January 2006 issue

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Taste of Tokyo

One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Tokyo can appear to be a somewhat intimidating place, but language travellers soon enjoy studying in such a modern and exciting global city. Bethan Norris gets a taste for Tokyo.

Tokyo';s modern façade of gleaming high-rise office blocks and shiny new shopping complexes can be attributed to its rapid revival from almost total devastation during the Great Earthquake of 1923 and the bombs of World War II. However, reminders of its historic position as the seat of Japanese government since the beginning of the 17th century can still be found in some of the surviving older areas of the city. These provide a fascinating contrast with Tokyo';s current position as a major world business and technological hub.

Japanese language learners are often attracted by the education and business opportunities available in Tokyo, as Katsuhiko Shinohara from Tokyo Language School explains. "Tokyo is the centre of advanced information in Japan," he says. "[It] has many major colleges and universities that foreign students want to enter after graduating [from] Japanese language schools. Tokyo has many advantages for students who are willing to step into a bright future."

At Tokyo World Language Academy, Su-Hyon Park agrees that working hard at improving their Japanese is often a high priority for language learners in the city. The school is located in Kameido, a 10-minute train journey from downtown Tokyo, and, according to Park, is famous for its traditional Japanese atmosphere. "The circumstances are very good for studying because this area is very quiet and famous for high education fever among the Japanese," she says.

However, with such an enormous city to explore and with so many attractions to visit, no student could be blamed for taking time off from their studies to practise their Japanese social skills while also getting a flavour of the local culture. One of the most popular places to relax in, according to Shozaburo Sato from Kukusho Japanese Language School, is Odaiba, an area of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. This is one of Tokyo';s newest entertainment areas and a popular hang out for language students as well as Japanese students in the city. Major attractions of the area include a seaside park, a huge shopping mall and gourmet zone and the Venus Fort, an enclosed themed shopping street in the style of 17th-century Europe complete with a ceiling that changes to represent day and night.

Kenji Fukuda from Tokyo Riverside School says that apart from Tokyo Disneyland, another favourite location for their students to visit is Roppongi (1), an area of Tokyo that specifically caters for westerners, or gaijin, as they are called. The area is well known for its nightlife and includes popular nightspots such as the Roppongi Pit Inn – a live jazz bar; Velfarre – a huge dance club; and Hard Rock Café Tokyo.

For those interested in experiencing some of Japan';s more traditional arts first-hand, most language schools provide opportunities for their students to get involved. At the Japanese Culture and Language Institute, students get to participate in traditional Japanese activities according to the seasons. "We make rice cakes in winter, [have a] Japanese tea ceremony in spring, dressing of the yukata [a version of the kimono] in summer and the calligraphy room in autumn," says Tsuneo Ishikawa at the school. At Sejours Linguistiques too, traditional extra activities are offered to students, although Cyril Fernagu at the school says that a lot of students practise Japanese martial arts such as Aikido or Kendo in their spare time. He adds, "Everything is interesting in Japan. We try to offer a large view of Japanese culture. Our students always appreciate our Kyoto weekend [excursion] and the museum visits such as the earthquake museum and its simulations, or our Sake factor visit."

Traditional festivals play a major role in the lives of local Japanese people and many have a religious significance. Asukusa is the temple area of the city, which once thrived as the temple town for Senso-ji Temple during the Edo period between 1603 and 1868. Asukusa is home to many traditional events such as Sanja-matsuri, the Senso-ji Temple festival, which is famous for its palanquin [a covered chair carried by four or six people] parade, while other events include the Japanese lantern plant market in the summer and the cock fair at Otori-jinja shrine in early winter. Sato comments that teachers at their school take students to the annual firework festival held on the Sumida-gawa River in the summer, which is attended by over one million people.

However, one of Tokyo';s chief attractions for international students is the fact that they can work part-time to finance their studies. Sato says that this is a popular option for students who can also practise their language skills with locals as they earn money. "Students can get a part-time job legally," he says. "Working and studying can exist at the same time. After completion of their education, [students] can find a decent job in the country."

Working in the local community is a good way of getting to meet local people and discovering the Japanese way of life. For those students who don';t have the time or necessary language skills to work, however, language schools find other ways to introduce their students to the wider community. "As one of the inter-cultural exchange events, we invite many Japanese college students [here] so that our students [have opportunities] to talk with young Japanese people," relates Tomoko Kawanabe at the Academy of Language Arts. "Or we encourage our students to stay at a Japanese house [for a short period] so that they can experience the lifestyle of the Japanese people."

