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This is an ethnographic study of how two Japanese kindergartens are implementing the yōhoichigenka policy aimed at reforming the Japanese early childhood education system. The cases of these two kindergartens demonstrate what happens when a top-down mandate reaches the level of individual programs. The programs creatively find ways of responding to the reform mandate and to social change while maintaining what their administrators view as their pedagogical traditions. This paper also argues for the value of ethnographic methods to show how local programs are creative, resistant, and pragmatic in how they deal with top down pressures and directives.