Living in Japan with an infant or toddler can be a fairly easy and comfortable experience as there are a number of daycare and toddler groups across the city that are expat-friendly.
With regard to daycare in Japan, most expats opt for private daycare/nurseries as the Japanese public daycare system (“hoikuen”) can be complicated to get into. Like the national education system, a public daycare year begins on April 1 and concludes on March 31. Applications for public daycare centers are accepted in January and you will be told if your child has been accepted between late February and mid-March – it’s rare that a child will be accepted into a daycare program mid-year. To learn more about the public daycare system or to inquire about how and where to apply, visit your municipality’s government offices: http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/
American World International Pre-school and Kindergarten(http://www.americanworld.jp) has 5 locations around Tokyo and provides “playschool”, as well as kindergarten, sessions for children from 18 months to 5 years, and even after school programs for older children. Children can be accepted on a day-to-day basis for about 5,000 yen/day from 9:30am-2:25pm up to 56,000yen/month for 5 days a week during the same hours.
Montessori Friends International School (http://www.montessorifriends.com) is located in Meguro-Ku and provides care for toddlers from 18 months. It is based on the internationally renowned Montessori philosophy that children learn by exploring the environment around them. Tuition ranges from 600,000 yen for two days/week to 950,000 yen for 5 days/week.
“Tokyo with Kids” (http://www.tokyowithkids.com) has an extensive list of English-speaking, as well as additional languages, daycare centers and nursery schools.
Mother and Toddler Groups
Kspace (http://www.kspace.to) is not only expat-friendly, but they provide a wide variety of classes and services, with prices varying widely by program. With dozens of teachers for mother and child programs, preschool and kindergarten education, after school activities, and summer school, Kspace is one of the most popular English-speaking toddler group’s in the city.
Gymboree (http://gymboree.jp/), which has two locations in Japan (not to mention the other 550 branches in 30 countries), provides early childhood development programs for children between ages 0-5. You can sign up for a free pass by calling one of the Tokyo branches, or drop by the site for detailed information on their activities in English and Japanese.
Tokyo Mothers Group (http://www.tokyomothersgroup.com) is a free support and contact group for mothers in Tokyo and their toddlers. The group meets regularly, hosts a number of events, and offers practical suggestions and useful information on life in Tokyo with a youngster, not to mention the opportunity to meet other mothers who may also be seeking play-dates.
The Tokyo Families (http://www.tokyofamilies.com) and the aforementioned Tokyo With Kids Web sites offers additional opportunities for arranging playgroup meet-ups.
Poppins (http://www.poppins.co.jp/) is a membership babysitting service that charges 2,300 yen per hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 2,875 yen per hour from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and 3,105 yen per hour between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. Poppins also provides daycare services at nearly two dozen branches across the city.
Chez Vous (http://www.chezvous.co.jp/english) not only provides babysitting services, but they also provide assistance to mothers, similar to what a part-time nanny might provide. While Chez Vous is a membership service, they provide babysitting at a slightly higher cost to non-members ranging from 2,600 yen per hour for one child during the morning, to 3,650 yen per hour from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Discounted service is available for multiple children or for 12 or 24-hour service. It should be noted that because some expats choose to hire a part of full-time nanny, Chez Vous offers full-time private placement of housekeepers, babysitters/nannies, or all-round helpers.
Some expat families choose to hire a part-time or full-time nanny, on their own, to help around the house. While nannies in Japan come from all nationalities, the majority of non-Japanese nannies available in Tokyo are from the Philippines or Thailand. Having a non-Japanese live-in nanny will require that you sponsor their visa, while part-time nannies are sponsored by someone else. Sponsoring a nanny requires that you visit the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau (http://www.moj.go.jp/) to inquire about whether you are “eligible” to sponsor a nanny.
While eligibility does require that you have a work visa (or something similar), the majority of the other prerequisites are not clear and appear to, at times, be arbitrarily decided upon based on perceived need for a live-in nanny. If the immigration officers determine that you are indeed eligible, you will need to provide a copy of the contract between you and the nanny detailing monthly salary (150,000 yen per month is minimum wage), total number of holidays, how you are covering health insurance, and other specifics of employment.
While both part-time and live-in nannies can be found in Metropolis Magazine (http://www.metropolis.co.jp), Tokyo Notice Board (http://www.tokyonoticeboard.co.jp), or on supermarket notice boards, the majority of employers tend to hire nannies based on personal recommendation to ensure that needs and expectations will be adequately met. Hourly fees for part-time help generally range between 1,500 to 2,000 yen per hour.
Additional babysitting and daycare services can be found in Tokyo Families magazine.