Translated by Sandy Lau
Daycares In Japan - How To Enroll, Costs, And Types Of Child Care
Written by MATCHA
For working parents and dual-income families in Japan, daycares are a reassuring option for child care. This article covers the types of daycare facilities in Japan, fees, and important enrollment procedures. Read to learn the right daycare choice for your lifestyle and child's needs in Japan.
Daycare in Japan: A Reassuring Option for Working Parents
Daycare is an excellent choice for working parents in Japan who can't take the time during the day to take care of their kids. Enrolling your child in daycare is also great for expanding their view of the world.
That's why it's essential to select a daycare facility that suits your family's situation and needs. In this article, we cover what Japanese daycare is like and necessary enrollment procedures.
Daycare Centers in Japan
Like daycares in other countries, in Japan, daycares have childcare workers who will look after children when working parents are unable to do so at home. This benefits not only dual-income households, but also parents with an illnesss, who are pregnant, or caring for an elderly relative. Newborns to preschool-age children can enroll.
There are two types of daycare centers in Japan: licensed and unlicensed. A licensed daycare follows government standards on facility size and the number of employees. These licensed facilities are further divided into public and private daycares.
The local government operates public daycares with uniform standards of childcare policies and facility environment. For this reason, some parents may feel the daycare hours are short and have an overall lack of flexibility.
Private daycares decide their childcare policies independently. Each daycare facility in Japan also has unique programs and policies, with some including areas where parents can relax and drink tea. These facilities are known for their flexibility in hours and meals.
The cost is the same for both public and private daycares (details are discussed below).
These daycares do not meet government standards, resulting in various management policies among each facility. Passionate childcare givers will sometimes come up with unconventional, creative objectives and take care of kids in a homey environment.
On-site childcare facilities in hospitals and companies alongside certified daycares—authorized by local governments such as Tokyo, Yokohama, and Chiba—also fit under this category. Some daycares will only accept toddlers due to a shortage of childcare centers for those under the age of three.
How Long Are Daycares Open in Japan?
Children can be watched at most daycares between 7:00 and 18:00. This allows parents to drop off kids before work, then pick them up on their way home in the evening.
Unfortunately, your job may not always finish on time, or you may encounter a delay on public transportation. If this happens, you can extend your child's time at the daycare by paying an additional fee.
In some incidents, you can receive an extension until 20:00, and the daycare center will prepare dinner or an evening snack for your child. Be sure to consult with your daycare if you run into this situation.
How Much Do Daycares Cost in Japan?
The cost for licensed daycares varies by municipality. However, the fee is typically proportional to your household income. For the average income in Japan, this amounts to around 20,000 yen per month.
The cost for unlicensed daycares is a standard fee regardless of income. Please confirm this with the daycare during your tour.
Households exempt from resident taxation with children between the ages of 3 and 5 or infants up two-years-old are waived from any fees at licensed and unlicensed daycares due to a new legislative system that started in October 2019.
However, the daycare may reach its enrolling limit, or waived fees may not apply to the cost of lunch and uniforms. We advise that you confirm these details with the daycare center.
What Do Kids Do at Japanese Daycare?
At daycares, teachers encourage children's development through indoor and outdoor activities. This opportunity allows kids to interact with a world outside of their family and learn social skills. Parents can consult with the workers about childcare tips, and parents may see a side of their child they've never seen at home.
Lunch and snacks are provided at daycares. Whether the food is made at a school-lunch center or prepared independently will differ across each daycare. Either way, the nutritionists and chefs will prepare a healthy meal for your child's age group.
Baby food may be tailored and individually adjusted for babies and young children. Accommodations for allergies and religious food restrictions also sometimes available, so be sure to ask during a tour of the facility or make a direct inquiry.
How to Enroll Your Child in Daycare in Japan
Below we introduce the steps to enrolling your child into daycare in Japan.
1. Do Your Research in Advance
Check your local government's website for daycares available in the area where you live or work. You may want to ask for information while using the local children's center or playroom in your neighborhood.
It might not be easy imagining the function of a daycare center if you haven't utilized one before. If this describes you, then please refer to the checklist below.
- Are you able to drop off or pick up your child without any difficulties in the event of bad weather?
- What are the hours of the daycare?
- Is it easy to enroll, and what are the number of waitlisted children?
- Are there strollers, bicycles, or a parking lot?
- Do their childcare policies match yours?
- Is there non-Japanese language support, or are any international children enrolled?
- Do they take religious considerations?
- Are there enough daycare teachers, and do the staff get along?
- What do the children think about the daycare? Is it a good or bad impression?
- Are they open on Saturdays, early in the morning, or have extended hours?
- How do they handle fevers and other illnesses? What are their rules for pick up?
- What supplies do they have prepared?
- Are their daycare events where parents can participate in?
- What is their method of helping children get accustomed to daycare?
- What lunch and snacks are offered?
- What is not included in monthly costs, such as extended daycare and uniforms?
- Is there a hospital or supermarket nearby?
- What is the evacuation route and emergency response in the event of a disaster?
2. Tour the Daycare
It's recommended to first take a tour of the daycare center before enrolling your child. There are some things you won't know unless you visit yourself, including the general atmosphere of the facility. Call and set a date for a visit that fits your schedule. Note that tours are normally conducted during the daytime on weekdays.
April is a popular time to enroll your child in daycare, as it a time when many parents on end maternal or paternal leave and go back to work. However, due to this, getting into your desired daycare may be difficult; applications for April enrollment are often accepted between October and December of the previous year. Application information is usually posted on the local government or facility's website, so be careful not to miss the deadline.
If you wish to enroll your child at another time, you will need to research centers that accept applications year-round. Please check the additional details at your respective daycare or local government.
There are several documents required for the enrollment process. Some items must be verified and completed at your place of employment, so make sure you have plenty of time to prepare.
- Enrollment application form
- Background record on family and child
- Documents that prove childcare is difficult at home (i.e., a certificate of employment of both parents, doctor's note, etc.)
- A copy of your withholding tax certificate
4. Prepare Daycare Supplies
Once you submit all of your documents, it doesn't guarantee that your child's enrollment will be approved. The daycare will check and score your necessity for childcare. A notification for April admission may come several months after applying. If you don't pass the screening, the facility may not contact you.
Once you've received confirmation of your child's acceptance, it's time to prepare the necessities. Write your child's name on all of their belongings. This includes their clothes, hats, and any blankets or bedding that will be going to the daycare. Gather any necessary supplies to make their transition easier to be in a setting with daycare workers and other kids.
Japan's Other Childcare Systems and Facilities
Even if your child's enrollment hasn't been confirmed, you can use "ichiji hoiku (一時保育)," a temporary childcare system. Parents can temporarily leave their children at daycare due to urgent business or parental burnout.
There are other reliable services and facilities, including your municipality's family daycare provider, babysitters, family support, and childcare facilities for kids who are recovering from an illness. The costs and details will be different with each local government and facility, so we encourage you to confirm directly.
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