Translated by Shinji Takaramura
Child Care In Japan For Foreign Residents: English-Speaking Facilities
Written by ISHIGAKI KUMIKO
Feelings of uncertainty is a part of parenting, especially if you are living in a foreign country. This article introduces English and multilingual consultation services and child-rearing support centers in Japan offering assistance to ex-pats and foreign residents raising a child.
Support for All Parents in Japan
While the number of foreign residents raising children in Japan has slowly increased, there are still many difficulties related to language and lifestyle differences.
Many local governments in Japan operate child-rearing support centers to assist foreign residents by offering multilingual consultations. Available services vary by each municipality, so those who are seeking advice should first visit their local government office.
The following is a list of services provided by major local municipalities, such as Tokyo and Osaka.
|Tokyo Metropolitan Government|
|Tokyo International Communication Committee||A comprehensive guide for foreign residents living in Tokyo|
|Kanagawa Prefectural Government|
|Foreign Residents Consultation Desk||A counseling guide for foreign residents living in Kanagawa.|
|Osaka Prefectural Government|
|Osaka Child-Rearing Net||Multilingual information for child care and a list of counseling facilities.|
|Hokkaido Foreign Resident Support Center||Provides multilingual consultations regarding various subjects such as child care, welfare, and medical care.|
Managed by the Kanagawa prefectural government, the Parenting in Japan Site offers a multilingual guide for foreign residents with a flow chart starting from pregnancy until a child entering elementary school.
Child-Rearing Support Center for 0-5 Year Olds
New parents should visit their local child-rearing support center (kosodate shien center, 子育て支援センター). This facility provides parenting assistance for young children up to five years old—the age kids enter elementary school in Japan.
Depending on where you live, the support center may also be referred to as a kosodate shien salon or kosdate hiroba in Japanese (子育て支援サロン or 子育て広場). Despite the difference in naming, they all offer the same services.
These facilities have a playroom and provide child care consultations along with parenting classes. Most of the services are free and do not require reservations.
Some facilities have a nurse or a nursery-school teacher on their staff, so parents can receive guidance from a professional. It's also a place where parents can meet others who are experienceing similar situations.
First-time visitors may be required to register, so be sure to check the official site of your nearest facility.
Children's Centers: Safe Areas for Kids to Play
Children's centers in Japan are known as jidokan (児童館), and are a type of facility that supports local children and parents. Kids from zero up to eighteen years old are welcome here.
These facilities resemble a playground where children can freely have fun with various equipment. Some host annual sports events and festivals, which allows kids to make friends regardless of school and age.
While the services vary by facility, most children's centers are equipped with playrooms for infants and libraries. They can be used for free and reservations are not required.
Some parents take their kids to the children's centers instead of going to a playground.
Although staff members and volunteers will be onsite, parents must stay with their infants at all times.
Get Support with Feeding at Japan's Breastfeeding Outpatient Clinics
Outpatient breastfeeding services (bonyu gairai, or 母乳外来) provide counseling for mothers and babies after their return home from the hospital.
Specialists will answer questions from new mothers regarding breastfeeding and breast discomfort.
While the service varies at each hospital, most consultations are conducted in private rooms with the infant. The fee ranges from 3,000 to 5,000 yen.
Outpatient breastfeeding services are often attached to obstetrics and gynecology departments. Most counseling services require a reservation, so make an inquiry before visiting the hospital.
How to Find a Hospital
Without advanced Japanese knowledge of medical terms, foreign residents in Japan may experience a language barrier or have difficulties understanding the hospital system in Japan.
For these incidents, the Living Guide for Foreign Residents in Japan site managed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government or the official site of AMDA Medical Information Center may be useful. These sites offer a list of medical institutions and facilities with multilingual support.
This article also describes the details involved in visiting a Japanese hospital.
Where to Consult About Children With Disabilities in Japan
If your child has a developmental disorder or is physically disabled, visit your municipal office and ask for counseling services for children with disabilities. They will assist in planning a program and introduce available support facilities.
Child development support centers, known as jido hattatsu shien senta (児童発達支援センター), are commonly available to children with disabilities in Japan. These facilities have certified staff who teach children how to support themselves in the future. Parents can also consult with the team about child care as well.
To use these facilities, you must submit an application to your local government office and undergo a screening process. The fee will vary according to your income.
Children's Welfare Centers - For All Types of Issues
While children's welfare centers (jido sodansho, 児童相談所) mainly handle cases of child abuse, the staff can deal with many other issues.
For example, the organization handles children's disabilities, non-attendance at school, and bullying. They also offer consultations regarding divorce or illness, which may be difficult to resolve by the parties concerned without a professional.
There are more than 230 of these types of offices all over Japan, with staff certified as specialists in juvenile welfare and public health. Aside from offering consultations, the welfare centers works with other institutions and temporarily takes care of children as well.
You Aren't Alone in Raising Your Child in Japan
All parents, including foreign residents in Japan, may have their worries about child care. If feelings of parenting anxiety arise, don't fret alone. Instead, visit your local ward office or children's center to gather information and gain support.
You will be able to meet parents with similar child-rearing problems and receive some good advice.
All pictures by Pixta