Elementary schools in Japan hold all six grades from 1st to 6th in one building. There are generally around 1000 students enrolled from the surrounding neighborhood though rural areas may have lower numbers. Unlike U.S. schools, they also do not have kindergarten within their elementary school building – rather they usually have their own buildings or spaces. Some elementary school’s will have several foreigners and special needs students enrolled and they are treated much like everyone else nor are they required to take special classes or have special teachers hired just for them.
There are 25 classes throughout the school for all six grades with about 30 – 45 students per classroom. The Japanese feel that the more students per class, the better the situation for their students. In Japan, it is not just learning in school that they are teaching but social interaction as well. The more students you have, the better chances of interacting with different types of people with different abilities, characteristics, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
All elementary school students must walk to school with their assigned walking groups. No one is allowed to use their bikes due to the sheer amount of space they will take up, not to mention the chaos of so many converging on one spot.
Recess are usually outdoors even during winter but when it rains, students may play in the gym, hallway, or two special playrooms. There are five teachers overseeing the one thousand students during recess with all other teachers on break at the teacher’s lounge. Speaking of breaks, when breaks occur in between classes, students may do as they like such as talk, play, get drinks, go to another classroom, or use the restroom.