohama right on the bay. [Right] Some of my favorites among the photographs I've taken. I love to take pictures of people more than anything else. Skyscapes are interesting, too, with their constantly changing cloud patterns and colors.
16Things I like and treasure [Left] My mother gave me the stuffed rabbit to keep me company when I didn't want to go to kindergarten. I call it "Usako" and I still take good care of it. I really love the cute pose of this little bear. I always have him hold my lip cream. [Top right] This is a book of tanka verse. I like contemporary tanka verse, haiku, and other forms of poetry. They can describe our deepest feelings in a few lines. To me it's wonderful that you can express exactly what you are thinking in only a few short, beautiful words. I also read all sorts of things--novels, essays, magazines, managa, and newspapers. I like books, magazines, and newspapers because they make all kinds of information and ideas so easily accessible. [Bottom center] I also like the corridors of the school building early in the morning, when no one else is there. It's so quiet I can hear my heart beating. [Bottom right] I love our school library. The sunlight streams in, making it warm and pleasant.
17My FamilyThis is my family: the four of us sitting formal style in front of the tokonoma (alcove) in our tatami-style sitting room. (From left) Mother, Toshiko, early 40s Father, Haruyoshi, 50 Myself Sister, Mamiko, 11
18My fatherMy father works at a big transport company. He has a very busy schedule and is often away from home. On weekdays, he usually gets home around eight at night. So the rest of us usually eat supper first. Other than brief exchanges in passing while he is eating his late supper or before he goes off to work in the morning, we don't have much chance to talk except on the weekends. I hear from my friends that a lot of fathers spend their weekends just lounging around at home, but mine is not that type. He is very active. He has a hobby of making pottery and has kept it up for over twenty years. There was a time, I have to admit, when I did not like my father very much. That's probably because I didn't know him very well. He was always busy and we barely had time to talk. When I finally understood his gentle side, I came to love him very much. He doesn't interfere in my affairs more than necessary. That's another thing that is good about him!
19My motherMy mother is a full-time housewife. She was an office worker when she was young. She told me that her hobby was once photography. She loves to talk and is always cheerful and active. She's an action-oriented person. Right now, she helps compile the PTA bulletin at my school and is involved in volunteer activities related to the environment. I admire my mother because she is smart, thinks for herself, and acts according to plans of her own making. I often consult her about my relationships with friends, and she gives me sound advice each time. Since I was little she has treated me as an independent person. She never gets emotional and says unreasonable things. I think I have been greatly influenced by her. On the other hand, when she gets mad, she can be fearsome. She scolds me for being sloppy around the house and not taking my studies more seriously. If I talk back without making sense, she doesn't accept it. She is quick to point out where I am contradicting myself. At times like that, my mother is really impressive. I know where I stand.
20My sisterMamiko is in sixth grade. Unlike me, she is rather quiet. She's a thoughtful person who doesn't say much. Every once in a while she says things that are very perceptive and wise. She's strong willed and doesn't like to compromise. There's an air of mystery about her. She is interested in living things, especially reptiles and deep sea marine life. She likes watching TV programs on animals. She also likes video games. We have our study desks in the same room, and we often chat about such things as our favorite TV shows.
21Photography club friends [Top left] The members of the photography club have very strong bonds, but they're different from the ties between ordinary friends. We are more like "comrades," all with a common objective. Most of the time we fool around and have a good time, but as soon as we start working on our photography, we get dead serious. We trust each other, so we exchange opinions frankly and openly. With the teacher who is our club advisor, with upperclassmen, and with our peers, we can talk on equal terms and say what we are thinking. Everyone is so frank we sometimes even get into heated arguments. At such times if we all try to assert our own opinions, we find it's pretty difficult to reach a consensus. But everyone tries hard to get across what they think. [Top right] Mio-san is one of the third-year members of the photography club. She once modeled for photographs I took. She's not the kind to be swayed by what's going on around her, but carries on at her own pace. She is cheerful, full of energy, and knows what she wants. She is one of the people I most admire. [Bottom left] Miura is a second-year student, like me. She's got some idiosyncrasies, but is kind and trustworthy. She is good at dealing with the first-year students, and keeps us on good terms with them. You can consult her about the future and anything you're worried about. [Bottom right] Hamana (second from right) is head of the photography club. He and I are in the same class. He is a kind and gentle guy. I'm always impressed because he does his best to take care of everyone's needs. He's a reliable leader.
