Hi everyone! Thanks for sending me so many great questions. I’ve done the interview with a Japanese high school student named Ai. She is currently 18, and she lives in my host family’s home. She’s not related to them, but they are family friends, so she’s staying here to be closer to the private school that she’s attending. I’m sorry I don’t have a video for you, and I had to cut out a few questions for the sake of time.

Also, a disclaimer: This is my translation of what she said, and it isn’t perfect. But I’m pretty confident that it’s as accurate as possible.

This is Ai, about to leave for school in the morning

Q: When does school usually start and end?

A: At my school, we usually start at 8:15 and end at 3:30.


Q: Do most students live far away from school? Do they have to commute?

A: It’s different depending on whether it’s a public or private school. Public school students usually live close by, but private school students usually have about an hour long commute by buses and trains. My commute is about forty minutes, and it can be rough because the morning trains are very crowded.


Q: What kind of school breaks do you have?

A: Saturday is always off, but we have classes on all the other days. Then we have spring, summer, and winter vacations. For my school, summer vacation is the longest. It lasts about a month. Spring and winter vacations are both about a week.


Q: At your school, what kinds of classes do you have?

A: Well, there core classes are Japanese, math, history, science, and also English. And besides that, my school is a Christian school so we have a Bible class. We also have PE and health class, as well as music.


Q: How many students are in each class?

A: 40 people per class.


Q: Are all the courses taught in Japanese? Are there also classes taught in English?

A: Most classes are taught in Japanese, but we also have English classes that are taught entirely in English by Americans and other English speaking teachers.


Q: Are there other languages besides Japanese and English?

A: No, not at my school at least. Some schools also have French, but
no other languages usually.


Q: Do your grades depend only on tests, or also on homework and other things?

A: Yes, just tests. From elementary school to college, grades are almost always based on tests.


Q: Are there school newspapers?

A: Well I think most universities have newspapers, but I don’t think high schools have them. At least, mine doesn’t.


Q: What is your school mascot?

A: We don’t have a school mascot. Our schools sports teams are just called by the name of our school.


Q: Do most students enter clubs? What about you?

A: Yes, almost all students are in clubs. Since I’m a third year student and I’m studying for entrance exams, I’ve had to quit, but I used to be on the cheerleading team. I liked it a lot.


Q: What kinds of sports teams do you have?

A: Basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, and we also have dance teams, track, that kind of thing. We don’t have baseball because we’re an all girls school, so we have softball instead.


Q: What is fun and interesting about school festivals? What do you like the best?

A: At festivals, you can see all the other club’s activities, and there’s always fun games and contests. We also have a lot of fun cooking and having food booths. My cheerleading team would always have a big performance, which was my favorite part.


Q: Is there a bullying problem at your school?

A: My school is very strict, so I don’t think we have that kind of thing going on. As for other schools, I see things about it in the news, so I think other schools have major issues with bullying.


Q: What about problems with drug and alcohol use among the students?

A: I think because my school is a strict private school, we don’t have that kind of problem either. But I know that there are problems about students drinking too much in public schools.


Q: Do school shootings ever happen in Japan?

A: Not at all, never. No one’s allowed to have guns in Japan, so it never happens.


Q: Is there a school cafeteria? What is the food like there?

Yes. The menu changes every day. One day it might be fried rice, the other day it might be spaghetti. We have both western food and Japanese food. It’s really delicious.


Q: Really?

A: Yeah really! I like it a lot.


Q: Do you have to wear uniforms at school?

A: Oh yes, of course.


Q: Are there also schools where you don’t have to wear them?

A: Yes, there are some schools that have looser rules about clothes, but they’re less common.


Q: Are there other rules about what you wear?

A: Yes, my school has lots of rules about that. If your hair is past your shoulders, you have to have it tied back. We can’t have earrings, we can’t dye our hair, we can’t get hair treatments like perms, we can’t wear makeup or even have necklaces.


Q: What do you think about rules like this?

