Thursday, November 23, 2017

School Years in Japanese

For reference, a list Japanese school years, grades, and the ages characters attend school in anime. Including terms like shougakkou ichinen 小学校一年,.chuugakkou sannen 中学校三年, koukou ichinen 高校一年 and so on.


Chart of Japanese school years. Comparison of American and Japanese school years.

Basic Vocabulary

To begin with, the Japanese school system, much like the rest of the world, works by grades which are associated to years.
  • gakunen 学年
    School year.
  • atarashii gakunen ga hajimaru 新しい学年が始まる
    A new school year begins.
  • sorosoro kono gakunen ga owaru そろそろこの学年が終わる
    Soon this school year ends.

These years can be counted with Japanese numbers plus nen 年, the word for counting years in Japanese, like this, see:
  • ichinen 一年 (or 1年)
    One year. First year.
  • ninen 二年 (or 2年)
    Two years. Second year.

Not that the numbers can be written with kanji (一二三四五) or Arabic digits (12345).

You can create words for students of a given year by adding the suffix sei 生 to the year words. For example: ichinen-sei 一年生 is an ichinen student, a "first year student." Also works for ninensei, sannensei, etc.

Other important words:
  • gumi 組み
    Class. A class of students.
    (A-gumi A組み, "class A," 1-gumi 1組, "class 1," etc.)
  • sotsugyou suru 卒業する
    To graduate.
  • ryuunen suru 留年する
    To repeat a year. (literally "detain year")

Some other posts you might want to see later:

Hoikuen 保育園

The hoikuen 保育園 isn't really a "school" but a place that takes care of babies and children under 6 years old for their parents.

In Japanese, the word hoikuen means "nursing," hoiku 保育, "garden," en 園. A nursing garden. A nursery, or nursing school.

There are many reasons for children to be placed in a hoikuen: both parents work, no babysitter, the stay-at-home parent was hospitalized, etc.

At three years old a child can go to an optional preschool, and at six years old they have to go to grade school, so normally a hoikuen doesn't have children under 6.

As one would expect, hoikuen are kind of rare in anime.

ほいくえんではスカートはだめだから そーなの? quote from manga Usagi Drop うさぎドロップ (Chapter 2)
Manga: Usagi Drop うさぎドロップ (Chapter 2)
  • Context: a guy is buying clothes for his aunt, who's a 6 year old girl, when he questions why she's not picking skirts.
  • hoikuen dewa sukaato dame dakara
    Because in the nursery school, [you can't wear] skirts.
  • soo na no?
    [Is that so?]

Hoikusho 保育所

The term hoikusho 保育所, literally "nursing place," is synonymous with hoikuen 保育園. The only difference is that hoikusho is the official name found in laws, etc., while hoikuen is the popular name, frequently added to the names of such nursing schools.

Youchien 幼稚園

The youchien 幼稚園 is a school for children ages ranging from 3 years old to 5 years old.

In Japanese, the word youchien means "infancy," youchi 幼稚, "garden," en 園. Infancy garden. A garden for infants. A kindergarten.

Note, however, that in the Unites States the term kindergarten refers to the first year of elementary school (which would be the last year of a youchien). The first two years of youchien would be equivalent to preschool or pre-kindergarten in the US.

School Years

youchien nenshou 幼稚園年少
Junior year of kindergarten.
(nenshou means "youth," literally "age little.")
Ages 3 to 4. Preschool, pre-kindergarten in the US.

youchien nenchuu 幼稚園年中
Middle year of kindergarten.
(nenchuu is literally "age middle.")
Ages 4 to 5. Preschool, pre-kindergarten in the US.

youchien nenchou 幼稚園年長
Senior year of kindergarten.
(nenchou means "senior," literally "age long.")
Ages 5 to 6. Kindergarten in the US.

Shougakkou 小学校

The shougakkou 小学校 in Japan would be equivalent to an "elementary school," "primary school," or "grade school" in the United States from first grade and up.

A student of a shougakkou is a shougakusei 小学生.

In Japanese, the word shougakkou means "small," shou 小, "school," gakkou 学校. Small school.

Shougaku 小学

Sometimes, shougakkou is abbreviated to shougaku 小学.

School Years

shougakkou ichinen 小学校一年 (or 小学校1年)
shougau ichinen 小学一年 (or 小学1年)
Elementary school first year.
Ages 6 to 7. Same as first grade in the USA.

shougakkou ninen 小学校二年 (or 小学校2年)
shougaku ninen 小学二年 (or 小学2年)
Elementary school second year.
Ages 7 to 8. Same as second grade in the USA.

shougakkou sannen 小学校三年 (or 小学校3年)
shougaku sannen 小学三年 (or 小学3年)
Elementary school third year.
Ages 8 to 9. Same as third grade in the USA.

shougakkou yonnen 小学校四年 (or 小学校4年)
shougaku yonnen 小学四年 (or 小学4年)
Elementary school fourth year.
Ages 9 to 10. Same as fourth grade in the USA.

shougakkou gonen 小学校五年 (or 小学校5年)
shougaku gonen 小学五年 (or 小学5年)
Elementary school fifth year.
Ages 10 to 11. Same as fifth grade in the USA.

shougakkou rokunen 小学校六年 (or 小学校6年)
shougaku rokunen 小学六年 (or 小学6年)
Elementary school sixth year.
Ages 11 to 12. Same as sixth grade in the USA.

