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Nihongo Cup Japanese Speech Contest for Secondary School Students 2017

Japan’s Shinto religion, morals in folktales and the impact of Japanese culture on music and art turned out to be winning topics at the Nihongo Cup Japanese Speech Contest for Secondary School Students 2017, which was held on 24th June at Conway Hall in London.

The 18 finalists, who had been selected from 127 applicants from 26 different secondary schools across the UK, all demonstrated great creativity, thoughtfulness and incredible ability in Japanese in performing their speeches – not to mention extraordinary courage to present their ideas in a foreign language to an audience of over 100 people!

The day began with speeches by students studying Japanese at Key Stage 3, who were all in Year 9. They all had to talk on the theme of “My Ideal Holiday,” but they could interpret these theme as they wished. The winner in this category was Olivia Boutell from Hockerill Anglo-European College, who spoke about how desire to travel to Japan and see the many wonderful sights there – including visiting a cat café! Her prizes included a Kindle presented by SCSK.  Samiha Rahman from Greenford High School came second with her speech – she also wants to travel to Japan to visit the aquariums there. George Amis of Bexley Grammar School came third, with his speech about travelling to Ethiopia.

Next was the Key Stage 4 & 5 Pre-GCSE category, for all students at Key Stage 4 and above who had not taken GCSE Japanese. They could choose any theme they liked, and the winner was Boju Khaw, a Year 10 student from St Helen’s School, who gave a fascinating speech on Japanese and Western folktales. Boju was presented with a laptop by Toshiba, among other prizes. Coming second was Anya Burakowski, Year 11 at Wolverhampton Girls’ High School, who explored the differences between Japanese and Western Art. In third place was Patrycja Juchum, a Year 10 student from St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School, who talked about what sort of jobs she would like to do in the future.

The final category was the Key Stage 4 & 5 Post-GCSE Category, for students who had taken their Japanese studies beyond GCSE level. In addition to performing a speech, they also had to answer some challenging questions about their speech to demonstrate their ability to use Japanese spontaneously. The winner, demonstrating excellent presentation skills, very thoughtful speech content on the subject of Shinto and a superb ability to answer questions, was Krishan Emmanuel, a Year 13 student at Harrow School, who won the top prize of a trip to Japan to perform his speech at the international Japanese Speech Awards.  The second prize went to Amy Watson, a Year 13 student at Wolfreton School and Sixth Form College, for her speech about the vocaloid Hatsune Miku, and the third prize was won by Ruchika Ganesh, a Year 13 student at Cheney School who talked about microaggressions and racial stereotypes.

Between each of the three categories of speeches, the audience had the opportunity to watch a performance of the Japanese myth of “Orochi” by , and have a go at “radio taisō” exercises!

Many congratulations to all the finalists, and a big thank you to everyone who came together to make the day such a success.

The event was organised by the Japanese Language Committee of the Association for Language Learning, in association with the Japan Foundation London.

We are very grateful to Japan Centre, JOBA, JP Books, LinguaLift, Oxford Brookes University, Ricoh UK, SCSK Europe Ltd, Toshiba of Europe Ltd and ZOOM Japan  for donating prizes, to the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation for their generous sponsorship, and to the Embassy of Japan for their support.

More photos from the contest can be viewed at our Facebook page here.

You can download the event programme with details of all the finalists, speeches and judges below.

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New Minato Self-Study Course: Japanese in Anime & Manga School Expressions

Japan Foundation has launched a new course on our Minato e-learning platform: Japanese in Anime & Manga A2 (School Expressions by Scene) Self-Study Course.

This is an online self-study course for learning expressions used within an anime/manga school setting. This is for people with A2 level (Elementary) Japanese ability and an interest in anime/manga.

The course objectives are:

1. Know the differences between expressions used by anime/manga characters.

2. Able to read a simply written manga script and generally understand the content.

3. Able to understand the situation and speak the lines like the character.

Learning is done interactively using videos, web sites, and quizzes.
Enjoy improving your Japanese and deepening your understanding of anime and manga!

Get more information and  start the course for free!

Primary Japanese Course at Bath Spa University

On the 29th of April 2017, 22 teachers attended a Primary Japanese Up-skilling Level 1 course at Bath Spa University. The course was set up by Network for Languages South West and supported by the Japan Foundation’s Local Project Support Programme grant.