A: I think some of the rules are too strict, but I like wearing uniforms, at least the ones at my school. And when you wear uniforms, you don’t have to spend time deciding what to wear in the morning. That seems like it would be annoying, so I think uniforms are good.


Q: Are you allowed to have boyfriends and girlfriends?

A: Well my school is an all girl’s school, so we don’t have anyone to date in our school. Technically we can date, but we don’t really meet people from other schools. The only time we meet people from other schools is when we go to cram school, an extra school where we go to study for exams. Since I’m studying for the college entrance exam, I go there every day. If you go to that, there are students from other schools. That’s the only time you can meet guys.


Q: Do you think dating is important to high school students?

A: I think it is. Since we don’t have guys at my school, I think that when we become college students, it will be strange for us. I think flirting, dating, and things like that will be difficult, coming from a high school like this.


Q: What do high school students usually do after school and on the weekends?

A: We do club activities, like practice or rehearsal, or we go to cram school. And during the weekends we hang out with friends, but we don’t have parties or anything like that.


Q: American students have heard that Japanese students have really expensive backpacks. Is that true?

A: I don’t think so, but they might mean elementary students’ backpacks. They wear these specific backpacks called randoseru (this is from the dutch word for backpack, ransel). They’re leather and shaped like a box. All elementary schoolers have these backpacks. They’re expensive, but they use them for six years, all through elementary school, so I think it’s worth it.


Q: Do students use electronics a lot? Are there rules about that?

A: Yes, we use cell phones a lot. But at my school we have to give our phones to the teacher when we come to school and then we get them back when we leave. It’s very strict.


Q: What are the best high schools in Japan?

A: The best high schools in Japan are probably the ones that are attached to universities. For example, there’s Waseda High School, and Keio High School. Usually the students from those schools can go straight into those colleges, but sometimes they choose to go other places.


Q: In order to get into the next grade, do you have to pass exams?

A: No, it’s not like that at my school. There are entrance examinations into schools, but not between grades. We have lots of school tests, about two every three months, but everyone at least passes.


Q: Between public high schools and private schools, what is different?

A: Pretty much everything is different. Private schools do all sorts of things for the students, and there’s always the best school equipment. And a lot of private schools have special themes, for example, mine is Christian, so private schools have that certain appeal. Public schools are restricted to specific places, so they aren’t like that.


Q: Which do you think is better?

A: I think private schools are better. The teachers are very knowledgeable, and everyone in the school really wants to be there, so it’s nice to become friends with people like that. For public schools, the teachers aren’t as good, and there are people who drink and smoke all the time, and there’s bullying. Public schools seem like they’re kind of scary.


Q: Is it very difficult to get into college?

A: Getting into the top schools is difficult, but there are all kinds of universities, so there are also ones that are easy to get into. But for the best schools, there’s so many people who try to get in them and everyone studies very hard, so it’s difficult.


Q: What do most students want to do as a career?

A: There’s all kinds of different things. At my school, some people want to become teachers, some want to be doctors. There’s also a lot of people who want to become pharmacists. Everyone has different aspirations.


Q: What are your plans after graduating high school?

A: I hope to get into the college that I want. I’ll do my four years in college and then… I’ll find some kind of job. What exactly I’m not sure yet. I haven’t decided.


Q: What is your favorite kind of music?

A: I like western music mostly. American music, like Beyonce, Rihanna, and Katy Perry.


Q: What kind of food do you like? (she doesn’t cook at all, so I didn’t ask for a recipe)

A: For dessert I like macaroons. For meals, I like kara-age. (Japanese style fried chicken). I like western food too, like omelets and hamburgers.


Q: Where is a good place to go sight-seeing in Japan?

A: Tokyo has lots of places to sight-see. The Kyoto area has very traditional Japan-like scenery, and Hokkaido has very beautiful weather and seasons.


There you have it! A Japanese high school student’s perspective. Give me some feedback and let me know what you think about her answers. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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