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Family Life and Childcare for Expats in Japan

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: June 2014

Family life in Japan

Family life in Japan is continuously evolving, incorporating westernised values with older Japanese traditions. Three or four generations used to live together but in recent years family sizes have become smaller. A typical family in Japan now consists of parents living with two or so children, although it is common to see grandparents living with them to help take care of the children.

Outside the major cities many Japanese live in traditional two level houses, in the cities apartment and flats have become popular. Homes often have rooms where the floor is covered in tatami, mats made from rushes, for sitting; due to this you are expected to remove your shoes when entering a Japanese home to stop transference of dirt.

In Japan, traditionally the father would go to work while the mother took responsibility for the housework and caring for the family. Recent economic pressures have meant more women have taken jobs to help support their families. This is especially popular in large cities, such as Tokyo and Osaka.

Childcare in Japan

There are many types of childcare service providers in Japan such as nannies, day care nurseries, kindergartens and preschools.

Day care nurseries exist to help working parents look after their children from birth to five years old. There are generally two types of day care nurseries, public nurseries and private nurseries. You need to enrol your children through the local city or ward office, if you prefer a private nursery you can talk to the nursery administrator directly.

Costs of such services differ dramatically. The average cost for public day care is about JPY10,000 per month, while for private day cares the cost may be around JPY40,000 and JPY60,000 per month. This generally includes meals and covers 8hours of care between 9am and 5pm.

Most kindergartens and preschools take care of children between three and five years old. They may be run by the local city, religious groups, or private corporations. Admission is the same as the day care services.

Cost of kindergartens and preschools depend on the location and the managing body. Costs of between JPY20,000 and JPY80,000 per month are considered reasonable, the price should include cost of meals. You may also be asked to pay an enrolment fee. Most kindergartens will provide a guide advising what your child will need and the preparations you should take. You may need to buy various items, from bags to uniforms. Typical hours in Kindergartens and preschools are from 9am to 2pm.

Both private and public child cares are open to expatriates. Class sizes tend to be less than 40 pupils and the normal term time is between 1 April and 31 March. All teachers in day care nurseries, kindergartens and preschools should hold a valid teaching licence.

When arriving in Japan it is recommended to ask your colleagues or neighbours for childcare suggestions as they may know the best ones in the area. Most of the time admission is easy, however, some are very popular and there can be long waiting lists for admission; especially in large cities. It may be a good idea to research schools and contact them before you move to Japan.

You may choose to use a nanny to look after your children. Cost depends on where you live, the experiences of the nanny and the type of services you choose. A day care nanny may charge an hourly rate of around JPY2,000 for one child and JPY3,300 for two children. To find a nanny, the following website may be helpful: https://www.babysitters.jp/.



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