Schools differ greatly from country and culture, and Japanese schools are no exception. Japanese schools are split into three academic levels; elementary school, junior high school, and high school. Most public schools incorporate uniforms from junior high, and the majority of schools are very strict with how to wear the uniforms. A common rule, is for students to button-up their shirts up to the top. Some schools, both private and public, do not allow shoes from outdoors to be worn inside the school buildings. Students have specific shoes that are only to be worn inside, and they change their shoes at the school entrance, where they have their own shoe lockers.
At lunch time, students take out their bento (lunch boxes), and eat in the classroom. Most parents pack bento for their children, and students come to understand their parents’ hard work of getting up early in the morning and preparing a whole meal every day. Most elementary schools and junior high schools have kyu-shoku, which is lunch that is prepared and distributed to the students within the school. The menu changes every day, and usually comes with a milk carton. The nutrition of each menu is calculated by professionals, so that the meal has a good balance of a variety of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients.
A unique custom of Japanese schools, is that students clean the school by themselves. When class finishes, students go to their designated areas, such as their homeroom, the corridor, or the bathroom, and clean for about 10 minutes. Later, a teacher checks if the area has been cleaned properly. If it has, the students can head home, or go to their extracurricular activities. Cleaning the school makes students respect the school property. It is also a great way for them to learn the importance of cleaning. Cleaning may seem like a boring job and you may feel sorry for the students. However, most students actually enjoy cleaning and chatting with their friends and teachers.
Japanese junior highs and high schools have extracurricular activities, called clubs. Normally, a student chooses one activity, and stays in that club during his or her three years of school. They do not change according to season, so for example, the swimming team would practice in the pool during warm days, and train indoors on cold days. It is Japanese culture to respect people older than you, and this is even seen in schools. The senpai (seniors) teach and supervise the kouhai (juniors), and the kouhai shows their gratitude by speaking to their senpai with honorific (polite) language.