22Classmates[Top left] We talk about all sorts of things, like movies and TV shows we recently watched, fashion, music, school, and classes. Often it's just idle chatter, but that's how we like it. Lately, we talk more and more about our studies and the entrance exams. Most of my friends have cell phones, so we send messages back and forth a lot while we study. This actually makes you want to study even harder so as not to get left behind. [Top right] Nat-chan (left) and I have been in the same class since first year, and we are best friends. She's a warm and gentle person, and when I am around her I feel gentle too. She's always ready to listen and give advice when I am in trouble or worrying about something. Aki (right) is very sociable and has many friends. She is cheerful, talkative, and good at cracking jokes. But at the same time, she pays attention to what's going on and is considerate of others. [Bottom] Always saying something funny, Asuka makes everyone laugh. Not only that, but she's kind, attentive, and gentle.
23My town: Yokohama [Top] Minato Mirai 21 area [Center L] Kannai Dist. Center of municipal govt. offices[Center R] Yokohama China Town[Bottom L] West exit Yokohama Station[Bottom R] National Hwy #1 running through[Top] This is the Minato Mirai 21 area, one of my favorite landscapes of Yokohama. I like the atmosphere of modernity of this cluster of new buildings. This is a place that is sure to go on developing and changing. [Center left] This is part of the Kannai district, another of my favorite areas, a center of municipal government offices. With many old Western-style structures built from the Meiji era ( ) to the early part of the Showa era ( ), it gives you a feel for the atmosphere of those days. [Center right] Yokohama's Chukagai (China Town) is full of Chinese restaurants and stores selling ingredients for Chinese cooking. [Bottom left] Shopping street at the west exit of the Yokohama railway station. [Bottom right] The cross-country highway passing through here, very close to Tsurumi High School, is National Highway No.1. It's full of trucks. Yokohama is at the core of the Keihin (Tokyo-Yokohama) industrial belt.
24Getting up at six Room: 2nd floor Gets up at 6:00 am Futon Amado My room is on the second floor of our house. I get up around 6:00 in the morning. Before going to bed, I set my radio timer so that it will go on with a program on the local radio station "FM Yokohama" the next morning. My mother rings me on the intercom from downstairs to make sure I am awake. I always close the amado (shutters) before going to bed. In the summer my mother comes in to open the amado before the room gets too hot. I'm more or less the early bird type. It's nice weather today, so it feels lovely.
25Having breakfastThe first thing I do in the morning is eat breakfast. Morning is always busy in our house, so we all eat separately. I'm always the first one, eating while my mother is making my obento (box lunch). For breakfast we usually have toast, except for my father, who prefers a breakfast with rice or mochi (pounded glutinous rice). Other than that we eat the same side dishes. Today's menu is toast, eggs sunny-side up, sauteed green peppers, grapes, and vegetable juice. My mother decides what to serve, keeping in mind what we need to keep healthy. Some of my friends don't eat anything in the morning, but I wouldn't be able to stand the hunger until lunch time without getting a healthy breakfast.
26Washing my faceAfter I eat breakfast, I get ready for school. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and put in my contact lenses. Lately I've noticed the pimples on my face. I worry over them when I wash my face. I'm happy when I don't find any. I also feel very lucky when my hair is not sticking out this way and that. My hair is unruly and hard to tame. Right now, I'm thinking of growing my hair down to my shoulders. I want to cut my front bangs, though. I've noticed that they're getting pretty long. Now I have to find a good beauty parlor.
27Putting on my school uniform Summer and Winter ensemblesLoose-socksGlancing at the clock so as not to be late, I change into my school uniform. At Tsurumi High School we have summer and winter ensembles, and we wear certain items of the uniform when the weather is changing in the spring and fall. I like our simply designed uniforms a lot. I wear the same kind of baggy socks (called loose-socks) that almost all of the other girls do. Many wear them for fashion, but for me it's a disguise I wear just for school. I put them on to get my mind ready to go to school and I feel relieved when I can take them off at home. I fold up my futon (bedding), put lotion on my face, brush my hair, pick up my bag, and out I go.