Shinohara at Tokyo Language School points out that their links with local colleges and vocational schools provide a valuable resource for integration between international and Japanese students. "Tokyo Language School is one of the schools in Jikei Group, which has 39 vocational schools throughout Japan," he says. "Although we are just a Japanese language school, we are like a window to those vocational schools [and] other community colleges and universities in the country. We often do some projects with those schools'; students [and] some of the international students who have made Japanese friends through this activity often stay [for the] weekend in the friend';s house."

Agent viewpoint

"Tokyo is the best destination for students [in Japan]. Many students know Tokyo as a traditional Japanese place of interest. [The city] is a multicultural place and has many places and sites of interest."
Vladimir Yankin, InterBridge, Russia

"In the last few years, Tokyo has become one of the most popular places to learn Japanese. Tokyo is part of the ancient [Japanese] culture and discipline. [Students mostly enjoy] the Japanese people and the many activities that they can take part in. They can also undertake a lot of visits to places that are really different compared with [anywhere else in the world]."
Maria Munoz, Inter';es, USA

"Students go to Tokyo because it is the most famous city in Japan and not much is known about other Japanese cities. Students think that Tokyo is like Gruyere cheese – it';s got many holes in the ground and underground tunnels. It';s very crowded and always very congested and active. Students usually really enjoy their stays in Tokyo and always want to go back. They think that the Japanese are very distinctive but very nice, friendly and open-minded."
Francisco Robert, CIE, Spain

"Most students going to Japan want to go to Tokyo as it is the capital. It is very popular and appealing because of its modern aspects, bouyant activity and air of mystery. Their aim to learn the language is usually to go to a Japanese university, become a translator, graphic designer specialising in Manga or also in business to be more efficient in the Japanese market."
Pierre Pages, Institut Japonais, France

Contact any advertiser in the January 2006 issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send us the form.




Australian Council
      for Private Education
English Australia
Sydney West
      International College

Global Lifestyles
Hawthorn Vancouver

      Academic (England,
      Ireland, Canada,
      USA, Malta, Cyprus,
      New Zealand)
Aspect (Australia,
      Canada, England,
      France, Germany,
      Ireland, Malta,
      New Zealand,
      Scotland, South
      Africa, Spain, USA)
Bell International
Camp Beaumont
Churchill House
Eden School of
EJO (The Elizabeth
English Language
English UK
Kings Street College
LAL Language and
      Leisure (England,
      Malta, South Africa,
Langbourne College
Language Studies
Malvern House
Manor Courses
Quality English
Queen Ethelburga's
Sheffield Hallam
St Giles College,
St Giles Colleges
      (UK, USA)
Study Group
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
United World School
      of English
University of Sussex

Le Génie des
SILC - Sejours
      (England, France,
Université de Paris

Did Deutsch-Institut
Inlingua Berlin
Inlingua Munich
IP International
      Projects (Australia,
      Canada, Cuba,
      England, France,
      Germany, Italy,
      Malta, Spain, USA)
Prolog- International
      House Berlin

Galway Cultural

Tokyo World
      Language School

am Language Studio
English Language
Malta Tourism
      School of English

      Intensive Spanish
      Language Institute

Education New
      Zealand Trust

Language Link,
Liden & Denz
      Language Centre

Kings College

EF Language
      Colleges (Australia,
      Canada, China,
      Ecuador, England,
      France, Germany,
      Italy, Malta, New
      Zealand, Russia,
      Spain, Switzerland,

American Language
Kaplan Educational
      Centers (Canada,
      England, USA)
University of
      California Riverside
Zoni Language


Conestoga College

      Community College

London International
      Study Centre /
      Sutherland Education
Queen Ethelburga's
Sidcot School
St Clare's Oxford
Tasis - The American
      School in England
      (England, France,
      Italy, Spain,

Bay of Plenty
      Polytechnic (New

Oak International
      (Ireland, Switzerland,

Australian Council
      Private Education
Education New
      Zealand Trust
English Australia
English UK
Quality English

Alphe Agent

Language Travel
      'Phone Card

Malta Tourism