An elementary school in Kanazawa has begun English classes from the third grade. The change at this school came as a result of Koizumi’s initiative to pass some decision making power back to local school districts.
An English teacher has to applaud the initiation of such an ambitious program. You can read about it at the Japan Times Online. You can also have a look at the “curriculum” at the Kanazawa Board of Education site. I have translated some of the contents if you are curious about the contents but cannot read the Japanese
Elementary and Middle School Consecutive English Education Curriculum and Structure
1st and 2nd grade Elementary– Instruction ContentEnglish: speaking and listening centered instruction; Ability Aims– English sound system and basic greetings, 10 contact hours
3rd and 4th grade Elementary– Instruction Content English: speaking and listening centered instruction; Ability Aims– be able to name familiar objects and simple self introductions, 35 contact hours or more
5th and 6th grade Elementary– Instruction Content English: speaking and listing ability, progressing on to reading and writing, Ability Aims–to be able to introduce a person familiar to you and read and write simple sentences, 35 contact hours or more
6th grade Elementary– move on to first-year Middle School materials
Pretty rough translation, but enough to get the idea.