*This is Ethan's outside hat and his inside shoes. Anytime the kids are outside, on the playground or on a field trip, etc., they wear their colored hat. Each class is a different color, so the teachers are able to easily identify the kids in their class. Everytime they enter the building, they take off their regular shoes and put on their inside shoes. Yes, they look a little girl-y to American eyes, but they're absolutely non-gender specific and nearly all students at all schools wear them, including high school, I've even seen some male teachers wearing them. Everybody has a little shoe bag to carry them in that matches the backpack.
*Lunch is catered 3 days a week by an o-bento company, it's traditional Japanese food; 2 days a week they cook at school, its almost always Udon, a ramen type soup with fat noodles. Once a month they have a birthday party for all the kids whose b-day is that month, the kids bring thier own lunch on those days. We have to provide the kids' own cup and utensils everyday and their own bowl on udon days.
*There are no paper towels. Each kid brings their own cloth towel for drying hands, they come w/ a little loop sewn on and hang from a big rack in the hall.
*As with many Japanese buildings, there is no central heat or air conditioning, Japanese schools are notorious for being freezing cold in the winter, and it's recommended that you send a bottle of water in the warmer months to help your child stay cool.
*Saturday care is available every weekend (for an fee), they take field trips and do lots of fun stuff. And nearly all functions that parents are asked to attend (performances, etc) are held on Saturdays.
*Several times a year they have Observation Day, also on Saturdays, where parents come and observe the kids as they go through a normal school day; I'm very curious to see "normal" the day will be with 400 parents and assorted family members hovering in the background and 200 cameras and camcorders rolling.
*If your child attends a daycare/preschool in the same city you live in, you can get childcare assistance money from the city government.