Tag Archives: application

The Basics: Private Day Care

Applying to private day care in Tokyo is a very different game than going the public route. In most cases, the application process is far simpler. This is not to say that getting in is any easier, as there is still an issue of lack of space, but the process is not as bureaucratic as the ninka application process. The selection process is also very subjective—no point system here—which can work in your favor, depending.

However with private day care, you have to be diligent in choosing where to apply because there is a range of quality out there. You need to do your homework in visiting and checking out the day cares. The most general term for private day care in Japanese is shiritsu hoikuen, but when doing your research you want to know which of two categories the day care you’re looking at falls into: ninsho or mu-ninka. See here for more details on each. The former qualifies for government subsidy; the latter does not. The majority of private day care are the latter, mu-ninka. There is really a range with mu-ninka, some great and some not-so great. You have to do your homework when applying to these: talk to other parents to hear what opinions are floating out there; have a Japanese spouse or friend do a little surfing on the mama online forums to see what people are saying; drop by the school at a time when they’re not expecting you to “ask a question” and see how their operation is looking when no parents are around, etc.

With private day care, the selection process for applicants is wholly based on the day care. There is no point system as in the public application and the private application is usually far less involved. (See here for a sample.) You usually don’t have to prove anything in regards to your working status. You simply have to apply and somehow catch their eye so that they want you in—ie you have to appear as though you can afford it and you have to give them a reason to want your child (and you) at their school on a daily basis. If you apply mid-term, instead of for entrance in April at the beginning of the school year, at the popular private day cares it’s likely that there won’t be space, so you’ll be wait-listed along with other applicants until a space opens up. Sometimes the wait can be over a year. And sometimes you may get in right away. When researching day cares, you may want to ask how long the average wait to get in is.

Most day cares have an application deadline sometime in the autumn months for entrance in the following spring (the beginning of the school year in Japan). You’ll apply at this time and either be accepted or wait listed. If you get in, you then have to pay the entrance fee to hold your spot until spring. These applications often happen before the public system applications, so if you’re applying to both, you’ll likely find out about your application to the private day care months before the public one. You’ll then have to pay to hold your spot until spring—the fee is usually between 15,000 and 35,000 yen depending on the day care. If you then get into public and rescind your application, that money is not refunded. It’s a little tricky, but if you really need day care, it’s probably worth paying the fee to hold your spot in case your public application is not accepted.

If you’re in a situation where at least one parent is an English speaker, which is likely the case if you’re reading this site, in some ways this may put you at an advantage with private day cares, which is why it’s a good option for many if you can afford it. Many of the private facilities in Tokyo want to be seen as international—and having a bilingual child or a child with more than one ethnicity attending their school helps with this image. I realize this might not be ideal for some, to use this as an advantage, but it is what it is. If you’ve faced the typical obstacles that most families face when trying to get into day care in this city, such as being continuously rejected or wait-listed for over a year due to lack of openings, you’ll likely be happy to take whatever advantage you can get.

Private day cares usually cost at least 65,000 for 160 hours a month, but often the price is much higher, such as around 100,000 yen. If the day care is a ninsho, and you enroll your child full time, you’ll qualify for a monthly discount via a subsidy from the municipal government, usually around 20,000 yen.

Private day cares in Tokyo often don’t have as large of facilities as the public ones. Some smaller private day cares are categorized as hoiku-shitsu or hoiku-room (as opposed to hoikuen), which means it’s a one-room facility. A hoiku-shitsu can usually only accept a small number of children because their space is limited. Sometimes these are cheaper than the larger private facilities though. There are also licensed day-care providers who operate out of their homes. These caretakers are called hoiku-mama. They also only take a limited number of children but for some families an option like this works better than a larger day care. Your ward office will have information about both hoiku-shitsu and hoiku-mama in your area.

One last thing about private day cares is that many have part-time or semi-part-time programs. For example, four days a week or three days a week. Some may even do less than that, depending on the day care. The options at public ninka day care for less than full-time care are very minimal (see here for more), so private is a good route to go if you don’t need or want full-time care, as long as you can afford it.

With the dearth of day cares in Tokyo at the moment, new private day cares seem to be opening up everywhere. This is good because it gives us more options, but just make sure to do your homework about any new day care. Any private day care facility is, after all, a business, and some will for sure be more upstanding than others.

 

 

The Application Process: Sample Private Day Care Application

The following is a sample application for a fairly competitive private day care in Tokyo. It’s one page, and they don’t ask for any additional documentation. This is it! It’s an interesting comparison with the 10 plus pages of the application for public day care. Note that this day care facility makes their decision based solely on this single piece of paper–there is no interview.

As you can see below, all they ask for is: the names, address, and work details of each parent; the name and age of the child; your requested weekly schedule for childcare; and finally a brief explanation of your child-raising philosophy and your purpose for wanting entrance to that specific day care.  It’s a pretty breezy application compared to the hefty public one. For some, the absence of red tape and headaches in the application process might be worth the extra monthly cost of going private! However, if public is your ultimate goal, it’s good to know that applying to a private as a back up will not be as tiresome a process as the public application. Again, this is just a sample of one private day care–each facility of course has their own application paperwork and procedure. Some day cares do require interviews, and others may have much more involved application forms than this one.

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The Application Process: The Point System

All applications for public day care (ninka) in Tokyo are assessed based on a point system designed by each ward. The more points you have, the higher your ranking on the waiting list to get into the public day care of your choice. The point system is supposed to be an objective way of prioritizing those with the greatest need for childcare, but it’s not as clear cut as it seems, and those families that get in often figure out how to manipulate the system in their favor so they have more points.

