The Bullet train (no misnomer) now only takes twenty minutes to flash from Tokyo to Yokohama. For older children, this means that the lesser known city’s best international schools are within easy reach of Tokyo. However, there are several reasons why families might choose to live here anyway.
The second largest city in Japan and in extremely easy, striking distance of the capital, Yokohama is both more diverse and has a greater fusion of western and Japanese culture, than its neighbour. Being a compact city, culture vultures and foodies don’t have to go far to sate their appetites; somewhat surprisingly, it even has one of the largest ‘Chinatowns’ in the world.
Expats tend to live either in the tower blocks of the Minato Mirai business district or else in houses in historic Yamate (known as The Bluff) but, wherever you choose, the cost will be lower in Yokohama, than in comparable districts in Tokyo. In addition, the city is very child-conscious and even has a government system, providing educational and childcare support for babies and toddlers.
In fact, the only obvious drawback for families choosing to live in Yokohama, rather than Tokyo, is that there is a comparative dearth of international schools. However, there are three well-established and well-regarded all-through schools, two of which have been here for over 100 years. Both of the long lasting schools are located in Yamate, another reason to live in this attractive area, whereas the newest alternative is easier to reach from Minato Mirai.
These extremely highly thought of schools all teach classes from Kindergarten to Year 12. St Maur International School, founded at the very end of the 19th century is the oldest, with the comparative whipper-snapper Yokohama International School opening its doors 25 years later. The relatively new (a century younger) Horizon Japan International School started up in 2003.
They are all three dually accredited by American external agencies and offer the IB Diploma as a leaving qualification. However, St Maur International School has a broader curriculum, involving French, Montessori and International Primary elements as well as offering IGCSEs, the American High School Diploma and Advanced Placement courses. The youngster Horizon Japan International School is currently a candidate for the IB Primary Years and Middle Years Programmes.
For smaller children, St Maur has a Montessori kindergarten and YIS follows the Reggio Emilia approach. The express line from Shibuya in Tokyo to Yokohama means that more pupils are now commuting from Tokyo, at least for the Junior High and High School years. Japan is very safe for children travelling alone and even small children of six or seven can be seen by themselves on the Tokyo subway. Alternatively, parents move to Yokohama and commute to Tokyo for work
There is also a selection of nursery and pre-schools, including Treehouse Montessori School.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Yokohama considered by expats'.
Slimmer pickings on the international school front than you would find in Tokyo but, what there is comes with the comfort that two of them have been around for a very long time and are considered excellent and the third is heading to be authorised to offer the International Baccalaureate Progammes from primary to graduation, always a consideration for expat families.