28Leaving home for school “Itte Kimasu!”GenkanBy the time I am all ready and go downstairs, my mother has already prepared my obento (box lunch) to take to school. I put it into my bag, then call out "Itte kimasu" (I'm going out!) to my mother and go out the door. My father leaves about five minutes earlier. My sister, Mamiko, is still in the house getting ready for school. Having finished all her morning chores, my mother reads a newspaper or sits down for a cup of tea. On the sideboard in the entrance hall are ceramic pieces. They are the product of my father's hobby.
29Changing my shoesI arrive at school after 7:30, quite a bit before homeroom begins (8:40). At this hour hardly anybody is there yet. I've been coming to school like this since my first year. I go early because it gives me a chance to talk with my friends and Tanabe-sensei (my homeroom teacher in the first year), who also come in early. Upon arriving at school, we change into our uwabaki (indoor shoes) at the entrance, where each of us has a locker for our footwear.
30Chatting with Tanabe sensei This morning I went to talk with Tanabe-sensei. He teaches us music. The part of the music room where he has his office is very comfortable. We can drink tea and sit on the sofa. There are always a lot of students who come in to talk, especially at lunch time. Tanabe-sensei was my homeroom teacher in first year. Even though he is not my homeroom teacher any more, he is very helpful when I consult him about things like what I should do after graduation. From the time I was little, I've enjoyed talking to grown-ups almost more than friends my own age. Of course, I sometimes go to friends' classrooms and enjoy a leisurely chit-chat with them.
31HomeroomHomeroom starts at 8:40. A lot of students arrive just in time for the bell. A few students come in late, like today, too. Our homeroom teacher, Ato-sensei, makes daily announcements about things like changes in the class schedule or special events. I feel guilty, but I can't help going on talking with my friends even after he starts speaking, for this is the first period where I meet them. Ato-sensei is a chemistry teacher. Because we second-year students don't take chemistry, I haven't had him in class, but he is really nice and easygoing.
32World HistoryWorld history is my favorite subject. In kindergarten, I remember reading a picture book called Nihon no rekishi [Japanese History]. It showed different people's ways of life, people doing farm work, feeding horses, or practicing with the sword. I got interested in how people lived in each era and what they were thinking about. It's people who move history. Rather than just memorizing the dates of historical events, like the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), I'd rather spend time thinking about how people lived at the time those events were going on. To me the way people live is fascinating.
33Practicing moves in P.E.My homeroom class has physical education together with the homeroom class next door. We can choose our subject for each term. I took soccer for the first term. For the second term I picked judo from the choice of dance, judo, or kendo (Japanese fencing), not because I was really interested in martial arts, but because I thought that knowing something about self-defense might come in handy some day. Today is our second lesson. We're going to practice ukemi (safe ways of taking falls). At the teacher's signal, we all roll over together. Other than swimming or track-and-field, I'm not that good at athletics.
34Eating obentoWe have 40 minutes for lunch hour from 12:40 to 1:20. I usually eat with a group of about seven friends. I bring an obento (box lunch), but some of my friends buy sandwiches or pastries at the school shop. While we're eating, we chat about all kinds of things--stories about the television we watched the day before, gossip about friends' romances, sour grapes about getting scolded during class--it's endless. Lately, we are all excited about the upcoming school festival in October. Our class is going to sponsor a shop to sell tonjiru (a kind of miso soup with pork and vegetables). I'm really looking forward to the festival. Sometimes we suddenly realize we haven't done our homework for an afternoon class and quickly dash it off during lunch hour. The time always flies and recess is over before we know it.
35EnglishThis is English II class, which focuses on grammar. We also have another class that concentrates on English writing. Today I was asked to write a translation on the board. I had it almost perfect, but when I translated a sentence about what they call Elizabeth for short, I made the mistake of writing "Lise," for "Liz." I think English is a very important subject. It's an important subject for the university entrance exams and will be a big help in whatever career I choose. I study every day even at home, and not just to get good school grades. I want to be able to really use my English some day.
