This paper explores the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology (MEXT) approach to curriculum policy in early childhood education. The
Kindergarten Curriculum Guideline contains few directives or practical suggestions for
teachers. The abstractness and indirectness of the MEXT approach to establishing curricular
guidelines stands in stark contrast to the much more explicit and directive curriculum
guidelines for early childhood education found in China, the US, many other countries. In this
paper I suggest that the Japanese hands-off approach reflects a combination of structural
features of Japanese early childhood education and implicit cultural beliefs and practices.