Many of us have watched countless dramas and anime on the fun lives led by Japanese High School students, but how true are these shows in depicting an actual high school in Japan?

Well, for starters, there are no “Host Clubs” in high schools.

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Corridor leading to the genkan (玄関) where everyone changes their outdoor shoes to indoor shoes.

Teachers have to be in the staff room for a morning meeting held promptly at 8.15 am every morning. But fortunately for the students, they don’t have to arrive at school until 8.40 am when the first bell rings!

For the next 10 minutes, busy homeroom teachers will check attendance and update the class on the days’ matters — attire check, visit from an important guest, upcoming tests, and such. For most groggy-eyed students, this is usually when they sneak a bite or two of their unfinished breakfast.

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Typical staff room of a Japanese High School – messy desks of busy teachers.

At 8.50 am, the bell rings. Teachers scuttle to their different classroom with stacks of freshly printed handouts, while students finish the last bits of their breakfast.

Each class lasts 50 minutes and there is a 10-minute break after every class. Students are expected to stay in their classrooms and clean up the used chalkboard during this break, but you will more likely find students littered across the corridor and chalkboards uncleaned until the next teacher arrives.

By the fourth period at around 11.50 pm, students start sneaking out their lunchboxes and munching on their lunches, even though lunch break doesn’t start until 12.40 pm.

Japanese High Schools typically do not have cafeterias nor do they have school lunches (kyushoku 給食) prepared, so they all bring a small boxed-lunch nicely prepared by their parents.

As lunch is eaten in classrooms, teachers entering the classroom for the 5th period at 1.25 pm will be welcomed by the mouth-watering scent of a mix of different lunch boxes. Without fans in most classrooms, the smell typically lingers for a long while.

There are 6 periods in a day, and classes end at 3.15 pm on most days. After the bell rings to signal the end of the last period, students start to clean up their classroom by wiping the chalkboard, sweeping the floors, and emptying the dustbin.

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Different types of bins located in a school.

Each day, a new group of student is placed in charge of the overall bin, and helps in washing the PET bottles and cans for recycling while sorting out other burnable garbage from the un-burnables.

For most students though, the day does not end until 6.00 pm. Club activities take place almost every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, so students are pretty much never away from school. Club activities can range from mountain biking and skiing, to journalism, broadcasting and art.

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Japanese students enjoying their Sports Festival!

So, how is a Japanese student’s high school life different from yours?

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1 COMMENT

  1. In South Africa much is the same, yet different. For starters, school begins an hour earlier (7:40) and ends at 2:00 pm normally. Lunches are also mostly packed by parents (or kids themselves), or purchased from a tuckshop. Boarding schools may have cafeterias. 🙂 Some kids don’t even bring lunch.
    Lessons are 40-50 minutes without breaks inbetween, except for kids to move between classes if necessary (this creates corridor traffic! In south Africa, corridors are mostly outside & open). Teachers clean the boards and kids don’t have many duties unless it is for detention or as a prefect. 🙂
    Lunch breaks are normally around 10am and midday, for 15-20 minutes, where kids are kicked out of the classroom and generally form little huddles in the courtyards, corridors, or fields where the latest topics are discussed about crushes, teachers, trends or just nonsense…
    After school, in some institutions, a sport or activity is compulsory – but in most institutions extra mural activities are not compulsory and so the kids are free to leave the property and go home or wherever they need to. 🙂
    Its a system that possibly has unrealised potential.

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