In Japan, three years of junior-high school are compulsory for children aged between 13 and 15. In public junior-high schools, English is taught in accordance with the Course of Study for Junior High Schools (中学校学習指導要領). This Course of Study specifies that the current objectives of English education in junior-high schools are “[t]o develop students’ basic communication abilities such as listening, speaking, reading and writing, deepening their understanding of language and culture and fostering a positive attitude toward communication through foreign languages.” Since 1989, the Course of Study has emphasized developing communication abilities (Ogushi, 2011, p.14).
One class in junior-high school is about 50 minutes. On average three classes of English per week are conducted for 40 weeks a year (MEXT, The minutes and handout of the committee for English courses in elementary and secondary education). For details, see also Course of Study for Junior High Schools (中学校学習指導要領).
As of 2014, there are six English textbooks certified by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology: New Horizon, Sunshine, Total English, New Crown, One World, and Columbus (MEXT, 2014, pp. 12-13). The education committee in each prefecture has the authority to select a common textbook for junior-high schools under its jurisdiction (Ogushi, 2011, p. 21).
English was not officially a required subject in public junior-high schools until the revised Course of Study for Junior High Schools (中学校学習指導要領) came into force in 2002, but in fact it had been taught in almost all junior-high schools in Japan since the 1960s (Terasawa, 2014, p. 240). The history of English as a de-facto requirement is discussed in depth in Terasawa (2014).
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [MEXT]. The minutes and handout of the committee for English courses in elementary and secondary education, the Central Education Council of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (The 3rd meeting in Term 4) [Document 7] Basic data on the number of classes in elementary and junior-high schools (J) △ 文部科学省 中央教育審議会 初等中等教育分科会 教育課程部会（第４期第3回）議事録・配布資料 [資料7] 小・中学校の授業時数に関する基礎資料 (MEXT website)
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [MEXT] (2014). A list of certified textbooks for junior-high schools for SY2015 (J) △ 文部科学省 中学校用教科書目録（平成27年度使用）(MEXT website)
Ogushi, Masanori (2011). Eigo kentei kyōkasho: Seido, kyōzai, soshite katsuyō (Approved English textbooks: Systems, materials, and utilization). Sanseidō. △ 小串雅則『英語検定教科書 : 制度、教材、そして活用』、三省堂、2011年。(WorldCat)
Terasawa, Takunori (2014). "Nande Eigo yaru no?" no sengoshi: "kokumin kyōiku" to shite no eigo sono dentō no seiritsu katei (The postwar history of "Why do we teach English?": The process of building up the tradition of "English as national education"). Kenkyūsha. △ 寺沢拓敬『「なんで英語やるの?」の戦後史—《国民教育》としての英語、その伝統の成立過程』、研究社、2014年。(WorldCat)