36Cleaning up the classroom When all the classes for the day are over, we have afternoon homeroom. After that, we go home, or go straight to our club gatherings, or if you are on duty for clean up, you have to stay and do it. We first pull the desks and chairs to the back of the room and then sweep the classroom floor. We all put our chairs on the desks before leaving the room. The class is divided into teams that take turns with clean-up duty. Duty comes around about twice a month. Besides our classroom we also clean the chemistry room and the toilets. We're eager to get this work out of the way, so we finish it fast, in about 15 minutes.
37Developing picturesAfter classes, I usually go to photography club. The club room is located on the second floor of a prefab structure in the corner of the playground. It has a dark room, where we do the developing and printing. It's such a tiny room that it gets full with only about 4 people. Because of that, we use a bigger classroom (like the biology classroom) for our club meetings. I get our club advisor, Kato-sensei, and the upperclassmen to comment on my photos. Kato-sensei is an English teacher but his photographs are very professional and he always gives me helpful advice.
38Stopping by at a convenience store On the way home, I sometimes stop by a konbini (convenience store), where you can look through the magazines without having to buy them. I have a look mainly at fashion magazines to check out articles on clothes, hairstyles, and variety goods. I buy the magazines that I really want to read every month and just flip through others that seem somewhat interesting while standing in the store.
39Taking a piano lessonI study piano every Tuesday evening at a piano school not far from my house. I've been practicing there ever since I was in elementary school. Each lesson is 30 minutes long. My teacher now is like a big sister, so I often talk to her about my plans for the future. I go to this school not so much because I want to be able to play the piano well as because I enjoy talking with the teacher. I hardly play at all at home. The regular practice pieces are rather tiresome. But I love playing all kinds of melodies and freely improvising on my own.
40Dinner timeI'm back home at around 7:30 after my piano lesson. When I don't have piano lessons and I'm not so busy with club, I usually get home around six. I can smell the dinner my mother is making as soon as I open the front door. I say "Tada ima" (I'm home!) to my mother and sister, Mamiko, go upstairs to change from my school uniform back to my regular clothes, then go downstairs for supper. Since my father doesn't get back until about eight o'clock, the three of us go ahead and eat. Tonight we're having grilled salted salmon, nikujaga (a boiled meat and potato dish), miso soup with giant radish and egg, and boiled rice flavored with millet. The miso soup with giant radish and egg is Mamiko's favorite. We talk about the day while we eat. Usually it's my mother and I who do most of the talking; my sister is a listener. After dinner, we linger in the living room to watch TV or talk while we have fruit or tea. We enjoy these family times together.
41Cleaning the bathtubI'm in charge of cleaning the bathtub. I take care of this chore during the commercials while we are watching TV after dinner. All I do is scrub the bathtub with a sponge and wash it down with water. My allowance was increased recently by 1,000 yen because of my steady work in cleaning the bathtub. My allowance is 5,000 yen a month. That still makes it pretty tight for me, what with the high price of film and development materials. I use my savings or ask my mother for extra cash when I want to buy new clothes.
42StudyingAfter watching television, I go upstairs to study. I do my homework and review the day's classes, though I rarely do much to prepare for upcoming classes. I do study English every day without fail. Right now, I am trying to translate an English text into Japanese with the help of the dictionary. I always decide from what page to what page in my textbooks and study guides I will study before I begin. When my concentration starts to fade, I go take a bath for a change of mood.
43RelaxingBefore falling asleep, I listen to music or read a book to relax. I don't have any particular favorite singers or writers. I buy CDs containing songs I think are nice, as well as books that seem interesting. The singer I'm listening to now is Utada Hikaru, who is around the same age as I am. She is very popular. I hear her debut CD album sold more than 7 million copies.
44Going to sleepI usually go to sleep around 11:00. I set my radio to come on as a wake-up and snuggle into my futon (bedding). I try to think happy thoughts, like what I did best during that day, or what I'm hoping will be even better tomorrow. I not only wake up easily, but fall asleep quickly. I'm deep asleep almost as soon as I hit the futon.