School start times and schedules in Japan can seem confusing to those unfamiliar with the education system. While there is some variation across different regions and school levels, most schools follow a fairly standard daily and yearly schedule.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Most elementary and junior high schools in Japan start between 8:00 and 9:00 AM and end between 2:30 and 4:00 PM. High schools usually start earlier, between 7:30 and 8:30 AM.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the typical school schedules in Japan for elementary, junior high, and high school students. We’ll cover daily start and end times, recess and lunch breaks, semesters and terms, and how the schedules differ across school levels and locations.

Daily Start and End Times

Elementary School

In Japan, the daily start and end times of schools vary depending on the level of education. Let’s start with elementary schools. Typically, elementary schools in Japan start their day around 8:30 a.m. and finish at 3:30 p.m.

This schedule allows students to have a full day of learning while still leaving them with enough time for extracurricular activities and homework.

Junior High School

In junior high school, the start and end times are usually slightly different. Students in junior high school usually begin their classes around 8:00 a.m. and finish at 3:00 p.m. This earlier start time is to prepare students for the more rigorous academic workload and to ensure they have enough time to cover all subjects.

High School

When it comes to high school, the start and end times can vary even more. Some high schools start as early as 7:30 a.m. and finish at 2:30 p.m., while others may start at 9:00 a.m. and finish at 4:00 p.m.

The variation in schedules can be attributed to the different curriculums offered by different high schools, as well as the commuting distances for students.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and there may be some variations depending on the specific school and region in Japan. Schools may also have different schedules for certain days of the week, such as shorter days on Saturdays or longer days to accommodate club activities.

If you want to know more about school schedules in Japan, you can visit the official website of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for more detailed information.

Recess and Lunch Breaks

Elementary School

In Japan, elementary schools typically have a set schedule for recess and lunch breaks. During these breaks, students have the opportunity to socialize, play, and refuel their energy before continuing with their academic studies.

Recess in elementary schools usually lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes. This time allows students to engage in physical activities, such as playing games, running around, or participating in organized sports.

It is important for children to have this break as it promotes physical fitness, social interaction, and cognitive development.

Lunch breaks in elementary schools are also an important part of the daily routine. Students usually have around 50 minutes to enjoy their midday meal and take a break from their studies. During this time, students can eat their packed lunches or purchase meals from the school cafeteria.

Some schools even have a system where students take turns serving lunch to their classmates, fostering a sense of responsibility and teamwork.

Junior High and High School

In junior high and high schools in Japan, the schedule for recess and lunch breaks may vary slightly compared to elementary schools. While the length of the breaks may be similar, the activities and options available to students can differ.

During recess, older students often have more freedom to choose how they spend their break time. Some students may choose to socialize and relax, while others may prefer to engage in sports or club activities. This time allows students to unwind, recharge, and prepare for the next academic period.

When it comes to lunch breaks, junior high and high school students usually have a longer period, ranging from 50 to 60 minutes. This extended time allows students to not only eat their meals but also participate in extracurricular activities or engage in self-study.

Some schools may offer a variety of lunch options, including a school cafeteria, nearby restaurants, or convenience stores.

It is worth noting that the specific schedules for recess and lunch breaks can vary between different schools and regions in Japan. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check with the specific school or educational institution for the most accurate information.

Semesters and Terms

In Japan, the academic year is divided into three semesters: the spring semester, the fall semester, and the winter semester. Each semester has its own set of terms and breaks.

Three Semesters Per Year

The spring semester in Japan typically starts in April and runs until July. It is known as the “Hinamatsuri” or “Doll Festival” season. During this semester, students attend classes and take exams to evaluate their progress.

The fall semester begins in September and ends in December. It is called the “Shichi-Go-San” season, a traditional celebration for children of the ages three, five, and seven. This semester is filled with various activities and events, including cultural festivals and sports days.

The winter semester starts in January and finishes in March. It is known as the “Setsubun” season, which marks the beginning of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar. During this semester, students focus on preparing for final exams and completing their coursework.

Long Summer Vacation

One notable aspect of the Japanese academic calendar is the long summer vacation. Students in Japan enjoy approximately six weeks of summer break, which usually starts in late July and ends in early September.

This extended vacation period allows students to relax, recharge, and engage in various activities. Many families take advantage of this time to travel within Japan or abroad. It is also a popular time for students to participate in summer camps, cultural exchange programs, or pursue personal interests.

The long summer vacation in Japan provides students with the opportunity to explore different hobbies, spend quality time with family and friends, and create lasting memories. It is seen as a crucial time for personal growth and development outside the confines of the classroom.

Regional and School-Level Differences

When it comes to the start times of schools in Japan, there are significant regional and school-level differences. These differences can be attributed to various factors, including the location of the school and whether it is a public or private institution.

Urban vs Rural Areas

One of the main factors that influence the start time of schools in Japan is whether they are located in urban or rural areas. In urban areas, where commuting times can be longer, schools tend to start earlier in the morning.

This is to ensure that students have enough time to travel to school and arrive on time. On the other hand, in rural areas where the population density is lower and commuting distances are shorter, schools may have slightly later start times.

For example, in Tokyo, one of the busiest cities in Japan, many schools start as early as 7:30 am. This allows students to avoid the rush hour traffic and arrive at school on time. In contrast, in rural areas such as Hokkaido, where the population is smaller and commuting times are shorter, schools may start around 8:30 am.

Public vs Private Schools

Another factor that contributes to the variation in school start times in Japan is whether the school is public or private. Public schools in Japan generally follow a standardized schedule set by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

These schools usually start around 8:30 am.

Private schools, on the other hand, have more flexibility in setting their own start times. Some private schools may choose to start earlier or later than public schools based on their own educational philosophy and the needs of their students.

For example, some private schools may opt for a later start time to allow students to get more rest and have a healthier work-life balance.

It’s important to note that while there are general trends in school start times in Japan, there can still be variations among individual schools. Therefore, it is always best to check with the specific school or school district for the exact start time.


In summary, while school schedules in Japan vary somewhat across different regions and school types, most follow a similar daily routine of starting between 8-9 AM and ending between 2:30-4 PM. Elementary schools tend to start latest and have more recess breaks, while high schools start earlier.

All Japanese schools have a long summer vacation and three semesters per year. Understanding the typical school day and yearly calendar can help anyone with connections to Japan’s education system plan their schedules accordingly.

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