Chuugakkou 中学校

The chuugakkou 中学校 in Japan has no real equivalent in the United States school system.

This is because it starts at the same time as "middle school," however, in the US "middle school" is sometimes called "junior high school" instead. Most notably, the last year of chuugakkou is equivalent to the freshman year (first year) of high school in the US.

A student of a chuugakkou is a chuugakusei 中学生.

The word chuugakkou means "middle," chuu 中, "school," gakkou 学校. Middle school.

Chuugaku 中学

Sometimes, chuugakkou is abbreviated to chuugaku 中学.

School Years

chuugakkou ichinen 中学校一年 (or 中学校1年)
chuugaku ichinen 中学一年 (or 中学1年)
Middle school first year.
Ages 12 to 13. Same as seventh grade in the USA; first year of middle school or junior high.

chuugakkou ninen 中学校二年 (or 中学校2年)
chuugaku ninen 中学二年 (or 中学2年)
Middle school second year.
Ages 13 to 14. Same the eighth grade in the USA; second year of middle school or junior high.

chuugakkou sannen 中学校三年 (or 中学校3年)
chuugaku sannen 中学三年 (or 中学3年)
Middle school third year.
Ages 14 to 15. Same as the ninth grade in the USA; high school freshman or first year.

Koukou 高校

The koukou 高校 in Japan is equivalent to the last three years of high school in the United States.

A student of a koukou is a koukousei 高校生.

Koutou Gakkou 高等学校

You may have noticed that, unlike shougakkou and chuugakkou, the word koukou has no gakkou in it. This is because the word koukou is an abbreviation of koutou gakkou 高等学校. Despite being an abbreviation, koukou is used with more frequency than koutou gakkou in anime.

The word koutou gakkou means "high grade," koutou 高等, "school," gakkou 学校. High-grade school. High school.

School Years

koukou ichinen 高校一年 (or 高校1年)
koutou gakkou ichinen 高等学校一年 (or 高等学校1年)
High school first year.
Ages 15 to 16. Same as tenth grade in the USA; high school sophomore or second year.

koukou ninen 高校二年 (or 高校2年)
koutou gakkou ninen 高等学校二年 (or 高等学校2年)
Middle school second year.
Ages 16 to 17. Same the eleventh grade in the USA; high school junior or third year..

koukou sannen 高校三年 (or 高校3年)
koutou gakkou sannen 高等学校三年 (or 高等学校3年)
Middle school third year.
Ages 17 to 18. Same as the twelfth grade in the USA; high school senior or fourth year.

Daigaku 大学

A daigaku 大学 in Japan is any post-secondary school, this includes universities, colleges, etc.

A student of a daigaku is a daigakusei 大学生.

The word daigaku means "large" or "big," dai 大, "education," gaku 学. Large education.

daigakkou 大学校

One would think that since shougaku and chuugaku are abbreviations of shougakkou and chuugakkou, daigaku ought to be an abbreviation of daigakkou, right?


The word daigaku is not an abbreviation of daigakkou. The word daigaku as-is is the word the education officials of Japan chose for post-secondary education. And, yes, the naming is a mess. Nobody is saying it makes sense. I just want to note if a school calls itself a daigakkou, "big school," they aren't necessarily an actual daigaku, "college." These words are not the same thing.

School Years

daigaku ichinen 大学一年 (大学1年)
College first year. University first year.
Ages 18 and 19.

daigaku ninen 大学二年 (大学2年)
College first year. University first year.
Ages 19 and 20.

daigaku sannen 大学三年 (大学3年)
College first year. University first year.
Ages 20 and 21.

daigaku yonnen 大学四年 (大学4年)
College first year. University first year.
Ages 21 and 22.

Other Courses

Besides the schools above there are other types of schools that should be taken note of.

Koutou Senmon Gakkou 高等専門学校

A koutou senmon gakkou is a mix of high-school and college. A technical college.

While the normal koutou gakkou (koukou) has three school years, a koutou senmon gakkou has five school years. You'd start it at 15 or 16 years old (just like in a koukou), but finish it 19 or 20 years old.

The words koutou senmon gakkou mean "high-grade," koutou 高等, "specialty," 専門, "school," gakkou 学校. A high school to create specialists, technicians.

Tanki Daigaku 短期大学

A tanki daigaku is a college with fewer years than normal. It's equivalent to "junior college" in the united states.

While the average daigaku course takes four years to complete, a tanki daigaku takes only two or three years.

The words tanki daigaku mean "short," tan 短, "term," ki 期, "university," daigaku 大学. A short term college or university.

Ika Daigaku 医科大学

An ika daigaku is a "medical college."

As one would expected, a course in medicine is harder than your average course, and take longer to complete. Because of that, an ika daigaku usually takes six years to graduate from, compared to the four years of the average college. The graduate would have at least 23 or 24 years old.

The words ika daigaku mean "medical science," ika 医科, "school," gakkou 大学. Medical science school. Medicine school.

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