The following is a sample of a recent point chart that I have on file. The wards update their point scales pretty regularly, and each ward has their own scale, so please only use the below to gain a general understanding of how the point system works. A copy of the most up-to-date point chart will be in the application form you pick up at your ward office.

Most successful applications for public day care have a point total of 40 or more. In the case of two parents working full-time, an application is awarded 40 points total (20 for each full-time worker). However, since pretty much all applications have 40 points, as for the most part people only apply to the public system if both parents are working (because entrance is so competitive), families then try to give themselves an edge by adding extra points. See the last chart below for details on this. But for an example, the most common way to add points above and beyond the 40 is to have your child already enrolled in private day care. If you are already paying for full-time childcare in a private facility (or otherwise), you’re awarded an extra 2 points, which would then give you a total of 42. (The thought process behind this from the ward’s point of view is that if you’re paying for private care, which will be more expensive than public day care, there’s no uncertainty about whether you are really in need of day care or not.)

The first part of the scale is simply based on working hours. You’ll see in looking it over that corporate/company workers seem to be favored over self-employed or family businesses. If you’re self-employed, you can be awarded the full 20 points only if you’re a business owner–but what this exactly means is not clear. If you’re self-employed or work for a family business but are not the business owner or head, then you can’t get the full 20 points. So two spouses working together cannot both get 20 points. And the ward also awards less points to self-employed people working at home as opposed to those in an office or place of business. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, really. It seems that there’s probably some leeway in how you define your job type, but just remember you do have to provide documentation and proof for everything. However, if you work for yourself from home and are technically the owner of your “business,” then you should be able to be awarded the full 20 points.

Job Type Working Hours Points

Company Employee

Working 20 days or more per month
40 hours , 5 days/week, daytime 20
40 hours/week 20
more than 35, less than 40 hours/week 19
more than 30, less than 35 hours/week 17
more than 20, less than 30 hours/week 16
Working less than 20, up to 16 days/month
more than 32 hours/week 16
more than 24, less than 32 hours/week 14
more than 16, less than 24 hours/week 13
Business Owner

(Self-employed, Family-run Business)

up to 20 points (depending on hours, see above)
Self-Employed, Family-run Business Employee

(Not Owner)

Working 20 days or more per month Work in an

office

Work from

Home

more than 40 hours/week 19 18
more than 30, less than 40 hours/week 16 15
more than 20, less than 30 hours/week 15 14
Working less than 20, up to 16 days/month
more than 32 hours/week 15 14
more than 24, less than 32 hours/week 13 12
more than 16, less than 24 hours/week 12 11
Seeking Employment If you’ve found a job and are looking for day care, as long as you can submit proof of having secured employment, your points will be calculated based on the above scales, but 4 points will be subtracted from your total. See above, minus 4 points
If you are currently seeking employment but have not yet secured a job. You are required to find work within 2 months. 7

For families where one spouse is not working due to special circumstances, the following shows how points are given based on those circumstance. For families eligible for these points who have successful applications, in most cases one spouse will already have 20 points for working full time (see above chart) and then for the non-working spouse with special circumstance, points will be awarded as detailed below. Single-parent households also pick up more points here.

Special Circumstances Points
Pregnancy/Maternity Leave Over a total time of 5 months. Points won’t be awarded after applying under this category for more than 5 months. 12
Illness or Injury bed rest 20
infectious disease, Grade 3 mental illness (based on Tokyo Mental Illness Grade Scale) 20
Mental Illness less than Grade 3 15
Disability (based on Tokyo Illness Grade Scale)

Grade 1, 2

20
Grade 3 16
Grade 4 12
Primary Caretaker for a Sick Relative Full-time caretaker 18
Staying with Hospitalized Person 16
Taking Person to Hospital Every Day 14
Visiting Care/Nursing Home Facility Daily 14
Continuing Education Currently enrolled in classes 12
Natural Disaster 20
One-parent Household Parents are divorced or one parent is deceased. 20
Other Special Circumstances Parent attends Japanese language school 7
Parent works 8-hour night shift Use above company worker scale for hours, then minus two points
Other Circumstances to be considered case by case by ward office and awarded points accordingly.

The last part of the chart below shows you how extra points are added and subtracted to an application’s total. Remember, most successful applications already have the 40 points for having two full-time workers in the family, but then it’s a matter of finding a few extra points to give you an edge over all the other dual income families in the application pool. Those points are picked up (or lost!) for reasons outlined below.

Situations for Addition or Subtraction of Points Points
Location Related Non-resident of ward but planning to move to the ward in which you’re applying for public day care -2
Non-resident of ward but employed there -4
Non-resident of ward, not employed there -6
Non-resident of Japan -2
Relocating wards, already have child in public day care in former ward 2
One-parent Household Divorced or one parent deceased with no care-taking assistance 4
Divorced or one parent deceased with care-taking assistance 2
Parents living separately due to job transfer 2
One parent is hospitalized for over 6 months 2
Spouse is not registered resident of same ward -4
Already Have Private Childcare Child is in private day care or being taken care of through other means of paid child care

(proof required)

2
Maternity Leave Pregnant, have a child in day care, plan to go back to work 2
Re-enrolling older child after taking them out for maternity leave during new pregnancy 4
Family Assistance Grandparent under age 60 living within 1km -2
Employee of Public Day Care Facility Applying to have your child in the same day care that you work in -1
Requesting to move from one public day care facility to another  You have multiple children at different public day care facilities and request they be assigned to the same one 2
Other reason -4
Disabled Child 2
Special Circumstances To be considered on a case by case basis by the ward and awarded points accordingly 1 to 6 points