The Price of Growing Up (and of Conformity)

Anthony is getting to the age where he'll start preschool soon, so we've started to evaluate a number of them. Japanese pre-school, called youchien (幼稚園) and sometimes “kindergarten”, generally goes for three years starting during the school year in which they turn three years old. (In the US, of course, “kindergarten” is generally a half a day for one school year at about age four or five.)

Each school has its own formal uniforms that the kids wear on the way to/from school. Being very formal (jacket, vest, shirt) but for kids (short pants and short-sleeve shirt), they're generally quite adorable on a three-year old.

I'm sure that these uniforms are a big deal to the kids too, as it represents a big step toward growing up, and makes them a tangible member of a group. Just thinking of Anthony strutting proudly in his new clothes makes me smile like the silly proud parent I am.

This all comes at a steep price, though. The first place we went to had a price list of required items (here shown with prices in US dollars, at the exchange rate of 110 yen/dollar):

summer short pants / skirt2,800$ 25.46
short-sleeve shirt2,40021.82
winter short pants / skirt 4,20038.19
long-sleeve shirt 2,00018.19
sweater 3,50031.82
long pants5,20047.28
necktie 550 5.00
collar 550 5.00
suspenders 850 7.73
name tag holder 750 6.82
inner liner (jacket) 800 7.28
inner liner (vest) 700 6.37
inner liner (short-sleeve shirt) 600 5.46
100% cotton short-sleeve shift 2,88026.19
100% cotton long-sleeve shirt 2,40021.82
hats (winter, summer) 1,85016.82
fringe for hat 800 7.28
gym shirt 2,50022.73
gym pants 2,00018.19
gym/inside shoes 1,80016.37
plate 450 4.10
cup 450 4.10
shoulder bag2,10019.10
blue bag (?) 1,050 9.55
school emblem for jacket 250 2.28
school emblem for hat 250 2.28
“bus rider” patch 200 1.82
extra button (jacket, pants) 60 0.55
extra button (shirt) 40 0.37
extra button (sweater) 30 0.28
pianika” (mouth-blown accordion type thing)4,00036.37
hose for pianika 400 3.64

66,310$ 603.00

These prices are ridiculous. $47 for pants for a three-year-old? Geez, I rarely ever spent that much on a pair for myself. Most of the $600 is for the formal uniform which is not even worn during school (thankfully). Generally, it's worn during the commute to/from the school. That's a heck of a lot to spend for a bit of cuteness!

Of course, the $600 is in addition to the $5,000/year for the school itself (plus another $900 if they want to ride the bus).

Choosing the school is quite an important decision, not only to ensure that they treat the kids the way you want (e.g. do they put emphasis on play? socialization? learning? etc.), but also because which pre-school they go to can have a direct impact on, I kid you not, what college they go to.

Some highly sought-after private high schools, for example, are very difficult to get into, but once you're in their system (e.g. by getting into the preschool, elementary school, or middle school), you're in. So, getting into their preschool ensures that they can continue though high school. Of course, the high school one goes to has an impact as to what college you can get in to.

We definitely don't want to put Anthony on the “boileroom” track of cram schools and study-to-the-entrance-exam that is not uncommon here. Thus, we're looking for just the right place that will let him enjoy being a kid while he's a kid, but give him the opportunity for a good education down the road. (Not that one can predict what he'll want to do when he's older, but I would think he'll go to college in the US, but we want him to have the option to go here if that's what he wants.)

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