Japanese School System

Have you ever wondered exactly how old school children are in Japan? Quite often the students are called by their school year and not by their exact age. Various types of media also use the Japanese school year system to break children up into groups.

You might, for example, see students referring to themselves and their friends by their school year in anime and manga. If you go to a theme park, rides often restrict children of certain school years from riding, whereas in Western countries usually the age is specified. This can be confusing if you didn’t grow up in Japan or are not aware of how the Japanese school system is organised. In this lesson then, let’s take a look at the ages corresponding to different school years, as well as the different types of school.

As you can see from the above charts, most Japanese school children begin their primary education when they enter elementary school at age 6. The Japanese school year begins in April, and children who have their 6th birthday on or before 1st April enter the first year of elementary school in the same year. A child born from 2nd April onwards would have to enrol in elementary school the following year when they are closer to 7 years old. Students in the first year of elementary school are referred to as 小学一年生 (しょうがく いちねんせい) or usually just 小1 (しょう いち). There are 6 years of elementary school.

Secondary education begins with junior high school at age 12. Students in the first year of junior high school would be 中学一年生 (ちゅうがく いちねんせい) or again, just the shortened form 中一 (ちゅう いち). There are 3 years of junior high school.

Compulsory education in Japan is known as 義務教育 (ぎむきょういく) and consists of the 6 years of elementary school plus the 3 years of junior high school – ages 6-15. Afterwards comes the second part of secondary education – high school. As you might guess, we label students in the same manner as before, so a first year student in high school would be 高校一年生 (こうこう いちねんせい) or just 高1 (こう いち). As with junior high school, high school consists of 3 years of education.

Many students also continue on to university. A first year university student would usually be 18 years old (providing they enter university immediately following high school). As before, a first year student would be 大学一年生 (だいがく いちねんせい) or just 大1 (だい いち).

Types of School

In order then, here are the main types of school you’re likely to encounter.



Nursery School

Officially recognised, not as schools, but as welfare centres in order to provide basic education and support for children. Often used as day care centres by parents who cannot look after their infant children (0-5 years of age) full time due to work or other circumstances.




Or ‘Pre-School’. In contrast to 保育園 above, 幼稚園 are officially recognised as a type of school under the School Education Law, and mainly provide a more structured education for children aged 3-5 years of age.

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9 Responses to Gakuu. Studying with Real Japanese

  1. Sabrina September 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    This is pretty cool! Right now I’m studying on Textfugu which is great! I belive Gakuu can be really helpul too. What I like most is that its for pre-intermediate to advanced level students. So you can’t say its the same thing over and over again… students can actually improve their knowledge here. Thank you very much for creating this site. Have a nice day :)

    • Gakuranman September 30, 2010 at 1:09 am #

      Hi Sabrina! Thank you for your comment :).

      That’s definitely our aim. I love Textfugu for beginners and really getting students a solid grounding in the language, but afterwards (and even while) studying the basics, it can really help to encounter raw Japanese material. You don’t have to understand everything at first, but feeling challenged and picking up little bits here and there that are extra to your learning the basics helps expand your mind. Let me know if you have any more questions! More demonstration material will be up soon! We are currently having a special launch sale price for early adopters, so check out the pricing page if interested :).

      • Sabrina September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

        Thanks for your reply. :) Unfortunately I’m even still miles away from the intermediate level. But I’ll definetly return to Gakuu when I get to this point. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the extra demonstration material. :) Keep up the good work.

        • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 12:21 am #

          Sure thing :). Let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions for things you’d like to see on Gakuu!

  2. missingno15 October 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    When I looked at this, I first thought to myself, “aw hell no, gakuranman is doing the same thing as koichi…even the website layout is similar”. But then I realized “it’s aimed at pre-intermediate to advanced level students” which is perfect for my situation right now because I now really want to excel way past beginner. So basically, Gakuu really complements Textfugu. Can’t wait for more lessons to see how this is gonna be like so I can decide if its worth getting.

    • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      Hey there! Thanks for dropping by :). No way – Koichi and I are buds. I’ve always loved teaching the more advanced stuff so it worked out perfectly. I’ll be adding more stuff in the coming days, so please stay tuned!

      • Lee Aloy October 23, 2016 at 5:20 am #


        I am sorry to ask this silly question. Are you Japanese?
        am hoping to find a Japanese friends here please shot me an email:

  3. DumbOtaku (percent20) October 3, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    This is really cool. I am glad to see more online content going beyond just teaching hirigana and katakana. That is what I try to do on my blog, but with to little consistency. Glad to see an expert do it, btw already a signed-up paid member now. :)

    • Gakuranman October 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

      Glad to have you man! Look forward to hearing any suggestions you have for the site and future lessons :)

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