* Japanese school : activities

Japanese School: Activities

Figure 1.--Here we see Japanese primary chioldren walking to school in the morning during 2005. Notice the matching soft hats and blazers. Most Japanese primary children walk to school. Japan is a very densly populated country and most primary children live within walking distance of their school.

We note school wear at Japanese schools for a range of school activities. Here we including coming and going to school as well as classroom wear. Children of course take off their caps and their jackets for class. We assume the same was true for blazers in the schools that had them. Primary children also take off their shoes. We are less sure about secondary students. There are also specialized classes, school trips as well as a range of other activities. The most destinctive clothes are of course for gym, but schoolwear also varied depended on other activities at the school.

Coming and Going to School

Japan is a highly urbanized country. Most children live in cities. Primary schools are dotted all over the cities. The children in primary school mostly walk to school. Some primary children take public transportation such as busses and subways. This is more common at the secondary level. School buses are not very common, except at private schools. Parents do not commonly drive the children to school as in America. Primary children because they walk to school often wear brightly colored caps as a saftey measure. This is the case at both schools with and without uniforms.


We are collecting images of Japanese classrooms and classroom activities which provide a range of insights on Japanese education. The arrangement od the classroon and the classroom furniture all provides interesting information. Many of the classroom activities are the same as in classrooms in other countries, but there are some activities unique to Japaan or schools in north Asia. The relationship between the children and the teachers can be seen in some of these images. One interesting aspect of Japanese schools is the important role children playing in in maintaining the classrooms and school in general clean. Children of course take off their caps and their jackets for class. We assume the same was true for blazers in the schools that had them. Primary children also take off their shoes. We are less sure about secondary students.

Cleaning the School

Japanese schools do no rely on janitors like American and European schools. The children themselves take responsibility for keeping their school clean. The children not only pick up litter and kepp their classeooms neat and tidy, but theu also sweep and scrubs the floors. Not only does this keep Japanese schools clean but the children become responsible about their schools. Litter is never a problem at a Japanese school. I am not enrirely sure just how the Japanese schools do this. I believe that cleaning time is normally set aside each day at a Japanese school. I know this is dione in primary schools. I'm less sure about secondary schools.


We do not know a great deal about dance in Japanese schools. We note Japanese children who look to be performing some kind od tradituonal Japanese dance. Perhaps this is part of some kind of celebration. We do not notice any kind of social or Western dance. Our informastion on dance in Japanese schools, however is very limited.


We do not know a great deal about the role that music plays in Japanese schools. Nor we do know much about the type of music persued at the schools. The class here is a music class in a primary school (figure 1). We do note that some schools have choirs. We also note appear to be some school bands. Of course te size of the school is a factor. We also believe that private schools often gave more attention to music than public schools.


Recess can be an important part of school. It gives the children a chance to unwind after a morning of inensive study. Japanese schools have playgrounds and the children, like children in other countries, enjoy their playground sessions. We have feww details about recess activities. We note playground equipment which the children use. We assume recess time is unstructured, but we are unsure about that. Recess in America is normally about 15-20 minutes. We are unsure about the time frame in Japanese schools.

Gym and Sports

We do not know a great deal about the role of sports in Japan. We do note that that schools seem to have important gym programs. We do not now a great deal, however, as to what the program in gym classes consists of. We get the impressin that calestheics and drill is or at least was a major part of the program. Hopefully Japanese reades will tell us more about the gym program. We do note sports day at Japanese schools. There seem to be, however, very little emphasis on inter-scholastic sports cpntests between different schools. Americans may think this unusual, but it is actually the more common pattern among schools around the wirld. The most destinctive clothes are of course for gym, but schoolwear also varied depended on other activities at the school.

