End of the first term at Yamasa
So it is the end of my first term studying Japanese at the Yamasa Institute in Okazaki city. Here are my somewhat jumbled impressions.
This place reminds me of America, large main roads and everything is separated quite a lot. Having a bike here is almost essential if you want to save time shopping. There are three large department stores within 20 minutes walk of most of the Yamasa accommodation buildings which should cater to most of your needs.
That is about it really. Nightlife in terms of clubs and bars is practically non-existent. If you are a party animal then be prepared to head into Nagoya at the weekends.
I am staying in “Yamasa Villa IV”… A somewhat optimistically named building with 20 self-contained units. Each unit is a one room studio style flat with a separate bathroom.
Because I started in January it was cold…COLD and like most Japanese accommodation the insulation is pathetic compared to western standards. I am in the ground floor flat of this building which also means the sun is blocked out a lot by the neighbouring building. If you come in winter be sure to bring warm clothes. Heating/cooling is provided by one air-conditioning unit which again is the Japanese norm.
Furnishings are somewhat hit and miss in terms of levels of repair but you can get stuff replaced if it is obviously broken. I got a wheelie chair replaced as it had been broken (and the metal frame looked like it had been ripped apart!) and the replacement was nice and new for which I am eternally thankful.
While the campus does look a bit run-down from the outside (Aoi Hall specifically), the inside is clean and warm and perfectly adequate for teaching.
There are computer facilities (although one of the computer rooms does look like a museum) but no printing. There are also plenty of places nearby to eat or buy food at lunchtime.
The Curriculum / Teaching.
I was in N class which was the lowest this term (Oh the shame!) so my impressions are based on this course.
The main classes follow the book “Minna No Nihongo”, which is a de facto standard teaching book (The same one I used in university all those years ago). Each term covers 20 lessons which is a fair chunk of Japanese. There are almost daily quizzes and little tests to make sure you are learning what you are supposed to be outside of classes and there is homework…
Oh GOD is there homework, oodles of it, tons of it, I have three redwood trees-worth of paper in my room right now. If you like having plenty of work to do outside of class then don’t worry, this is the place for you.
The only class that was rather disappointing was the Kanji class. Almost 95% of the class time is spent practising writing the kanji with a special Japanese kanji pen which, while interesting in an “Oh god this is impossible” sort of way, doesn’t really seem to be a good use of valauble teacher-facing time to my mind.
There was also no formal teaching about radicals or how to look kanji up or anything like that which would be immensely helpful for self-study. Having taken this class I get the feeling that you could learn the kanji just as well on your own if they gave you the list.
I didn’t really have to use them that much but they were accommodating to those requests I did have. The only thing that went unanswered was an email asking for help about finding a Kendo Dojo in the area.
I have definitely learned a lot. The first month was basically revision for me because of the small amount of Japanese I already knew, but after that it was two months of solid learning. At the end of the term you have 203 hours of Japanese (assuming a 100% attendance rate) under your belt which should be enough for passing the JLPT4 and hold basic conversations with native speakers.
If you have anything to add or want clarifications / more details then please feel free to add a comment.