If you are a parent living and working in Japan and can’t look after pre-school age children during the day, there are public and private childcare facilities that you can use. In 2015, the Japanese government introduced new measures to improve the quality of childcare and make support more available. Here are some of the main childcare options and how to use them.
Local daycare centers are one of the most common providers of childcare support. They are administered at the municipal level and offer daytime childcare given by nursery teachers to children from the age of 6 months up to 5 years. Anyone can apply for day care provision in Kobe. Acceptance is conditional on meeting the conditions of the child needing care (e.g., parent/guardian is working or sick).
If the center is over-subscribed, admissions are determined according to priority categories (e.g., single parents and those with disabilities have top priority). Care is offered between 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. with some extended care available (up to 11 hours per day). Fees depend on income, ranging from free to a maximum of 85,000 yen per month. You can apply through the welfare office of your local ward. The main number for the Child and Family Bureau is 078-331-8181. Details of day care centers in Kobe can be found here: approved day care centers
Public kindergartens are available for children aged 3-5 and exist to provide a slightly more structured pre-school education for children to prepare them for entry to primary school. Sessions are four hours per day (morning to early afternoon) delivered by kindergarten teachers with some after-hours care available. Public kindergartens also run at the municipal level. Fees, similar to daycare centers, are dependent on household income but there are no admissions requirements so you can enroll your child even if you are not working. You can find information on local kindergartens by calling the Child and Family Bureau on 078-331-8181.
Since 2016, some daycare and public kindergarten facilities in Kobe have been combined into Centers for Early Childhood Education and Care to provide a more holistic pre-school education for children. The criteria for admission is similar to that for daycare centers. You can find out information about the instruction on the Kobe City website.
International pre-schools are a popular option with expats in Japan as they offer English-speaking instruction and a chance for young children to experience a diverse international and multicultural community. Instruction is usually offered from 1-2 years of age up to the age of 6. Sessions run between 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Class sizes are typically smaller than in daycare centers and kindergartens, but costs at these private facilities are higher, and never free. Pre-schools in Kobe include iCi Bilingual Pre-school and Kidsbright International Pre-school. A list of international schools in Kobe can be found here.
Kobe City Homepage
Information on financial support available for childcare
Information on support available for children with special educational needs