Going to school means getting school supplies like pens, pencils, notebooks, erasers, and other useful items like calculators for older students, and crayons and markers for younger students. Uniforms are purchased for the student which is a requirement for all schools as well as standard issue backpacks.
For elementary kids, an indoor slip-on canvas shoe is needed, physical education clothes (shorts, t-shirts, and a reversible cap), a swimsuit, a set of clothes for use during lunch time preparation (white apron with sleeves, face mask, and white cap), and a name tag that must be worn at all times indicating the child’s grade-level, name, the school name, and classroom. All items must be marked with the child’s name and are usually required to be washed on a weekly basis depending on the strictness of the teacher.
To the left is what an Japanese elementary school student would get when going to school to carry their books. These are very durable book bags, made of heavy leather, and are expected to last all six years of the elementary school grade-levels. Red backpacks are for girls and black are for boys. It has several compartments and attachments and thankfully, all school equipment are sized to fit inside this backpack. These backpacks in the 1980′s cost a minimum of $100USD and can run up to $200USD. With a hefty price like that, backpacks are usually given as presents from the grandparents though some people I’m sure can buy cheaper at a used retail store.
For older high school students, their book bag is more briefcase-shaped with just as many or more compartments, made of leather, and quite sturdy like the elementary school backpack. Uniforms colors and designs differ from each high school but normally, students have two sets of uniforms; one for winter with long sleeves and another for summer with shorter sleeves. Some uniforms have the emblem of the school stitched onto the clothing, usually over the heart, while others may have a pin on the bow or tie. High school students also need their own pair of swimsuit, gym clothes, and slip-on indoor shoes. Regarding gym clothes, the girls used to wear bloomers during gym class which are much like bikini bottoms but nowadays, girls are now wearing shorts or sweatpants just like the boys.
Last but not least, students need their textbooks. Textbooks are free of charge and can be kept by the student after the school year has ended. They only time a fee is paid is if a replacement is needed for a lost book. Surprisingly, textbooks for classes are all paperbacks, small in size at about 9″x5″ – 10″x6″ big and are around 100-130 pages long. Elementary school textbooks are of course, filled with illustrations in black and white and color pages.
Textbooks are not only needed for all core classes such as Math, Social Studies, Science, and Japanese, but also for Physical Education, Music, Art, and Calligraphy. All these books are expected to be brought home every day for studying and review. Teachers supplement the subjects taught in the textbooks with materials from other books or their own created material.
Another school material parents may opt to get for their child is a desk. For elementary school children, parents can procure a special desk and chair that are specifically made for them. Some features include a place to hang the backpack, a timer for practice tests, light, a place to put the weekly schedule (a kind of syllabus), and a buzzer for calling mom for something oh so important like snacks.
At times, teachers may ask parents to buy their children specific materials needed for a class project. Monthly fees for lunch and PTA dues are also required. Speaking of lunch, a place mat, napkin, and chopstick is also needed along with the other lunch smock, cap, and face mask set.