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FAQ About Japanese School

For reference, here's some info about Japanese school to help you understand how Japanese school might be different from the high school you went to. These are questions people had in the beginning of the RP. If you ever have a question about how something works at Kikuryou or in Japanese high school, comment here and we'll answer your question.

School Calendar: The school year in Japan begins in April and ends around March 25th. The year is divided into three terms, each of which ends with a seasonal vacation: first term ends with summer vacation, second trimester ends with winter vacation, and third term ends with spring vacation.

Off-time: Students enjoy roughly a month and a half of summer vacation, which begins around July 20th. During the summer holidays they are expected to complete homework in numerous subjects and keep a log of their activities. Students also  have two weeks for the end of year and New Year's (winter vacation), and spring vacation is two weeks at the end of March. During weekends and vacations, students who are involved in clubs and especially sports teams will still be going to school in full uniform for practice every day. Many sports teams will be practicing until after dark. As it is against school regulations for students to ride bikes or for parents to pick up students with cars, students are urged to walk home using the buddy system at all times. Sometimes a teacher or two will accompany for safety.

Classes and grades: High school lasts for three years (coinciding with the western 10th, 11th, and 12th grade.) Students are divided into classes per year, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year students. Each year will have many homeroom classes (6 per year at Kikuryou), designated by the year and a letter (1-A, 1-B, and so on). Opposite of the style of American high school where the teachers stay in one class and the students move about, in Japanese school the students stay in this classroom for the most part and each period of the day, the teachers will come to their room for their different classes. Classes like PE, Art, Cooking, etc. are held in a special place for that subject so the kids do move for those. For the beginning of Ghost*Sugar, let's have students join classes A through C for now.

Homeroom: There is a homeroom teacher assigned to each one of these classrooms. The homeroom teacher meets with students at the beginning and end of the day to make announcements and such. It's not a class in and of itself, but it's like a meeting between the teacher and all the students to share waht's going on. This teacher is responsible for all aspects of the students' lives in and out of school, including the student's behavior in school or on the way home from school, problems at home, etc. The homeroom teacher also holds parent-teacher conferences and visits the student's home twice a year to check on home life. Since Kikuryou is a boarding school, the home visitation will not be possible with all students. Teachers will have duty to check the dorms and make sure things are safe, neat, and clean. And enforce curfew. :D

Schedule: The schedule is different every day to make time for the many different elective subjects students learn. Thus math is not at the same time every day. Every once in a while students will be stuck with back-to-back periods of P.E., English, or Art when working on projects, etc. This really sucks if you don't like that subject.

School Subjects: Core subjects that students study most are math, literature (Japanese), English, Science, and Social Studies. Other subjects that are mandatory would be art, music, P.E., history, calligraphy, ethics, and home ec. Students also can choose from electives such as sewing and handicrafts, wood shop, computers, traditional arts (flower arrangement, tea ceremony, and traditional dance), government and economics, and chemistry. The traditional stuff and the gov/econ stuff is not typical, we just stuck it in because we thought it'd be good for a snooty private school.

Dress and behavior: Uniforms are a matter of school pride, and all students are expected to wear uniforms to proper regulations. Shortening the skirt for the sake of fashion (whether by rolling the skirt at the hem or by doctoring it with a sewing machine) is widespread to the frustration of strict teachers everywhere. Makeup, piercings, jewelry, hair accessories, and dyed hair are strictly not allowed.

Before school assemblies and ceremonies, teachers can be seen walking the lines of their homeroom class and making students who aren't complying with dress code button all their buttons and fix that skirt length before entering the auditorium. The student council also helps to enforce dress code and appearance rules, sometimes conducting inspections and advising students to follow rules properly.

Sometimes in the teachers room you can see teachers diligently spray-dying a bad kid's hair back to black. Hair dyeing the hair to anything other than the natural color (black, lol) is not allowed except at weird rich-lazy-kid schools that have like no rules and let the kids dress skanky. (Kikuryou is not one of these, but we do have some teachers who don't care.) A homeroom teacher will sometimes march a girl who's wearing a lot of makeup to the teacher's room to wash off her makeup before she was allowed back to class. Most girls can get away with foundation, powder, and chapstick, but anything more noticeable and it's to the sink with you! Nail polish is also against the rules. No, I'm not kidding. The school nurse has nail polish remover for the purpose of taking care of students who show up with painted nails.

