The School Bazaar at a Japanese preschool

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Today, we had another first. 4-year-old’s first (pre)school1 bazaar. Like most school events, it involves parent participation. We take turns manning a booth; which is actually a mini shop within each classroom. I was on duty in the “toys” room, first thing this morning. I was a little nervous about it last night, not knowing what to expect. It was actually good craic and the time flew by.

As an early morning seller, I was given a ticket to buy one thing in advance of the bazaar opening to the public. I went straight to the room that was selling school uniforms. My 2-year-old will turn 3 in January and will therefore start preschool next April. My son will be going into his 2nd of 3 years, so I need doubles of everything. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of larger sizes on sale. My 2-year-old is very tall for her age and the only thing I could buy her that would fit was the preschool’s winter hat. (Pictured top right of the first photo). I got it for a third of the price it would cost new. The two ladies that were on duty on me in our booth, were also at the uniform booth. We got talking and before we knew it, it was time to man our stand. We were all first-timers so we were a little giddy heading to our room.

I was very surprised by the quantity, quality and diversity of the goods on sale in our room. With the exception of the 2nd hand uniforms, everything is unused. Each household is asked to contribute at least one new/ unused item from a range of categories such as food, clothing, utensils and homemade crafts. I soon learnt that the bazaar attracts people from the neighbourhood, because of the good offers. Within 10 seconds of opening our “booth” we had a sale, a couple of minutes later our second and after that it was a steady flow. There were plenty of “obachan”s, term of endearment for women of a certain seniority, armed with their own shopping bags and loose change galore. When I got to shop again later that morning I got some bargains myself. Much to my delight at 11am they half the price of everything, except school uniforms. Half an hour later I was delirious when they reduced pretty much everything to 10 yen (about 8 cent). For 2000 yen (about 18 Euro) I was able to buy all the goods pictured below, including the uniform hat, plus 3 lunches not pictured and the snacks mentioned in the next paragraph.

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A stand was opened outside at 11am when the kids finished preschool. While the bazaar was running, they had been brought on a walk with their teachers. For 100 yen they got to choose 3 treats that were placed in the homemade shopping baskets pictured below. A big hit with the kids. 4-year-old wasn’t overly excited like he normally is when there is something on in school, so I figured there was something up. A couple of hours later, well I’ll save you the details… he has a tummy bug. Thankfully, it didn’t start till after the bazaar, because it turned out to be a fun event not to be missed.
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1. Yochien (幼稚園)is usually translated as kindergarten, but this is an uncommon term in Ireland, where the principal sort of preschool is a Montessori. In other countries it’s called other names, so nowadays I try to refer to it as preschool. Preschool is not compulsory and the children can start as young as 2 years old for 4 years, but the average is 3 years, starting at 3 years old. The hours are usually 9am to 2pm if you drop the kids off and upto an hour longer for children who come by yochien bus. The school year is April to March.

0 comments on “The School Bazaar at a Japanese preschool

    1. Elle Post author

      Mandatory school starts from 6 years old, for 6 years. How about in Finland? They have hoikuen, which is like a nursery and/or creche. In Tokyo they are from 0 to 6, but in rural areas like where I live, its from 1 years old. This is what working mothers use as they have all day options, as well as hourly or half day options.

      As always, thank you for commenting 🙂

      Reply
      1. freebutfun

        Mandatory school starts from 7 years and then everyone needs to do 9 years. There is ongoing debate on whether the compulsory school should be prolonged with one year. As for daycare we have something called general right for daycare so all municipalities need to provide a placement for all kids from 10 months on. Preschool is usually a part of daycare for 6 year olds. The 10 month limit comes from the maternity/paternity leaves; for about 10 months the money is about 70% of the previous wage (and lower tax rate), so everyone is expected to take care of their kids at home at least until then.

        Reply
        1. Elle Post author

          It sounds like an excellent system. Many municipalities in Japan are struggling to keep up with the demand for daycare. It is quite an accomplishment that in Finland they are able to provide a placement for every child. That’s great p/maternity leave pay and a nice length of leave. I made a mistake in my comment above; mandatory school is also for 9 years here now; 6 at “elementary” level and 3 at Junior High School. Most people then go on and do 3 years at High school too.

          So not only does Finland sound like a great place to visit, it also sounds like a great place to live 🙂

          Reply
          1. freebutfun

            I may have to mention that even though it is mandatory to offer a daycare placement for every child, it does not work quite as smoothly as it may sound 🙂 There is a shortage of carers, and eg in Helsinki you may get your placement on the other side of the city and then work at a third place, and obviously it doesn’t work to have to travel an hour to daycare, another to work, then again back to daycare and home. So there are flaws in the system, but I suppose it could be much worse. And we are lucky; our daycare is 1,5kms from home, almost on the way to both of our workplaces.

            There are a lot of good things in this country, but the Autumn weather may not be included in those… 😉

          2. Elle Post author

            Ah, that sounds like Ireland so. If people can’t get their kids into the local or their company daycare, they are often forced to seek a place in the opposite direction of work/home. It is lucky that your daycare is so close and on the way to work.

          3. freebutfun

            Sounds like the school system is pretty similar there then, as our compulsory school is also divided in to 6+3 years in a similar way, and then the vast majority do about 3 years at high school or a vocational training (also 3 years so that they get the chance to further studies at a university later if they so wish. Good in one way to give equal opportunities but it doesn’t really go so well with the ones who are good at working but don’t fancy school).

            Japan is really intruiging too! One dayI’ll get there too!

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