Japanese school boys do not wear smocks. Younger boys and girls in kindergarden and day care, however, do often wear brightly colored smocks and beanies. Japanese Nursery Schools (hoikuen) are primarily for children whose parents both work. Tuition, registration and entrance fees vary considerably, depending on whether public or private. Uniforms (smocks and caps) required. Parents take and pick up the children, and provide lunches and bedding for naps. Saturday is a half-day. HBC does not know of any primary schools that use school smocks, but they are often used at both nursery schools and kindergarden.
Japanese Nursery Schools (hoikuen) are primarily for children whose parents both work. Tuition, registration and entrance fees vary considerably, depending on whether public or private. Uniforms (smocks and caps) required. Parents take and pick up the children, and provide lunches and bedding for naps. Saturday is a half-day.
Whatever the amount of pre-schooling, the great leveler called Kindergarten (yochien) begins at age four and lasts for two
years. It is the challenge and solemn duty of Japan's yochien to sort, leach and pound this puerile raw material into a substance
approaching uniform malleability so that further processing in grades one through twelve is unimpeded by inconsistencies. Smocks, color-coded beanies, a backpack for books and lunch, and the de rigueur patch or badge that says "I belong" are some of the basic tools used to achieve uniformity. Yochien teachers "all smiles and tolerance" appear to possess indefatigable energy levels and to see the world in terms
of properly grouped red, yellow, orange, blue and green beanies. Herein lies the foundation for a life-long sense of group
identification and competitiveness by their charges, who quickly learn to see the world as their teachers do.
The yochienbeanies eventually give way to hat or lapel buttons, the smocks to uniforms that vary imperceptibly across Japan.
Schools and grades within them become differentiated by slight changes in collar pin configurations — a stripe here or a pleat
there — that only students can discern, so by the time high school is finished,the student possesses powers of observation a
Comanche scout would find admirable.
Kindergarten "grads" are certified groupies who know that if they obey the rules and are team players true to their school,
class, group and family, they belong. They also know that should there be lapses, they will merit "special attention" from their
seniors and other members of their various social groupings.
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