The course was led by Crispin Chambers, Head of Japanese at Tavistock College and winner of the Pearson National Teaching Award of Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School for his work in Japanese. Crispin is an excellent teacher, so everyone was inspired and left with lots of resources. One of the attendees gave the following feedback: “The best language lesson I have ever had! Crispin taught me more in one day than any language teacher has.”

There will be another Primary Japanese Up-skilling Course - Level 2 on the 17th of June 2017. If you are interested in this fantastic free course, please sign up here. This event is designed for teachers who already have some basic knowledge of Japanese. 

The Twelfth Japanese Speech Contest for University Students Finals Day

A huge OMEDETOO GOZAIMASU (Congratulations!) to all 20 finalists who took part in the Twelfth Japanese Speech Contest for University Students, which took place at King’s College London on Saturday March 4th.

The 20 finalists had been selected from a total of 88 applications from 18 universities across the UK. The day began with the Individual Presentation category finalists, all of whom are studying Japanese at post-beginner level. The presentations were all of a very high standard and it was very difficult for the judges to decide the winner. However, the first prize eventually went to Wei Lun Toh, a 3rd year student at Imperial College London, for his very engaging and informative speech on The History and Origins of English. In second place was Polena Lilyanova, also in her 3rd year at Imperial College London, who was also a finalist in the previous year’s contest. This year, she gave a very lively presentation on The Beauty of Bulgaria, while dressed in Bulgarian national costume!

The Individual Presentation Category was followed by the Speech Category. All six finalists demonstrated not only exceptional Japanese ability, but also a great degree of insight and knowledge of their chosen subjects. After much deliberation, the first prize was awarded to Giordano Epifani,  4th year at SOAS, University of London, for demonstrating outstanding skills in delivering his speech on the topical subject of Adaptation problems of foreign expatriates in Japan .The second prize was awarded to Robin Reh, another 4th year at SOAS, for showing much insight and fresh perspectives on the theme of The opportunities of an ageing society. The third prize was awarded to Dominic Oben, still only in his 1st year at the University of Oxford, for showing real academic flare and understanding of Japanese culture in his talk on The significance of aesthetic values in contemporary Japan and their relationship with the Japanese identity

This year’s Group Presentation Category gave beginner-level students the chance to give presentations on a topic of their choice. The four outstanding groups that made it through to Saturday’s finals were chosen from an initial 17 groups that applied, and represented the University of Warwick, the University of Hertfordshire, Imperial College London and King’s College London. They gave talks on “Italy and Hong Kong,” “Songkran Festival & Tihar Festival,” “Tim Peake’s Expedition to Space” and “Culinary Customs in China and Singapore.” These groups were not placed individually, but instead received special prizes based on their chosen topics.

Videos from the contest can be viewed here.

We would like to thank all participants, their teachers and supporters, the judges, audience members and BATJ for making the contest such a success. In addition, special thanks must go to the generous sponsors: Baker & McKenzie LLP, Bloomberg L.P., Central Japan Railway Company, Gendai Travel Limited, The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Japan Airlines, Japan Centre, JP BOOKS, King’s College London, NHK World, Nikkei Europe Ltd., Oxford Brookes University, Ricoh UK Ltd, Toshiba of Europe Ltd, Wagashi Japanese Bakery and ZOOM Japan.

We would like to encourage as many undergraduate students of Japanese language as possible to apply for next year’s contest! Finally, students still at school may be interesting in applying for the Nihongo Cup Japanese Speech Contest for Secondary Schools, the deadline for which is Fri 24th March 2017.

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Japan Study Tour for Scotland’s Education Leaders in local Kamaishi News!

The recent Japan Study Tour for Scotland’s Education Leaders, in which 20 educational professionals from Scotland visited Japan to learn about Japanese society, culture and education, was reported in Entrance, the local newspaper of Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture. You can find the original story in Japanese here.

We have provided a basic English translation of the article below. This is an unofficial translation by the Japan Foundation London produced to the best of our knowledge. We are unable to guarantee or take responsibility for the accuracy of the content.


