When going to school, high school students walk to school, take the train, ride a bike, or other mode of transportation while preschool students are taken to school by their parent, mainly the mother. Elementary students, on the other hand, have walking groups.
Each child is assigned to a walking group comprised of neighboring children living close to each other. They meet each morning at a designated location before walking to school. One child is chosen by the school as the group leader, usually a 6th grader, and a mother of one of these students is in charge of gathering everyone together each morning. Should one child not meet with the group, the mother will call upon the parent’s house or apartment and inquire after the missing child.
Each group is around 15 children, more or less depending on how many students live in the neighborhood, and they follow a predetermined route to where several groups will eventually converge on their way to school. The path is marked by signs telling drivers that the road is a school path. I’ve read a manga once that had one group leader holding a sign but I have no confirmation if that is true to this day.
Generally, the meeting time will allow more than enough time for the students to gather, check up on missing or tardy students, and walking to school. There is usually even enough time for students to play a bit in the school yard before school starts.
For rural areas, walking groups may or may not exist due to the distance that needs to be covered when walking to school. In any case, I didn’t find any information about it but it’s a possible probability.
At the end of the day, the walking group isn’t as strict. Some students stay behind and play some more, participate in after school club activities, do some window shopping, or just walk really slow back home chatting with friends. Elementary children are generally expected home by 5:00 pm.