12 Ways Japanese High School Is Different

I‘ve been going to a Japanese high school for almost a year now. And throughout this year I noticed how in many ways Japanese high school is different from my Swiss one. I find those differences very interesting and my Swiss friends also always want to know more. That‘s why in this blog post I‘m going to talk about 12 ways Japanese high school is different.

Table of Contents

1. Sleeping in Class

12 ways Japanese High School Is Different

In every Japanese High School class, there‘s at least one person sleeping. The first time I saw this I nervously looked around to see if anybody else had noticed. But nobody seemed to care. Even the teacher didn’t seem to care.

In Japanese High School students aren’t really involved in the class. It‘s mainly the teacher speaking all the time. That makes falling asleep fairly easy, as I can tell you from first-hand experience. Furthermore sleeping isn‘t prohibited so obviously students will take advantage of the time.

2. iPads

The school I am going to is an Apple Distinguished School. Before coming to this school, I thought that would mean that we wouldn’t use paper or textbooks and that everything would be digital. But when I finally came here I realised that I set my expectations a bit too high.

12 ways Japanese High School Is Different

But in reality, everybody uses their iPad to read manga. Or they watch music videos, scroll through Instagram or watch cooking videos. As did the girl next to me. She always looked at delicious recipes which made me quite hungry.

Some students even watched videos about how to slice up a fish…

Obviously I’m exaggerating. The students do use their iPads for more useful stuff, like making presentations, looking up stuff, etc. And I really think that it enhances the classroom experience.

3. School Uniforms

Japan is a group society. People shouldn’t stand out there. That’s also the main reason why they have to wear school uniforms.

But I find the school uniforms incredibly cool. Especially do I like the P.E. uniform. My name is even stitched into the shirt and shorts in Japanese letters. I found it so cool that I had to buy two more.

And wearing a school uniform every day has one advantage: I am now incredibly good at tying my necktie.

4. Japanese Classrooms

12 ways Japanese high school is different

Japanese classrooms pretty much all look the same. But you probably already knew that from anime or something like that.

And another thing which is different is that Japanese classes are huge. In my class there are 36 students (including me).

This is a Swiss classroom for comparison.

5. Small And Uncomfortable Chairs

12 ways Japanese High School Is Different

I could have included this in the last point about Japanese classrooms. But I had to make it a separate point.

Because I hate the chairs in Japanese High Schools. 

They are hard, small and simply uncomfortable to sit on for prolonged times.

And the desks are also extremely small. The desks we have in Switzerland are about twice the size of the ones here. But I find the storage space under the desk really useful.

6. Air Conditioning

In every classroom, there‘s an a/c unit because you can’t open the windows more than 30 centimetres. That‘s not really environmentally friendly but after an intense lesson of P.E., it just feels so good to enter the cool classroom.

My seat actually is right under the a/c unit which is good when it‘s hot outside. But often I find it way too cold.

7. The Closed Curtain

The view out of the window here is nice. And I often catch myself staring out of the window instead of paying attention to class.

That’s why in many Japanese High Schools you’ll find a curtain that won’t let you look outside. Many teachers insist on closing the curtain so that we can focus on class. But I think it decreases my performance and it has a really unnatural feel to it.

8. Rules

12 ways Japanese High school is different

The poster in the middle says: “We can become free because there are rules.”

Japanese High Schools can feel like a prison from time to time. There are rules about everything.

  • You can’t drink water during class
  • Your hair colour has to be black (they have a list of colours which are allowed)
  • As a male, you aren’t allowed to have long hair
  • Girls can’t wear black socks in P.E. because the shoes are white
  • No headphones on the whole campus
  • You aren’t allowed to borrow P.E. clothes from a friend if you forgot to bring yours

And those are just a few rules. I guess there are many more that I simply don’t know. 

Also, those rules extend beyond just school grounds. I got caught wearing AirPods while riding my bicycle to school four times. I still got caught when I took them off about a kilometre away from school…

9. Greetings

At the beginning and at the end of each class, we have to stand up and bow.

And somebody has to shout:

  1. 起立 kiritsu – Stand up
  2. 気をつけ ki o tsuke – Attention
  3. rei – Bow

I hear these words so many times every day.

10. Lunchbreak at a Japanese High School

I‘m always saying it and I‘m going to say it now: I love Japanese food. And because during lunchtime in Switzerland we can go to wherever we want to eat, I thought it would be the same here. So I was really looking forward to going to various restaurants with my new Japanese friends. But sadly that didn’t become a reality (Why People Are Slimmer In Japan)

You can‘t leave school before the school day is over. The exits are literally closed with gates. If you want to leave early you need to get a special permit signed from your teacher and the guy at the exit of the school. And when you arrive at home you have to call the school to tell them that you’re home now…

So, because you can’t leave school you either have to eat at the cafeteria or bring your own lunch with you.

The cafeteria is extremely cheap but the food isn’t that great. That’s why I started making my own bento lunch box.

11. High School Clubs

a Japanese High School in Osaka

A big part of Japanese high school life are the school clubs. There‘s everything from swimming, cooking, calligraphy, soccer, basketball, American football, baseball, etc (view all clubs). And joining a club doesn’t mean playing for about an hour and then going home. They are incredibly serious.

The clubs are important because they are the only place where students can decide something themselves. That’s because the clubs are run by students. Ther’s, just like in Japanese society, a strict hierarchy. Elder students can tell younger students what to do and so on. So, high school clubs are like a first experience of what working at a Japanese company is like.

Actually, I‘d really like to join a club but I have other hobbies like going to the gym that I want to continue.

12. School Festivals

Most Japanese high schools hold at least two school festivals a year.

There is the 文化祭 bunkasai (Culture Festival) and the 体育祭 taiikusai (Sports Festival). And just like the school clubs, those festivals mean a lot to Japanese high school students. Because it’s again a special day where they can decide what they do.

At the Culture Festival, every class has to do something on their own. They can sell food, host gaming competitions, have a classroom filled with balloons where you have to pay 100Yen to go in, students can dance, sing, etc.

Here are some videos about Japanese school festivals:

These were 12 ways Japanese high school is different. I hope you liked it! If you did consider sharing this post.

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