Photo 1 Caption:  Scottish education professionals visited  Kamaishi High School and strengthened their relations with the six students who visited Orkney last year.

On February 15th, 20 education professionals from Scotland, a country with a strong tradition of rugby, visitied Kamaishi City in order to deepen their understanding of Japan’s culture and education system, as well as the current disaster reconstruction  efforts. They observed an English class at Kamaishi High School (Head Teacher: Kazuya Sato, Roll: 531 pupils). They also visited the building site of a school in Unosumaicho where construction on a stadium for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 is taking place, in which Scotland has a keen interest.

This visit was part of an invitation programme by the Japan Foundation (Head office: Tokyo) in response to the increasing interest in Japanese as a second language, as part of an overall strategy of Scottish education policy to introduce two languages in addition to the mother tongue languages at primary schools . The purpose is to give young people in Scotland a more globally competitive outlook for the future. The tour aimed to enable participants to experience not only Japanese language, but also the culture and the education environment of Japan and to get a feel for the potentials Japanese has to offer. The delegation, who arrived in Japan on February 12th, visited an elementary school in Tokyo and held discussions with the school community.

Admiration for  the enthusiasm of High School students

Kamaishi High School, which has been designated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a Super Science High School, has organised visits to the Orkney Isles in Scotland as part of overseas study tour into marine energy. This occasion was a chance for the Orkney Isles to develop the relationship further by making the trip to Kamaishi City.

The delegates observed 37 pupils in Year 1 in an English class. They heard the pupils make speeches about their future dreams in English. Among the aspiring teachers, nurses and accountants, one pupil said, “I want to do work that helps with the reconstruction effort. I want to develop leadership skills in order to guide people involved to do this.” Mr Wilf Weir, Executive Director for Education, Leisure and Housing at Orkney Islands Council, found this admirable. “I am impressed to see the incredible enthusiasm of these pupils. I would like to share Japan’s excellence in education with Scottish people,” he commented.

Picture 2 Caption: Many smiling faces as pupils make an effort to communicate

The Scottish delegates asked the pupils many questions about their study.  After putting the English vocabulary they knew to use, the pupils felt an added impetus to study English, saying, “We just about managed to communicate. I want to brush up on the parts that are still difficult.”

The delegates also got a chance to hear about the school’s educational principles and daily life, and to talk with the six 3rd Year pupils who took part in the research visit to Orkney in September last year.

After this, the delegation visited Unosumaicho. They heard about the damage situation at the building site of a school which is being rebuilt on the plateau, and learn more about the current state of the reconstruction efforts.

Picture 3 Caption: Observing the school building site at Unosumaicho

Dr Petra McLay, Curriculum Leader of Languages & International Culture at Bell Baxter High School in Fife which has already introduced Japanese language education, was impressed by Japan’s education system and the enthusiasm of its educational professionals, but explained that there is a lack of teachers in Scotland who can promote Japanese language education. “There is a possibility we can do this if we form a regional network of schools thinking of introducing Japanese. We hope to compare educational systems and adopt the best parts,” she said.

The delegation will also experience Japanese culture through temples and Zen meditation in Kyoto, and will return to Scotland on February 18th.

(Fukkou Kamaishi Newspaper, 18th February 2017, Issue 564)

The Japan Study Tour for Scotland’s Education Leaders

As part of the Japan Foundation’s London’s support for links between Japan and Scotland, we will embark on a trip to Japan for 20 Scottish Leaders in Education. The trip will take place from 10th February – 18th February 2017 and will give participants the chance to learn more about Japan and the Japanese education system.

We hope the programme will help deepen the participants’ understanding of Japan. It involves visiting three areas, Tokyo, Kamaishi City in Iwate Prefecture as well as Kyoto. The trip will include a wide range of activities, including lectures about the relationship between Scotland and Japan, discussions to facilitate cultural exchange with Japanese educational leaders, school visits, a visit to the area struck by The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, as well as cultural experiences in Kyoto.

The participants are listed in the file below.

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Japanese Tasters for Schools (JTS) Sessions in 2017

Paralympian gold medalist Noel Thatcher MBE teaching a volunteer Japanese taster at Randal Cremer Primary School in Hackney

These are some of the Japanese taster sessions that our volunteers in the Japanese Tasters for Schools (JTS) Programme have held in schools around the UK this year so far. We would like to thank all the volunteers for their extremely hard work on the programme!

