Basic List of Schools for Children before 1st Grade in Japan


A.   Youchien (Kindergarten/Preschool): 

Youchien focuses on providing advanced learning before elementary school. Because their aim is education, Youchien is only available for children from 3 years old to six years old. Youchien keeps children for around 4 hours a day, not the entire day like Hoikuen/Nursery.


B.   Ninka-Hoikuen (Authorized Daycare/Nursery):
At Ninka-Hoikuen, children are supervised by caretakers for a longer period of time due to their parents having

to go to work or due to their parents’ health conditions. They may have basic learning classes but their focus is not education.


C.   Ninkagai-Hoikuen (Unauthorized Daycare/Nursery):

Unlike Youchien and Ninka-Hoikuen, Ninkagai-Hoikuen do not need to follow strict rules and regulations. Thus, they can provide a variety of unique services/education that Youchien and Ninka-Hoikuen cannot offer. International preschools are an example of a Ninkagai-Hoikuen. 


D.  Nintei-Kodomoen (Kindergarten & Daycare):

It has aspects of both Youchien and Hoikuen – they can keep children for long hours while they also educate them.






Controlled by

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology

Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare

Prefectural Governor

Focus on


Day Care



From 3 years old until 1st grade.

From 0 years until 1st grade. Parents cannot provide care due to work or poor health.

From 0 years until 1st grade

Teaching License

Kindergarten Teaching License

Nursery School Teaching License

If more than 6 children at school, 1/3 of staff must have Nursery School Teaching License

Hours of Operation

From about 9:00 to 14:00.
Approximately 4 hours of instruction time.

From about 7:30 to 18:30.
Approximately 8 hours of daycare time.

Up to the school.


Public Youchien: up to the local government.
Private Youchien: Up to the school.

Local government's decision depending on the household's income.

Up to the school.

Long Holiday

Yes (Spring, Summer, and Winter).


Up to the school.


NOTE: The above chart does not include Nintei-Kodomoen because its system is a combination of Youchien and Ninka-Hoikuen. Please see Youchien and Ninka-Hoikuen for details on Nintei-Kodomoen.

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