Food: At Kikuryou students can eat lunch in their classroom or buy food in the school cafeteria, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner for boarders. Kikuryou's cafeteria food isn't bad, but some of the more uppity students claim it is. Snacks, candy, food, or drinks are strictly prohibited during any other time of day. There is a cafe open near the library for snacks after school.
  Getting to and from school: Students aren't allowed to ride bikes to school because it's thought to be dangerous. Kids have to walk. I was surprised to find that parents can't give them rides. It's supposed to be so that everyone is equal (like if one person gets driven to school in a fancy car, it makes them stand out?) but I think it also helps traffic congestion. Kids in Japan generally live closer to their elementary and junior high schools than American kids do-- only a few blocks in the suburbs and city-- so it's usually not a problem. I'm sure in the country they would relax this rule. High school kids are farther from their school, they take the train or bus and then walk from the station. As for Kikuryou, students are supposed to walk. There's dorms for students who live far away so there shouldn't be any problem with this.

Teacher Mornings: Teachers are supposed to dress neatly and professionally. They are supposed to be responsible and at work early every day. School starts at 8:30 but teachers are expected to be at school around 7:45. Some come earlier to let the sports team kids use the equipment. (Yes, some of the sports teams have morning practices, they start at around7 or 7:30.) The teachers clean up the schoolyard if necessary, unlock doors, have some tea or coffee, open the gates. They are supposed to be at school at 8:00. NO ONE is late. (Also, no one uses their sick days, but that's another story)

At 8:10 or so one teacher (often the VP) says out loud, literally, "It has become time, so we think we will begin," which is a nice way of saying shut the hell up and get back to your seat. Any students who are coming in and out are cleared out, there are no students allowed around to overhear during teacher meetings. (Teachers are careful about this because sensitive issues might come up in the meeting, like "yesterday so and so got in a fight, this is what we're doing about it" or "So-and-so's mother died so be watching if he needs to be alone for a bit" or whatnot.) All the teachers stand up, push in their chairs, and bow to the principal/room in general and say, "Good morning" in a chorus. Then they sit down and take notes while different teachers stand up (it is rude to address everyone while sitting) make announcements about the day's events or things the teachers need to know about: things like committee meetings, paychecks, upcoming deadlines, problems with the kids, etc. This meeting can go on for a very long time, sometimes half an hour or more. After all of the teachers, the vice principal will give a few words. Then the principal will speak last and then the first teacher who spoke will say that the meeting is concluded. Then before you know it the teachers are all rushing in myriad directions, out the door, talking to each other, chugging down more coffee, etc.

During this morning teacher meeting, the students are trickling in through the school gates. Two teachers (they rotate every day so that it's not always the same person) will be posted at each gate to greet the students. Of course the students are expected to be dressed properly and give the teachers a polite and respectful greeting. (Guess how often that happens.) Students go to their classrooms and study or chat till the homeroom teacher comes in when the teacher's meeting is finished. They stand and bow to the teacher and say "good morning" and the teacher takes roll and they have homeroom (see above). Students actually are left alone in the classroom quite a bit and they govern themselves pretty well, unless you have a really rowdy class. When there is no teacher present they will work on an assignment on study on their own.

Teachers and students?
Teachers should remember to use their best judgement and behave with propriety towards the students. It's not against any rules to touch a student and a pat on the back, head, or shoulder is completely acceptable at this school. Rest assured, though, that a teacher caught messing around with a student is going to get fired and possibly sent to jail if they are caught having relations with a student and/or the child is under 16 (laws are looser than in the US, esp. when the minor consented to the activity or lied about their age).

Discipline: At Kikuryou the following methods of disciplining students are officially accepted: detention, writing essays, extra homework, cleaning duty, trash pickup duty, sorting recyclables, being made to clean up or set up sports equipment for teams all alone, being made to sit in seiza for a certain period of time, kicking the student out of class, being made to hold heavy buckets of water while standing in the hallway, banning a student from club activities, making a student work in the library of cafeteria, taking a student aside and totally bawling them out.

The following methods of disciplining students are NOT officially accepted on paper but are often used when the situation demands. The administration will look the other way: the throwing of chalk/blackboard erasers/books/folders at a student, whacking a student on the head or hand with a book, folder, ruler, or other such object, making a student carry something heavy on the lap (such as a stack of books) when sitting in seiza, slapping for backtalk (punching is too far for this administration), whacking a student with a bamboo kendo sword, making a student do something embarrassing, locking a student into a small room or closet for a period of time until they apologize for their misbehavior-- bonus points if it is the bleeding supply closet.