Kids (or rather, parents) in Japan have to buy their own textbooks. Being from the UK, where this doesn’t happen until university, this makes me kind of horrified. However, because 90% of these textbooks are actually needed for the student to actually learn anything from the class because this is Japan and they follow textbooks religiously, these government mandated textbooks are relatively cheap so that even poor people can afford them. They’re about 200-300 yen each (about $3usd or £2.50) which doesn’t sound that bad.
But then you have to consider the sheer number of textbooks the kids need for a class. I always thought that having a textbook meant… having one textbook. There were few classes where I needed more when I was in school (and the school paid for them anyway). For English alone, the kids have two textbooks plus a booklet for summer and winter holiday homework, and then the optional formatted notebooks, which adds up to quite a bit.
The main advantage to actually owning your textbooks is that you can write all over them though, and Japanese students are encouraged to do it.