Transforming Japanese Schools is the first qualitative study of educational reform in Japan produced in almost a decade. Focusing on a collection of reforms collectively known as relaxed education (yutori kyoiku), it scrutinizes recent efforts to reduce academic intensity in Japanese schools. These policiies have provoked intense debates in the country, yet are not well understood outside of Asia. The book moves debates about relaxed education from the halls of government offices to the campuses of six elementary and junior high schools, and pinpoints the specific factors that supported and impeded the Ministry’s reform agenda. It also analyzes the challenges teachers faced as they attempted to adjust their behavior to fit reform guidelines. This ethnographic study of educational reform provides fresh insights into a system that is frequently mischaracterized, sensationalized, and misunderstood. It provides concrete evidence of the consequences of shifting to an examination-centered curriculum. This data provide a much needed balance to ideological arguments about the merits of high stakes testing. The insights generated from this study should be of great interest to individuals involved in any major education reform effort, whether the objective is to reduce academic pressure—or to compel students and teachers to work harder.