Wide Games

We do not know called in Japan. The term in the West is 'wide games'. They were popular in Scouting and summer camping. They were a kind of mock combat, but in Scouting the level of actual contact was strictly limited. We have no information about the late-19th century when the Japanese school system was founded, but we see wide games in the early-20th century which appear to involve a fair degree of violence, virtual fighting among the boys. This seems similar to the Hitler Youth in Germany where these wide games did involve fighting among the boys. But in Japan we do not notice it with camp activities, but as part as normal activities at primary school. It i not clear if this was som part of recess, PE or some kind ofspecial event. R We notice this well before the military negan to intervene so strongly in civilan life (1920s-30s). We are not sure to what extent these violent games were adooted from the West or if there was some traditional basis for them. Nor do we knowif the level of violence was a military influence or something countenced by a completed civiln educational establishment. We know that beginning in the 1920s thatvthe military began taking an increasing interest in the schools. We are not sure, however, about the early1900s. What we do know is that not country had so fully prepared their young men for war than Japan, even beyonf that of the NAZIs. This was all discontinued after the war, at least the levl of violence associated with the games.


Drill was a very common part of European and American education in the 19th and early-20th century. This primarily consisted of marching and learming marching moves. It waa adopted primarily because it taught discipline. It was mote common for boys than girls. Japan after the Meiji Resoration established a national educational systen for the first time and used European models for their new system. The physical educational (PE) program as designed by the new Ministry of Education (MoE) at first involved light gymnastics, but over time, drill and evebtually overt military training became part of the phyical education system. The first PE program designed by the MoE was light gymnastics (1878). The primary purpose of the PE program was to promote health. The Moe made PE a required subject and adopted military gymnastics (1886). The MoE reorganized the PE and adopted military drill (early 20th century). The MoE gradually turned to military personnel for PE instructors. During the Taisho era (1912-26) about 50 percent of school PE teachers were military personnel. Schools began assigning military officers secondary and teriiary schools to teach military drill. This included both marching and military exercises. The military began to see school PE as preparing students for subsequent military training. [Okuma] At the end of World War II this was extended to preparuing children to participate in resisting an anticipated American invasion. After World War II, military drill was eliminated and PE became oriented toward gymnastics and sports.


Japan is not a very religious country. Shintoism was the state religion, but this changed with the post-war constitution. There is also a Buddhist tradition and a small Christian minority. We note a range of popular ceremonies. Young children are dressed in traditional clothing for ceremonies at important shrines. I am not sure to what extent religious celebrations are allowed in state schools. There are private schools with Buddhist and Christian associations. We do not know of schools with Shinto associations, but our understanding of the religious situation is very limited.


Japanese primary children normally eath their lunch in their classrooms. Traditionally they brought a lunch prepared by mother to school. We note children being served lunch at school schools, we think mosly after World War II. Some schools now may have a cafeteria. We are not sure about that. Secondary children also used to bring a lunh to school. We are less sure about the situation at these schools today. Some secondary schools are quite large. We suspect that many now have cafeterias, but we have little information.


Japanese etiquitte is more formal than in America and there re a range of sutleties and nuances. This is porimarily taught at home. Prents teach children to have good manners and respect for others before they begin school. We notice classes in etiquitte at school. We believe this is a reltivly recent inovation, the schools beginning to do something that was formnally taught primarily at home. We are not sure how common etiquitte lessons are. They may be more common in private schools. We believe this is primarily, if not entirely, a primary school activity, but we are not yet sure about that. Japanese children eat lunch at school and this is a good opportunity to teach etiquitte. We believe that lunch is commonly eaten in the classroom rather than in a cafereria which is not common in primary schools. Notice that we rarely see Jpabese children carrying lunch boxes to school, although we are not entirely sure what is iun heir back satchels. Again we We are less sure about wether there are cafeterias at secondary schools. The Japanese use hand towels to clean hands before eating. We notice the etiquitte at one orinary school where the children neatly tuck red hand towells into their waistbands. The children re tught to say "Itadakimasu" (頂きます) before beginning to eat. This literally means "I humbly receive this meal." It is said much like like "Bon appetit" in the West. But the Japanese ALWAYS say it and not just on special occasions. One very important rule is eat slowly, bit by bit. It is impolite to eat the entire contents of a dish or bowl at once. The children are taught to eat a little bit of each dish at a time. Interestingly, slurping is not a taboo. It is quite acceptable both to bring a soup bowl up to your mouth when eating. And th diner is even encouraged to slurp while consumin noodles. There are also a range of rules when eatting chopsticks.


