If you’re a parent in Japan, I’d like to tell you about a few lessons I learned the hard way related to Japanese preschools:

1. If you want to go to a private preschool, call the school the day your baby is born because there are incredibly long waiting lists. A lot of parents seem to try to plan their delivery dates so that the child is born early in the year to get ahead on the waiting list. Our son was born in September, and by the time we got around to applying for a preschool in November, we were number 25 on the waiting list.

2. The reason you want to call a private preschool is because if the one my son goes to is typical, public preschools are insane:

a) They take my son’s temperature three times a day. If it’s over 37.5 in the morning (my parenting books says that’s the upper limit of a normal temperature) he is not accepted, and if at any time it goes over 38 we have to pick him up, even if it goes back down a few minutes later (which it often does).

b) Every time he sneezes or gets a pimple on his little toe, they insist we take him to the doctor, even though the doctor rolls his eyes every time he sees us and says, “Wow, your pre-school is really strict.” They have also rejected kids even when the doctor gave permission for them to go back.

c) They don’t seem to understand the concept of “day care,” because they’re constantly accusing my wife of being a bad mother when she works overtime or applies for extended-hours daycare.

d) One teacher got angry at my wife for speaking English to my son because she claims he doesn’t understand Japanese as well as the other kids (ignoring that fact that he was the second-youngest in the class).

e) They’re constantly telling us how to raise our child.

f) They give us lectures when we’re (literally) five minutes late picking him up.

Other reasons that I wish we’d gotten into the private preschool near my apartment are that their opening hours are much longer, they let you drop off your child any time during the day (making it much easier to take him to the doctor and letting you use a half- rather than a full-day off), they’re just generally a lot more flexible.

But then again, if we’d gotten into the private preschool, my son wouldn’t have gotten to wear this cool disaster hat after the March 11 earthquake, so I guess that’s something.