Junior High School

Lower-secondary schools cover grades seven, eight, and nine. Ages are roughly thirteen to fifteen with increased focus on academic studies. Although it is possible to leave the formal education system after completing lower secondary school and find employment, fewer than 4% did so by the late 1980s.

Like most elementary schools, most junior high schools in the 1980s were public schools and government funded; 5% were private schools. Private schools cost about ¥558,592 (US$3,989) per student in 1988, about four times more than the ¥130,828 (US$934) that the ministry estimated as the cost for students enrolled in public junior high schools.

The minimum number of school days in a year is 210 in Japan, compared to 180 in the United States. However, students will typically attend school for 240 to 250 days a year. A significant part of the school calendar is taken up by non-academic events such as sports days and school trips.

Teachers often majored in the subjects they taught. Each class is assigned a homeroom teacher who doubles as counselor. Unlike elementary students, junior high school students have different teachers for different subjects. The subject teachers usually move to a new room for each 50-minute period. Usually students' lunch is provided by the school itself.

Instruction tends to rely on the lecture method. Teachers also use other media, such as television and radio, and there is some laboratory work. By 1989 about 45% of all public lower-secondary schools had computers, including schools that used them only for administrative purposes. Classroom organization is still based on small work groups, although no longer for reasons of discipline. Students are expected to have mastered daily routines and acceptable behavior.

All course contents are specified in the Course of Study for Lower-Secondary Schools. Some subjects, such as Japanese language and mathematics, are coordinated with the elementary curriculum. The curriculum covers Japanese language, English, social studies, mathematics, science, music, fine arts, industrial arts, homemaking, health, and physical education. Moral education and special activities continue to receive attention.

Extracurricular activities
Many students participate in after-school clubs. Sports clubs, such as baseball are especially popular among boys, while wind bands are the most popular club for girls. Soccer (football) clubs are gaining popularity. Judo clubs attract boys and girls. They may be inspired by the many Japanese judo athletes who have won medals at the World Judo Championships and the Olympic Games. Other popular sports clubs include tennis, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball. In every sport, many games are held between schools and at the regional level, so students have opportunities to compete.

For cultural clubs, one that has gained popularity is the go club. Go is a strategic board game played with black and white stones. After a manga about the game was published (Hikaru no Go), more schoolchildren started enjoying go. Other options for students include choir and art clubs. Brass band, tea ceremony, and flower arrangement clubs are popular.

Some junior high schools encourage students to take academic ability tests such as the STEP Eiken for English or the Kanji kentei for Japanese.

Students in the highest grades of elementary, junior high, and senior high schools also take trips lasting up to several days to culturally important cities like Kyoto and Nara, ski resorts, or other places.