Classes may have parties. This is normally done on scpecial days to celebrate holidays, much like American schools may have Christmas parties. We do not have much information yet on parties in Japanese schools, although surely there may be treats to eat. This is most common in elementary schools. Enterprising teachers may also organize parties as a learning experience. This may be done by foreign language teachers as a leaning experience for the language being studied--most commonly English. Perhaps Japanese readers will know more about such parties.

Field Trips

Field trips are popular activities in Japanese schools. Japan has an excellent transportation system which makes such trips relatively easy. Within the cities the subways are commonly used. The schools also used chartered busses. School busses as in America seem less common. Some of the popular attractions seem to be museums and histirical temples and shires. The children seem to be very orderly in these trips. Commonly the children wear brightly colored caps so they stand out in traffic and the teachers can keep track of their group. This is especially important for the schools that do not have uniforms.


We notice Japanese students, especially secondary students, involved in labor. We know that this occurred during World War II. Students worked both in facories and on farms. As far as we know, workibg in factories was restricted to the World War II emergency. Able-body men were drafted for war service. Japan since 1937 had been fighting a war in China and the bulk of the Army was deployed there. China of course had a much larger population, but had a poorly equipped and trained military. The Japanese were able top occupy the coasyal areas, but were unable to defeat the Chinese who withdrew into the interior. Thus the War went in and on despite major Japanese victories. Japan also needed to deploy a substantial force in Manchuria to defend the province from possible Soviet attack. A major engagement was fouught with tthe Soviets (1939). This proved to be an endless conflict. The Japanese attack on Pear Harbor was in large measure the result of American support for China. After declaring war in America and Britain, substantial forces were deployed in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, the Dutch East Asia, and enumeral Pacific island garisons. This affected both industrial and agicultural production. Thus students were mobilized to fill the labor shortage. Available images are often undated. We think virtually all of the factory photographs taken in factories are World War II images. The rural images are also probably taken in World War II, but we are not positive.


The Japanese have a penchent for cleanliness. This was true even in the medieval period when Europeans considered bathing unhealthy. The traditional Japanese bath is a furo or ofuro. A major difference with Western bathing is that the bather does not contaminate the bath with soap. Soap is used outside the bath before bathing. Thus the Japanese bath municipal or school bath is somewht akin to a small heated swiming pool. This I think was a family more than a school activity. Here we hope our Japanese readers will provide more information on this. Before World War II, most people did not have home baths and went to municipal facilities. After World War II and the huge expansion of the economy which began in the 1950s, people began installing home baths. We are less sure about school baths, but we think that with increasing prpsperity that some schools added baths. We note a school bath at a Catholic school in the 1980s. Some schools may have used municipal facilities. We also note school groups on trips taking baths.


We notice some images of school processions, including processions in the street. By this we mean the children all lined up and marching or more commonly walking as a group. Sometimes this is a class group or some selected group. The whole school is more difficult, especialy primaay schools as the that includes some quite young children. We know that they are school activities of some sort because the children are wearing their school uniuforms. The processions at school are often fairly easy to figure out. Less clear is what the street processions are all about. One would guess some sort of municipal celebration. Perhaps our Japanese readers will be able to tell us somethibng about these processions.


Okuma Hiroaki. "The significance of adopting the military gymnastics and drill at the formation and reorganization of physical education system, especially in the Meiji and Taisho Era," Bulletin of Institute of Health and Sports Sciences Vol. XXIV, pp. 57-70 (2001). (University of Tsukuba, Institute of Health and Sport Science.)


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Created: 9:23 PM 11/6/2004
Last updated: 6:16 AM 11/22/2017