Not too long ago, I heard from a foreign resident of Tokyo looking for a high school for her daughter, a 14-year-old who will begin her final year of junior high in April. Both parent and child were extremely excited about recently discovering a nearby public school featuring a cosmopolitan atmosphere and encouraging the development of well-balanced students with international perspectives.

The school, Tokyo Metropolitan Kokusai High School (Toritsu Kokusai), is located a few stops from Shibuya on the Keio Inokashira Line and has consistently ranked in the top 10 percent of Tokyo's public (state) high schools. Instruction for most courses is in Japanese, and foreign languages taught at multiple levels include English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Korean. About 15 percent of the school's students hold a foreign nationality (representing around 20 countries) and 20-25 percent of its 720 students are returnees who have lived overseas for at least two consecutive years (in around 50 countries). The school is about 80 percent female, and graduates and their parents often speak highly of the place.

This foreign resident's daughter was born and raised in Tokyo, has been educated at public schools in the city, and has spent significant time with her family in Europe. Japanese is her second language, English her third. The mother had heard that returnees and foreigners were given preference when applying to this school. Moreover, because it is public, costs are low.