Earlier this month, the education ministry gave itself a big high-five after the results of a survey showed the English proficiency of Japan’s students is improving. The proportion of third-year junior and senior high school students with Grade 3 and Grade Pre-2 or higher on Eiken proficiency tests, respectively, both rose past the 50% mark. The government wants that number to pass 60% by fiscal 2027.

English education in Japan does not have a reputation for excellence. The country currently ranks 87th out of 113 non-English speaking countries, below Malaysia, South Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, Mongolia, Indonesia and China. Proficiency in foreign languages more generally is blatantly deficient: Just 13% of Japanese speak multiple languages, compared to 40% of Thai and French, 57% of Australians, and more than 75% of people from countries like Switzerland, Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden.

Despite that, bilingual education is booming here. A variety of schools pledging to nurture the nation’s children up into international citizens, fluent in Japanese and English alike, are opening new branches across the country.