Anime vs Real Life – Japanese School Life!

There are tons of anime out there featuring teenage characters and naturally, we have tons of anime about school-life or related to school-life. Although this depends on different anime, generally schools in anime are depicted in colorful and merry way. We can see tons of gorgeous and beautiful stories about friends, love stories, and more… But is it the same in real life? Well, it’s time to see how different between schools in anime vs real life!


Table of Content:
1. School System in Japan
2. Anime vs Real Life School
3. Final Thought

1. School System in Japan

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A Japanese classroom (Source: Internet)

Before getting into certain differences between Japanese school in anime and real life, let’s take a look at how school system in Japan works, shall we? And luckily, the school system is pretty the same between anime and real-life version, so let’s go!

Like US, the education system in Japan features Elementary School, Junior High School (or we can say Secondary School), and High School:

  • The Elementary School starts around the age of 7 and it is considered as primary education. Now here is the difference: Children have to study in Elementary School for 6 years (which means until the age of 12).
  • Junior High School lasts around 3 years. When the students finished their Junior High School, they have choice to continue studying at High School. But most of time, they continue their High School. However, in order to get into High School they need to do the entrance exam.
  • High School lasts around 3 years and after that, students can choose to take entrance exam for University, OR, start a new working life. Normally, most students will try to get to the University.

Elementary School and Junior High School are classified as compulsory education and therefore, children from 7 to 15 years old have to participate. On the other hand, High School is kind of optional. But frankly speaking, most children still go to High School nonetheless.

Now that we have taken a brief look about Japanese school system, what are the differences between schools from anime vs real life?

2. Anime vs Real Life School

School Uniforms

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The “standard” school uniforms in real life (Source: Internet)

In anime, we can see students have tons of colorful (and sometimes wacky) uniforms with various styles. But in reality, there is only one staple uniform design:

  • Sailor Uniform: This is girl’s uniform with typical sailor collar and ribbon. Accompanying with the sailor shirt is the skirt with the same color.
  • Gakuran: This is uniform for boys with typical black, high-collar jacket with gold buttons, along with pants of the same color and sometimes necktie.
  • Blazer: The blazer applies for both boys and girls with the typical long-sleeved white shirt. And again, girls wear skirts while boys have pants.

Unlike the colorful anime’s version, real-life school uniform mostly features dark blue or black tone, along with white color of the shirt. Necktie and ribbon are the only thing we may see in more colorful tone. So if you are looking for bright “happy” colors like pink or yellow, sorry, you will be disappointed.

During hot weathers, students are allow not to wear the jackets and only need to wear the white shirt instead. But for the boys, the white shirt is somehow “boring” and therefore, they prefer to wear their favorite T-Shirt under the uniform shirt.

In terms of skirt, Japanese schools have quite strict rule in which skirt’s length needs to be a bit above knees, OR, even cover the knees. So again, sorry, there is no such skirt with short length like the one Rin often wears in Fate Stay Night. But of course, girl students often find way to “make” their skirt shorter and surprisingly, such “methods” of wearing skirts are not rare nowadays. Yet, one thing we can sure though: teachers will definitely pay attention to those kinds of short skirt.

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Cute, but that hair is unacceptable missy! (Source: Internet)

In addition to school uniforms, students in real life are not allowed to use excessive make up, nail polish, “inappropriate” clothes, and hair dye. So yeah, there is no such colorful hair style in real life, except for pure black hair. And since all of these options are literally forbidden, students seek other way to show their characteristics or interests via other means like bag accessories. Sounds different than anime version isn’t it? But that’s why artists always include various “unreal” things so that characters become more interesting.


Students Living Alone?

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Not everyone lives alone like Rei. (Source: Internet)

Okay, there are lots of anime nowadays featuring main protagonists living alone at home like Rei Kiriyama from 3-Gatsu no Lion anime or Rito from To-Love Ru anime (his parents are literally never at home). But let’s be real! Such situation does not really exist in real life. And even if it does, it is extremely rare. Real-life students always stay with their family (or in some cases, school dormitory) we mean like… how else can they live?

That said; we see an interesting notion in which more and more anime nowadays featuring main protagonists living alone. Personally we don’t see this as coincidence. If you have lived in Japan, or at least known about life in Japan, you will see that student’s life is quite stressful unlike the happy vibe in anime (which we will talk about later). There seem to have many things binding a student and therefore, the trend of “living alone” in anime is more likely to reflect the real-life students’ wish to be free from such bindings, even including parents.

Getting to School

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Walking to school (Source: Internet)

Many anime sticks quite close to the real life in this regard. In reality, Japanese students have to get to school by themselves without getting drop off by family. The common means of travel are bicycle or go-on-foot. Students who live far away from school choose to travel via buses and trains. In anime, we may also see imposing teacher “guarding” school gate to ensure that students coming to school on time and checking students’ uniform. That also does happen in real life.


The Romantic Rooftop

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Lovely, but sorry this rooftop is forbidden. (Source: Internet)

In anime, many students are seen to come to the rooftop for many reasons: relieving pain, reflecting one-self, hanging around to have lunch, or love confession. But here is the catch: rooftop is forbidden in real life. In reality, schools often close the rooftop’s entrance and forbid students from getting there. This may sound bad, we agree. But based on Japan’s current society state, it is somewhat logic since it prevent students from suicide (believe us, that’s not a pleasant sight in Japan). Yet, this is probably the reason why many anime does “allow” students getting to the rooftop. In any cases, which location can be more romantic and lovely than the rooftop?

Lunch Time!

