Immersion in Japan ☆ My Daughter’s First Experience at Japanese Elementary School

First Day of Immersion in Japan 3日本語訳は英文の後

My three kids have dual nationalities. They are a Japanese national from me and an American national from my husband. What is their identity or identities? It’s hard to say because they live neither in Japan nor in the United States. They have lived in the third country in the past 3 years and will do so again in the next 3 years, which I find very valuable for them. We keep both Japanese and English languages spoken at home as I speak to my kids in Japanese and my husband speaks to them in English. We try to keep the Japanese and American cultures at home as much as possible although I don’t do a very good job with the Japanese culture… Keeping double cultures requires a lot of efforts on parent’s part, in our case, my part.

This summer I was able to realize one of my dreams for some time: to send my child to a Japanese school for an immersion experience during summer. My first daughter went to a Japanese school for 2 weeks when we visited and stayed with my family in Tokyo this summer. Her international school finished the school year at the beginning of June, but Japanese schools do not start their summer vacation until the end of July, so she was able to go to a Japanese school in June. She joined the third grade based on her age in the Japanese school system and sat in the classroom with other third graders from 8:20 in the morning until 2:20 or on some days until 3:20.

First Day of Immersion in Japan 2

My main goal for the short immersion at a Japanese school was to have my daughter learn what it is like to be in a Japanese school and hopefully foster an identity as a Japanese. Since my daughter has only gone to an international school and in their school system, she had just finished a 2nd grade in June. Academically she was behind compared to her classmates in Japan. On top of that she does not know how to write or read in Japanese. Therefore, I did not expect her to do well academically in school. I was just happy that she ate the school provided lunch with Japanese friends, cleaned the classroom with her fellow classmates, and participated in activities just like other Japanese children. She learned how to write Japanese alphabets. She learned a Japanese song. She made new friends and learned a few Japanese slang. My daughter does not love school work, so she didn’t enjoy having homework, but she still did her homework. I found it simply a blessing that she went to school for 2 weeks with a smile on her face. I’m okay if she still doesn’t know all of the Japanese alphabets or doesn’t know how to read in Japanese. After having finished the 2-week long immersion, she has gained many valuable experiences.

First Day of Immersion in Japan 5

I am not very proactive about educating my children extra skills or knowledges at home although sometimes I wish I could. I have not been able to teach any Japanese holidays or events at home other than New Year’s. My excuse especially now is that my youngest is very young and requires a lot of work. The truth is that it is a dedication to keep a culture in a family when you live overseas away from your own culture not to mention we have another culture that we keep at home. Only thing I do consistently at home is to talk to all my kids in Japanese and only in Japanese, which I find not enough. Thus this immersion for my daughter was special to me. It was a cultural experience that I haven’t been able to provide my daughter at home.

I owe this to my parents especially to my dad. It was my dad who contacted the local board of education to ask about the paper work and requirements. He also went to the elementary school to talk to the principal prior to our arrival. He and my mom were very supportive to make this immersion happen. I cannot thank them enough for that.

First Day of Immersion in Japan 1







  1. says

    What a wonderful experience for your daughter! I think for any child to be exposed to other cultures…even if it’s not a culture that belongs to them…is an important lesson just to show kids that there’s another way of doing things.
    My daughter in college will study abroad in Barcelona Spain next year and I can’t wait for her to have that experience!

    • says

      Thanks, The Savvy Sister!! Good luck to your daughter in her new adventure in Barcelona, Spain! I am very excited for her! That’s going to be an amazing experience!

  2. says

    What a fantastic opportunity Kaho! Looks like your daughter enjoyed it!!! You are a fantastic mom, Kaho. I can see all your children embracing the Japanese and American in them. We miss you!

  3. Joy says

    So wonderful to hear she loved the experience, Kaho! Thanks for sharing with us. As always, great photos!

  4. says

    We are an english/japanese family with a four and a half year old daughter in an international kindergarten – she is bilingual but slightly better at japanese – her ‘mother tongue’. We would like to eventually send her to a local japanese elementary school, but would like to find one which has a few ‘mixed race’ children like her, so that she doesn’t feel too self conscious. We live in Setagaya-ku, between Sangenjaya and Ikenoue, Does anyone have any suggestions of elementary schools that might be suitable? Or, are there families like us out there in Setagaya who we should ‘team up with’ in two years time, and all join the same school together?

    • says

      I imagine that there are mixed kids like your daughter in Setagaya-ku because that where many expats also live. However, I am not familiar with the area and I cannot help you with the information. I wonder if there is any mother’s group for mixed marriage children who reside in Tokyo. If there is one, I’m sure that would be very resourceful.

  5. says

    Hello Kaho! I am following your journey with much interest although I don’t often take the time to leave a comment! As you know I am in the same situation as you, and I try to keep French alive at home as much as I can. My mum is sending me stuff often when there is a special celebration, and we also try to spend almost two months in France every summer, which I find invaluable. My kids pick up their French skills there every year as they are forced to speak in the language with the other kids.
    You are doing a good job, maybe you can team up with other Japanese mums to celebrate the many traditions throughout the year? I find that there are so many still alive in Japan, it’s been fantastic!

    • says

      Marie, thank you so much for leaving me a comment! I wish I had a chance to learn French when I was very little. Your kids will appreciate it so much when they grow up. I find it very difficult to use French unless you’re in a Francophone country, so my French has gotten so rusty! I hope to keep a Japanese culture around my kids, but that depends on me. Sigh. We have to keep encouraging each other on this topic!

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