Our monthly online newsletter,"L'ESPACE".
L'ESPACE is a diverse French word that means place,area,cosmos,and gap.
- Offering opportunities to enjoy and learn Japanese -
In Close Up this month we introduce “yu-yu-jin”, an organization based in Kanda Jinbocho, Chiyoda Ward, which offers opportunities to enjoyably socialize in Japanese and to learn the language. The three planners in charge of organizing and administering the events and language classes are experts in the field of Japanese language education. They founded yu-yu-jin in April of 2018 with the objective to create a space where Japanese citizens and foreigners could freely gather. On this occasion we spoke with two planners, Ms. Akiko Yamada and Ms. Taeko Ota, about the background that led to the creation of the organization and its activities.
Please tell us what led to the establishment of yu-yu-jin.
Having been involved in both Japanese language education and international exchange for many years, I have always wanted to one day create a space somewhere for people to gather and have a great time together. To make my dream come true, upon my mandatory retirement from the university, I invited two friends, with whom I had worked together, to join me in founding yu-yu-jin. We began with a classroom in Kanda Jinbocho in April 2018 with the hope of creating a space in which everyone---from those learning Japanese to those who taught Japanese---and without regard to nationality, sex or occupation, was welcome to join. The two pillars of yu-yu-jin are international exchange activities in which participants enjoy interactive communication via a common language, Japanese, and Japanese language classes, whose profits go towards supporting the international exchange activities.
Could you give us more details about the international exchange activities?
We organize events with the intent of having fun conversing in Japanese two times per month. The objective is to elevate a person's Japanese language ability by playing games and engaging in small talk, an event we originally named “Oshaberi - CHAT in Japanese HOUR”, but was changed in April of this year to “Fun in Japanese with people all over the world”. We act as Japanese language supporters, but I recall one time the participants had such an animated discussion about Japanese anime that even we couldn't keep up! (laughing). We also organize events with invited speakers. The most popular was "Let's make HAIKU !". After having learned the basics, the participants wrote haiku verses which were original and clever. In addition, we organize events in which we talk about various themes, some seasonal events such as the tanabata (Star Festival), and others in which we stroll around Kanda, and more. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, since June participants can attend the events using Zoom too. We have noticed there are many people for whom it is easier to participate online, and it's more popular than ever!
Can you talk about the Japanese classes?
yu-yu-jin language classes are basically private and customized, therefore the content and duration of instruction are determined according to the needs of each student. The reason for learning Japanese widely varies among students: a university student wants to learn honorific expressions in order to find a job; the spouse of a Japanese citizen has no problem conversing, but would like to learn to read and write; a future nurse who needs to prepare for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test; and a businessman who will begin to work in Japan and needs to learn the terms used in his line of work and would like to elevate his level of conversation. There are times when commercially available teaching materials are not appropriate and we elaborate individualized teaching materials. This is perhaps the distinguishing characteristic of yu-yu-jin Japanese classes. Our first student requested to learn Japanese in 4 hours as he was soon coming to Japan, and this is how the 2-hour program for tourists , "Experience through learning Japanese", began and which we still offer.
You've also begun to offer online Japanese classes, haven't you?
We offer online classes to persons concerned about the coronavirus. There are some who are not fond of online classes and we offer lessons in our classroom taking health precautions, such as wearing face-masks and sitting diagonally across from one another, among others. Online classes are laborious as they require the preparation of more detailed teaching materials. But, taking advantage of the fact that we are offering online classes, we have forged ahead and now offer the program, "Learning Japanese: Starting from the Basics". This program allows persons living abroad to receive in the comfort of their home and country the same amount of learning they would receive if studying at a language academy in Japan. We must charge a correspondingly higher price, but the cost is much less than actually studying in Japan as it does not involve airfare and lodging expenses. We invite anyone who is truly serious about studying Japanese to apply to this program.
Do you have more activities other than international exchange and Japanese classes?
If the need arises, we have the ability to offer language workshops to teachers or prospective teachers. In addition to jointly reviewing teaching methodologies and materials, we are considering the possibility of elaborating a contrastive study of Japanese and other languages, and to offer lectures on the topic to anyone interested in Japanese language education because teaching is more effective with knowledge of the student's mother tongue. We also host "Open Class", mostly on weekends, when everyone is welcome and which costs only 500 yen. We as Japanese language teachers are always available to offer academic help and would like those who have difficulty paying for classes to take advantage of this opportunity. This activity, suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will resume again in September and reservations are required. We invite you to view the program on our webpage.
Please tell us about any activities planned for the future.
We think it is important for our organization to be more widely known among the public in order to increase the number of participants in the international exchange events and language classes. We would like to slowly take steps to extend ourselves, for example: use SNS more; give more thought to creating new events for people to enjoy; offer online classes in which two or more students can participate, among others.
Although online events and classes may become our principal activities in the future, our wish will not change: that yu-yu-jin is a space where people can have a great time together. We would like to continue with our activities offering a space where people from diverse backgrounds can socialize under the key word "Japanese", while adapting to the current situation.
Ono Bldg. 3F, 17-15 Kandamatsunagacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0023