Jun 1, 2018

How to survive school meetings in Japan

How to survive school meetings in Japan  photoOur child is the only black person at her JHS and coupled with the fact that her dad works as an ALT it means that everyone knows us. 

I’ve had to visit the school a few times last year and when I got to the office I realized I didn’t even need to summon my limited Japanese expressions because instantaneously I was asked if I needed my daughter or her teacher. 

Recently though, we were given the schedule for the first PTA of the school year and I secretly panicked. The notice came home way in advance and I knew I needed to prepare myself to attend as my husband would be busy at school at that time of the day (2:00pm). I found it OK to communicate with her homeroom teacher but I’ve never really interacted with anyone else at the school and I was seriously worried about my listening and speaking capabilities. Suffice to say, it turned out better than I anticipated.

If you are short on Japanese language skills and must be present at your child’s school for meetings here’s a quick way to go about preparing without embarrassing your child or yourself.

1. Be punctual. Japan operates on time efficiency. Calculate how long it will take to get to the school and leave your house well in advance. Aim to be there at least 15 minutes early. (In my case I was super early -- the first person so I got to choose an end seat to the back just in case I needed to make a quick exit if the baby got fussy).

2. Dress appropriately. You are now a part of a conservative society and especially if you will be a stand out among the parents you do not want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. If in doubt, cover up arms and legs.

3. Ensure you have a translator app on your phone. If your Japanese language ability is minimal it makes much sense to be able to translate the materials handed out as well as being able to convert whatever you want to say from English to Japanese. "Google Translate" is very helpful -- even if you can’t pronounce the words you can show it to whomever you are conversing with.

4. Lastly, go with an open mind. You may be new and unfamiliar with any of the parents but a friendly smile and a pleasant countenance will go a long way in making you appear approachable, thus making way for people to interact with you. Parents who speak English were very cordial with me. They introduced themselves (those from my daughter’s class) and relayed information to me in English.

Additionally, most Japanese are helpful and they will extend themselves to you, making you feel welcome.



Hi! I’m an educator/stay-at-home mom with an educator husband, a teenage daughter and six months old son. I loooove to cook, gets excited about curries and have a serious weakness for pastry especially cakes! Enjoy being outdoors, reading and sewing.