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Choosing an international school is an enormous task—especially when faced with the many options available in the Tokyo–Yokohama area. Schools exist that cater to nearly every want, and curricula run the gamut. But across the board is a commitment to a holistic learning experience, supported by a wide assortment of extracurricular and cocurricular activities, tech-savvy programming, well-qualified teachers, and an emphasis on community service. The Journal talked to representatives of nine area schools to find out what characterizes each.


The curriculum of the ASIJ is, not surprisingly, inspired by the Common Core, Advanced Placement, and various other US standards, though it also incorporates aspects of international methodologies such as the play-based Reggio Emilia Approach in its Early Learning Center. Supplementary high school courses are available through the ASIJ’s Global Online Academy membership. A focus on community service outside school walls and community-building within creates “a welcoming and diverse community in which students build bonds that last a lifetime,” explained Director of Advancement Erin Nelson. When asked what makes the ASIJ stand out, Nelson highlighted the school’s “resources and commitment to support students as they pursue individual passions.”


Spread across two campuses in Shibuya and Setagaya Ward, the BST follows the English national curriculum. The school received a top grade of “excellent” in every area at its last inspection by the UK government’s Independent Schools Inspectorate, and its links to the local community and its broad offering of curricular and extracurricular activities were praised. Communications Manager Lowly Norgate’s pride in BST students was evident as she shared notable achievements from regional and international events, such as a student qualifying for the British Mathematical Olympiad. The BST’s strengths include a commitment to digital literacy across platforms, and tech-supported learning such as Google Cardboard-assisted virtual-reality field trips.


The oldest international school in Asia, and the only co-educational Catholic school on the Kanto Plain, Saint Maur International School follows a handful of curricula: Montessori (preschool and kindergarten), International Primary Curriculum, French national (grades one to five), International General Certificate of Secondary Education, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, for which Saint Maur has a 95 percent success rate compared with the worldwide average of 79 percent. The Toddlers’ Group and Adult Enrichment Program demonstrate Saint Maur’s “mission of developing lifelong learners.” In the words of School Head Catherine Endo, the school strives “to meet the needs of our transient international community.”


Located in Setagaya Ward, Seisen International School is a multicultural school with a Catholic framework. Though coeducational in its Montessori Inquiry Kindergarten Program, from grade 1 to 12 it functions as a girls’ school. Seisen follows the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme in elementary, and the IB Diploma Programme in high school. English is the language of instruction, and Japanese, Spanish, French, and Mandarin are also on offer. Seisen is strong in math and science, with a Power Pitch win and finalist showing at the Conrad Innovation Challenge 2016. Over 60% of students receive gold, silver, or bronze certificates in the United Kingdom Mathematics Trust challenges.


An International Baccalaureate World School offering the Primary Years Programme and Diploma Programme, Aoba-Japan International School has its kindergarten campus in Meguro Ward and its primary, elementary, and high school campus in Nerima Ward. A vertical homeroom in upper years allows for increased interaction between students of various ages, while its global leadership program allows students a space to create their own chances for learning. Heiichi Itakura, vice president of marketing, explains that “young people take responsibility for their own learning, and then learn and develop faster and better.” The Family Community also helps organize community events such as the Spring Carnival and Sports Day.


Located in Shinagawa Ward, CIS follows the curriculum of the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island from kindergarten to grade 12, and is an authorized school for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. While French is not offered at CIS, Japanese language and culture are taught from grade 1 to grade 12. In line with its link to Canada, middle and high school students participate annually in math contests hosted by Ontario’s University of Waterloo. Principal Ian Robertson highlighted small class sizes—averaging 15 students—as one of CIS’s strengths, as well as specialized teachers for music, art, PE, as well as Japanese language and culture.


Minato Ward’s Nishimachi International School aims to nurture the minds of students K–9 as they grow into bilingual, bicultural global citizens. In its elementary program, the Common Core-aligned school dedicates 40–60 minutes each day to Japanese instruction. This grows to eight hours per ten-day cycle in middle school. Headmaster Christian emphasizes the Japanese program’s “experienced, dedicated teachers” and “many years of refining the program” as the key to its success. Noteworthy is the teaching staff’s average duration of employment: eight years. This continuity gives students comfort.


A fully international education can be found at Yoyogi International School, where students range from 16 months to 11 years. Yoyogi International School has its own unique hybrid curriculum that combines UK National Curriculum and US Common Core State Standards with a teaching and learning approach based on the philosophy of the International Baccalaureate. This thought-provoking approach nurtures students’ creativity and critical thinking skills. All students are very well prepared to set forth on their next academic journey, wherever they might go, and school Director Yuko Muir emphasized “the warm, secure, and nurturing environment that helps children become curious, confident, and compassionate individuals.”
Dutch and German expatriates are likely familiar with Jenaplan, a child-centered, inquiry-based teaching method that stresses the importance of world orientation and community. Nursery school provider Hasegawa Kids Life, which runs 71 Japanese-style nurseries, will be opening its first bilingual school based on the Jenaplan curriculum next year in the Kanto area. The new preschool (for ages 1 to 5) will feature bilingual instruction, with the main language being English. Time each day will also be devoted to Japanese. Beyond language, science and adventure will be a focus—there’s even an astronomer from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan on board. Math and robotics, literacy, and Japanese culture also will be part of the program.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote “Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” Each of these schools embodies King’s belief, striving to mold their students into compassionate global citizens capable of taking on any challenge.

Helen A. Langford-Matsui is a freelancer writer from Ontario, Canada, now living in Kamakura.
Across the board is a commitment to a holistic learning experience, supported by a wide assortment of extracurricular and cocurricular activities.