After sharing Maliq’s story, who was the eldest son who had previously entered his Japanese elementary school, I would like now to share the story of his younger brother, Mikail, who had only just enrolled in his own Japanese kindergarten, which was definitely an event that was no less exciting!
In Japan, kindergarten is not compulsory. Japanese mothers may choose to leave their children in the hands of a Daycare (Hoikuen) or, alternatively, send them to Kindergarten (Youchien). I myself prefer to send Mika (Mikail’s nickname) to Kindergarten, because registering through the Daycare system is a much more difficult process, and there are many queues due to a limited availability of open positions, especially within big cities.
Readers must be curious as to the costs of entering a child within the Japanese kindergarten system, right? The costs are absolutely splendid! The kindergarten chosen was a private school located within the suburbs of Tokyo. The initial cost of entering a child into this school reaches up to 25 million rupiah. The fees include expenses for the registration, uniforms, bags, as well as other equipment. However, the good news is that I had received a subsidy as a foreign student with a tax value of nil, meaning that I was officially considered to have no income. The subsidies were quite large! About 80% of the money I paid during the beginning went straight back into my account after 6 months of Mika’s schooling. But at first I had to take a part-time job as a tour guide to pay the entrance fee in order to send Mika to school!
My biggest concern is Mika himself, who can’t speak a word of Japanese at all. I’m afraid of him being unable to connect with his peers, and also not knowing what his teacher is saying. Sure enough, on the first day of school, Mika was expectedly dazed, being overcome with his new environment. But his friends actively invited him to play, and the teacher patiently asked Mika to talk while making gestures to help Mika understand.
In contrast to a public elementary school that would not require the use of a uniform, Mika’s private kindergarten makes use of both winter and summer uniforms, complete with even a hat to match. For winter, students make use of a blazer, a long sleeved shirt, and short overalls. In summer, students wear overalls, though with a short-sleeved white shirt. The clothing materials are also different for winter, being thicker than that of the summer. Meanwhile, school bags are also considered to be a part of the overall uniform package, while incurring a hefty price of 2 million rupiah! Regarding the well-made and durable bags, the material is thus made of quality leather which is guaranteed to last for 3 years while at kindergarten.
In addition to the school bag, I also had to prepare a pouch for lunch as well as a place-mat for while at the school cafeteria; this mat was specially made by his Mother, who sewed it for Mika, while still following the uniformity of the school models.
Mika’s school starts at 9 am to 2 pm. During this time, Mika is picked up by the bus every morning and after his schooling, promptly goes home. The pick-up point is also located near the house, so at the right time, parents must be ready to pick their children up there. Near our house, there are 2 other students, named Iroha and Souta, who attend the same pick-up point. Mika, Iroha-chan (chan is a female Japanese honorific-based nickname) and Souta-kun (kun is similarly a nickname for boys) became quite close due to regularly meeting at this location. I also became a Mama-tomo (mama’s friend) with their mother. Mama Iroha-chan and Mama Souta-kun have always helped me when there are things that I don’t understand about any kindergarten activities. Honestly, I am so lucky to have friends like them!