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Students have to get food by themselves. (Source: Internet)

Here is another point where anime and real life have the same “opinion”. Though there can be certain changes between schools, in reality students have to prepare meals from lunch area and serve themselves and the classmate. Buying food from outside is not allowed and there is mostly no school cafeteria. Students can also choose to bring lunch boxes (which we often known as “bento”) from home, but the food must follow the school rule. Food like sugary food or processed food are mostly banned due to their low or even no nutrition for students. This policy also aims to prevent students from suffering many health issues like obesity or tooth decay.


School Festivals!

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Yes, school festival is “real” in real life. (Source: Internet)

Festival is an important element for authors to put important events in their anime, and fortunately, it does happen in real-life schools. There are actually quite a lot of school festivals like cultural festivals, sports festivals, and school trips.

Anime’s cultural festival is quite similar to real life in which students get to choose a theme like “haunted house” or “coffee shops”. Next, students within a class will work with each other to decorate their classroom or assigned stall to match the theme they prefer to. Parents can also come to school festival and enjoy what their children made.

Sports festival of course includes various activities and sports competitions. We do not sure how competitive the real-life sports festival is but there are supposedly not much different between real-life and anime version.

School trip often provides chances for students to explore and learn about different regions in Japan, and also an opportunity to learn about their own culture. Certain schools may even afford school trips to Okinawa or foreign countries like France or Australia.

Overall, the goal of these school events is to help students understanding each other, learning the value of team work, and having great memories. How exactly great these festivals in real life? We guess it’s probably better to discover by ourselves.

Student Council?

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In reality you Student Council are not that powerful. (Source: Internet)

Now this is the highest hierarchy of student community in anime. Student Council often depicted as a powerful authority which is highly respected (even feared) by normal students. This Student Council can have power over other students and in some cases, they can even make rules. But for people who dream of becoming all-mighty Student Council in real-life Japanese school, sorry, that dream of yours will never come true.

On the contrary to the anime version, real-life Student Council does not have that much power. They only have very minimal amount of power, which means: no authority over school rules, no authority over the school’s system, none! So why do students apply to join Student Council you may ask? For Junior or High School students, being Student Council can actually make a positive plus in their school records.


School Clubs

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An archery club session (Source: Internet)

Basically school clubs in Japan are not really different than foreign school clubs. In Japan, the most common clubs are sports clubs like baseball or basketball club, or cultural clubs like art or music club. However, “outrageous clubs” like “Far Eastern Magic Society” from Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai anime are absolutely not approved. So sorry Rikka, your beloved club will not come true in real life.

But back to real-life school club, so as we know there are many school clubs. Most students will choose a certain club and they will stick to their club throughout their 3 years in Junior High School. In case of High School, most students only participate in school clubs for their first 2 years. In their last year, they leave the clubs in order to focus on graduation or University entrance exam. School clubs often act as the places where students spend their time after school. However, these school clubs often take lots of their time and therefore, students have to keep up with both school club activities and study.

Love Letter Story

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Do you like receiving a love letter? (Source: Internet)

This classic, yet romantic practice is actually popular back to the old days in Japan. Students do write and exchange letters to share their emotions. Anime also adopts this practices numerous times. And come on! It is definitely romantic. However nowadays, love letter like this is not popular anymore. If the students want to confess to their crush, they will more likely to text each other rather than sending letters.


How Good is School Life Exactly?

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Bullying is not rare in real life tho. (Source: Internet)

This will be probably the most disappointing part when comparing anime school and real-life school. First of all, students in real-life school are not handsome or cute like in anime. Let’s face it! Real-life school has real-life people. And real-life people have different appearance traits so we cannot expect Japanese students to be all-beautiful people.

While school-life in Japan is not all bad, there are certain “darker sides” of Japanese school life. We can agree that tons of schools in anime feature beautiful people with loveable and friendly personalities. But when it comes to reality? Eh… it’s not that merry. Students in Japan generally have a really tough life. They are bound by many sorts of binding like good school performance record and school clubs. Therefore, it is not surprising when many students are in tired and even stressful condition. The pride of the school and individual are also things affecting students’ life, on the bright side, at least many students take their pride and put a lot of effort. On the other hand, there are many cases where students suffer from depression and they even seek suicide option. This situation is especially problematic in Japan especially when Japanese people often live quietly. They do not show their thought and emotion openly, and so too the students. Of course, when being in depression, the students do not easily open up either and therefore, worsen their mental condition.

Such depression condition can be much worse when Japanese schools also have another alarming issue called “Ijime” which is literally bullying. There are numerous serious cases of bullying in Japan throughout recent years and this situation does not seem to get better even to this day. The Kouhai and Sempai culture seems also to be a great factor in “supporting” this bullying situation. Basically, the lower-year students often “need” to be respectful towards their older-year students.

By saying this, we do not mean school life in real-life Japan is a total hell. But it proves a real fact that school-life in Japan is not as beautiful as its anime version.

3. Final Thought

Overall, we can see Japanese school in real life and in anime are totally different although they share certain similarities. The anime often focuses on more beautiful and merry imagination of school-life. That said; there is certain manga or anime series which focus on realistic school life like Great Teacher Onizuka or Dragon Zakura. Of course, we can’t expect these series to be 100% real-life accurate, but at least, they tried to depict real issues in real school life in Japan.

Well, it may sound sad that school life in real-life Japan is so different than anime. But frankly speaking, everything has its pros and cons, including beautiful country like Japan. And while Japan is a great country, it is not like anime.

And what do you think about school in anime and in real-life Japan? Feel free to share with us and for now, thank you and stay tune for more news in the future!

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