Child Care and Pre-school Education

Understand the choices you have for childcare and pre-school education in Japan...

Pre-school education is not compulsory; however, there is great demand for nursery school places. Schooling is only compulsory for children who are between six and 15 years of age.

There are both public and private day care centres and kindergartens; they are intended specifically for working parents. They are open all day and provide lunch.

Day care (Hoiku-en)

Nursery day care is administrated by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. There are different types of day care available to parents, while fees are based mostly on family income with some help from local government.

Day care is usually available for parents who are both working or who cannot take care of their children for health reasons. They are open for eight to 12 hours per day for children from birth until they go to elementary school. Parents should apply to their local government office.

Kindergarten (Youchi-en)

Kindergartens are administrated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Both public and private kindergartens are available. They are usually open for shorter hours than nurseries, and take children from the age of three until they start elementary school.

Japanese kindergartens have the same schedule as the school year, which is from 1 April until 31 March of the following year. Applications must be made in the October of the year before the child is to start kindergarten, and should be made at the kindergarten itself. Although attendance at kindergarten is not compulsory, places may be hard to find.

Fees are based on family income, but private kindergartens usually cost about three times as much as public ones.

Private kindergartens have become very popular, and they will not accept more than the maximum number of children allowed. They also hold entrance examinations.

Nannies, au pairs and babysitters

It is not usual to employ a nanny, au pair or babysitter, since parents and extended family usually take care of children. Babysitting services may be difficult to find, although babysitting and childcare agencies can be found in large cities. Teaching assistants at schools may be available for babysitting work.