Sure, no problem. But first, I thought I’d mention a few basic facts about my school. This is a little long, but I think you’ll find it interesting. If not, feel free to skip ahead to the answers to the questions.
I teach at a junior high school in a small city near Tokyo. I won’t say where exaclty, except to say that it’s close enough that become something of a Tokyo suburb, but far enough away that most Japanese still consider this area to be out in the boonies.
Junior high school runs from grades 7 to 9. Unlike in Canada, each grade is subdivided into different groups, called “kumi.” These groups are like the classes in Elementary school: they do all their classes together, they eat their lunch together, and they even clean up the school together. Yes, you read that right. We have no janitors over here–the students and the teachers are responsible for keeping the school clean.
So, with a little background, the answers to these questions may make a bit more sense.
- About what percentage of Junior High students have cell phones?
I did a straw poll in my grade 7 class, and about 30% of them had their own cell phones. I’m sure that grade 9’s have even more, and the numbers would be higher still if you were to ask at a school in a major city like Tokyo or Osaka.
- Are students allowed to bring cell phones to school?
No. I don’t know what the confiscation policy is, but I do know they’re not allowed to bring them.
- Are students allowed to bring gameboys and whatnot to school? For that matter, what are they allowed/not allowed to bring? (eg., magazines, books, cards, etc.)
No electronic devices of any kind are allowed. For other things like board games or playing cards, the policy varies from school to school. Mine’s pretty strict； students may not bring anything not directly related to their studies or club activites. Nor are teachers allowed to provide such things.
- What do students usually have for lunch?
While there are some exceptions, most schools have a school lunch program. Each meal is made at a central distribution center in the city and delivered to the schools.
They’re actually quite well balanced meals: they get either rice or bread, a soup or a stew (or sometimes noodles like spaghetti or udon), a meat or fish, and a salad or vegetable dish, as well as a small carton of milk. They sometimes even get a little dessert.
And no, they’re not allowed to bring anything of their own to eat, though I suppose if a student had serious allergies they might be flexible. Also, teachers have to eat the same lunch, and if they’re in charge of a kumi, they have to eat in the classroom with the students.
The students get 45 minutes for lunch, then 15 minutes afterwards to go outside or play indoors.
- What clubs are available at school? Are students allowed to belong to more than one club?
Nearly every student joins a club, and most of them are sports clubs. Most are the same as in Canada (baseball, soccer, tennis etc.), but some are more, shall we say, exotic. For example, ping-pong is considered a legitimate sport in schools here. Many schools also have judo, kendo, and kyudo (Japanese archery)
Other clubs include science, multimedia, art, calligraphy, shogi (Japanese chess), go, and in high schools you might also find tea ceremony and ikebana (flower arrangging). Band clubs are also quite popular.
Students are only allowed to join one club. Also, as a rule, they can’t switch clubs, though I’ve seen exceptions made in some circumstances. Each club runs year round, and most have daily pratctices after school. Some even have morning and weekend practices too.
- What kind of events do schools have? (eg., sports day, arts revue, school play)
Every semester usually has a couple of major events. In fall, the students have a sports day, which they actually spend a week or so practicing for. They also have a “culture festival,” with an inter-kumi (see above) choral singing competition. They often also have a free-stage section where students are allowed to do something like play the piano, sing a song, dance, etc. I actually played bass with a couple of my kids who wanted to do an Ozzy Osbourne tune. It was a lot of fun.
Also, the students in each grade do one field trip per year. At my school, the grade 7s go on a ski trip, grade 8s go to Yokohama for a day, and grade 9s go to Kyoto and Nara for three days.
- How many classes to students have each day?
Five or six depending on the day of the week.
- How long are the classes? (When I was in school, it was five 60-minute classes per day. Is it still the same?)
Each class is 50 minutes long, though they may be shortened to 45 minutes if the need arises.
- What are the rules for going home from school? Are kids allowed to go off downtown after school, or do they have to go straight home first?
Students must go straight to school and straight home on pre-assigned routes. They must wear their uniforms or P.E. clothes to and from school so they can be easily identified. These rules have been quite striclty enforced in recent months due to some high profile cases of young students being abducted and murdered. This is coupled by the fact that the school is technically responsible for the students’ wellbeing from the time they leave for school till the time they go home.
- Are students still allowed to go home for lunch if they live close to the school?
No. They may not leave the school grounds at all during school hours.
If you have any other questions, feel free to post them and I’ll answer them as best as I can.