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Unit 5

5.1 Factors That Impact the Quality of Life

7 min readnovember 16, 2020

caroline-koffke

Caroline Koffke

katelyn17

Katelyn Lien


AP Japanese  🇯🇵

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Unit 5 Overview

This unit explores various themes related to the quality of life in Japanese-speaking communities, including access to education and careers, entertainment, and travel. With a main focus on contemporary life, Unit 5 continues to provide a meaningful context for students as they gain a deeper insight on Japanese-speaking communities.
🤔 Here are some guiding questions to help get you thinking for this unit:
  • How do aspects of everyday life influence one's quality of life?
  • How can sources of entertainment impact one's quality of life?
  • What influences one's perception of their quality of life?

🏫 Education (教育)

The Japanese school year begins in April. Most Japanese students attend school for the first time during the year that they turn seven years old. Some go to preschool, or yōchien (幼稚園), starting the year they turn three or four years old, but it is optional and largely depends on each family.

Shōgakkō (小学校)

Elementary school is known as shōgakkō (小学校) and consists of students in grades 1-6. The majority of students attend a public school, or kōritsu (公立), near their home, and the education is free. Since the students' school is normally within walking distance, they often walk with their neighbors every morning to school.
Although parents may walk with their first graders to school for the first few weeks, the kids soon learn to walk by themselves. First graders are required to wear yellow hats when walking to and from school, so others can clearly see them. This ensures that the first graders can safely get to their school.
All elementary school students, shōgakusei (小学生), have a randoseru (ランドセル), which is a special backpack made from leather. Most students will buy a ランドセル at the beginning of first grade and use the same one until the end of sixth grade. Since these bags must last multiple years, they are very durable and are also adjustable in size.
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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Conservative schools may require all girls to get an 赤いランドセル and boys to get a 黒いランドセル. However, recently more colors like pink and blue have become acceptable as well.
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Image Courtesy of nippon.com

All 小学生 have kyūshoku (給食), which are daily lunches provided by their school. Each week, a few students in each class are put on lunch duty, called kyūshoku tōban (給食当番), and are responsible for carrying their entire class's lunch from the school kitchen to their classroom and serving their classmates.
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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Students who have been assigned to 給食当番 for the week must wear a white apron and white cap to cover their hair. They learn the importance of cleanliness and sanitation from a young age. At the end of the week, they must wash their apron and cap and give it to the next group of students who are on 給食当番.
Once the students and teacher have their 給食, they say いただきます as a class before commencing their meal. (Learn more about Japanese meal manners here under Family Meals.) Rather than eating in a school cafeteria, as is common in American schools, each class eats in their own classroom.
Japanese students are encouraged to eat all of the food given to them. They learn to be thankful for their meal and not waste it.
好き嫌いはなし means to not have likes or dislikes.
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Resources:

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

🥢 Lunch time is considered just as important as all of the other school subjects like math or history. It is a time when students can learn about nutrition, responsibility, and manners.

Chūgakkō (中学校)

Chūgakkō, or junior high school, is for students in grades 7-9. Students usually attend the junior high school near their house, just like they did for elementary school, and the education is still free.
中学生, junior high school students, no longer bring ランドセル with them to school. They bring bags or book bags instead called ryukku (リュック). They also must wear uniforms, seifuku (制服) to school.
Although each public school is different, a standard uniform for a junior high school girl could include a white blouse, skirt, and long socks. For boys, it could include a white shirt with a tie and tailored pants. Their school's crest would also be included somewhere on their uniform.
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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

👟 When students enter their school, they are required to take off their shoes and change into special shoes used solely for walking inside the school. These special shoes are called uwabaki (上履き) and almost resemble slippers.
Most students leave their 上履き in their school cubbies so they do not have to worry about leaving them at home. The requirement of changing into 上履き upon entry into school is consistent with the Japanese culture of always taking off one's shoes when entering a home. It helps maintain cleanliness in schools as well as people's houses.
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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Some 中学校 have 給食 while others do not. For students who attend a 中学校 that no longer serve 給食, they must bring their own lunch from home. This lunch, called bentō (弁当), is pretty well known, even in America.
Some Japanese mothers wake up early each morning to make special 弁当 for their kids. They try to make the 弁当 as nutritious, colorful, and cute as possible!
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Image Courtesy of Flickr

Kōkō (高校)

Kōkō or high school is for students in grades 10-12. Students must take an entrance exam unique to each high school and get accepted in order to attend. These tests, called juken (受験), are usually taken in February of 中三, the last year of 中学校 and the equivalent of ninth grade in the US.
A student's career largely depends on the high school they are accepted into. High schools in Japan are unofficially ranked based on the universities that graduates from each high school attend, so many students feel pressured to do well on the entrance exams. Students know that attending a high level high school will allow them to continue on to a highly respected university and eventually find a good career.
Since high school students (高校生) test to get into their high school, many no longer attend the same school as their neighbors. Some students end up going to a school that is far away from their home, so they must take the train, densha (電車), to get to school. It is very uncommon to get driven to school by parents, as is common in the US.
高校 no longer offer 給食, so everyone brings their own 弁当 from home. 高校 is also no longer free or required, which is a huge difference from 小学校 and 中学. But, the majority of students choose to attend because they know their future mostly relies on a good education.
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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A significant difference between American high schools and Japanese high schools is that Japanese students mostly remain in the same classroom for all of their different classes, while American students move to different classrooms for different subjects. In Japan, the teachers come to each classroom when it is time for their own subjects.
High school students go through another stressful period of studying and tests around the end of their last year of high school. Many students spend the majority of their time studying just for the kyōtsū test (共通テスト), which is a standardized test that everyone must take to enter college.
This test is administered every January for rising college freshmen and is crucial for determining the university they will attend the next year. Unlike standardized tests like the SAT or ACT, which are offered multiple times per year, the 共通テスト is only offered once per year. If a student does not do well on the test or is not able to take it for some reason, they must take it the following year.
Once students take the 共通テスト, then they must prepare to take entrance exams for the different universities they are applying to. Since students spend so much time studying for these exams, it is now called juken benkyō (受験勉強).

Daigaku (大学)

After the stressful period in which students spend hours doing 受験勉強 and taking entrance exams for different universities, they will hear back from universities in March. Once they are accepted, they are ready to attend 大学, or college, starting in April.
Some of the most high-level and well-known universities in Japan include:

University of Tokyo - Tokyo Daigaku (東京大学 often abbreviated to 東大)

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Image Courtesy of Flickr

  • Public research university in Tokyo
  • Many subjects taught completely in English
  • 10 faculties, 15 graduate schools, 30,000 students (over 2,000 international)
  • Notable alumni include 17 prime ministers and 16 Noble Prize laureates

Kyoto University - Kyoto Daigaku (京都大学)

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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  • Four-year international course taught entirely in English
  • Follows Western academic calendar: school year starts in September rather than April
  • Known for academic excellence in chemical engineering, materials science, and physics

Osaka University - Osaka Daigaku (大阪大学)

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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  • Known for academic excellence in dentistry, chemistry, physics, and astronomy
  • Strong research in field of economics
  • Over 2,000 international students attending

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✍️Exam Skills - FRQ/MCQ
👨‍👩‍👧Unit 1: Families in Different Societies
🗣Unit 2: The Influence of Language and Culture on Identity
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🔬Unit 4: How Science and Technology Affect Our Lives
🏠Unit 5: Factors That Impact the Quality of Life
🌪Unit 6: Environmental, Political, and Societal Challenges
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