If you would like to arrange a Japanese Taster Session at your school, or if you speak good Japanese and you would like to become a JTS volunteer yourself, click here to find out more about the JTS Programme.

Darrick Wood School, 6 July
Secondary Academy in Bromley
Aims of taster: Part of an International Day
Activities in taster: Japanese greetings, Japanese numbers, self introductions in Japanese, quiz about Japan, origami, introduction to Japanese writing
Feedback: "The pupils really enjoyed the lessons and teachers present were very impressed. We are very grateful to the teachers who came in to deliver them." (Mrs Hobson, Head of Languages)
Notes: This school has taught Japanese in the past and are considering options for offering Japanese again

St Philip and James' Church of England Aided Primary School Oxford, 3 July
Voluntary Aided Primary School in Oxfordshire
Aims of taster: There are a small number of pupils at the school whose parents are Japanese
Activities in taster: Japanese greetings, Japanese numbers, body parts in Japanese,  singing “atama, kata, hiza, ashi” (Head, shoulders, knees and toes in Japanese), Japanese calligraphy
Feedback: " "Children responded well to the activities. They enjoyed speaking and singing in Japanese and writing their own names. Several said they would like to continue learning Japanese at school. The "Atama, kata, hiza, ashi" song really stuck in their heads.” (Mrs Poole, Teacher and MFL Coordinator)
Notes: This school has since expressed an interest in launching a Japanese club.

Swaythling Primary School, 28 June
Community Primary School in Southampton
Aims of taster: The schools has a 2 year rolling curriculum with pupils studying the book Kensuke's Kingdom, which features Japanese language. Additionally, the school holds a Festival of Culture each year when each class has a country to study. A Japanese language taster would help to support both themes.
Activities in taster: Introduction to Japan, trying on kimono, learning about Japanese schools, greetings in Japanese, numbers in Japanese, learning about kanji characters, writing names in Japanese, origami, chopsticks
Feedback: "It was a fantastic taster day which gave the children a mixture of activities. They were able to learn lots and ask questions."

Stivichall Primary School, 25 May
Community Primary School in Coventry
Aims of taster: The Headteacher visited Japan last October with Japan Foundation. They also have link with the local Howes Primary School , which teaches Japanese. The school are therefore interested in exploring the potential for launching Japanese classes themselves.
Activities in taster: Introduction to Japan, Japanese numbers, “karuta” and bingo games, Japanese greetings, body parts in Japanese, origami
Feedback: "The teachers arrived promptly and were extremely friendly and engaging. They were very courteous to all our other guests, staff and children. The taster sessions were lively and our teachers and children said that they found the lessons interesting and learnt some Japanese. The children really enjoyed learning about Japanese culture and history. We all very much enjoyed seeing the teachers in traditional costume and the artefacts they brought into share. Lessons were taught in a fun and interactive way, with singing and actions.”
Notes: The school are investigating the possibility of launching a Japanese club.

Eastling Primary School, 2 May
Community Primary School in Kent
Aims of taster: To form part of the pupils’ learning about the wider world and developing rural children's knowledge and experience of different international cultures
Activities in taster: Japanese greetings, Japanese numbers, Japanese song, introduction to Japanese life and culture
Feedback: "Very satisfied.” (Mr Walsh, Headteacher)

Fairlawn Primary School, 3 March
Community Primary School in Lewisham
Aims of taster: The children are currently studying the book “Kensuke’s Kingdom” which features Japanese language. The Japanese taster linked into this topic.
Activities in taster: Japanese greetings, introduction to Japanese writing with song, writing some basic Japanese, learning about the Japanese festivals of Hinamatsuri and Kodomo no Hi.
Feedback: "Great engagement from the children. Really well led session that engaged all learners. Children found the session really exciting and were happy to learn greetings and about the alphabet. Really engaged them in our topic and about languages in general." (Mr Evans, Class Teacher)

Boughton Monchelsea Primary School, 21 February
Community Primary School in Kent
Aims of taster: The school has a child who has family from Japan and they thought that it would be nice for the other children to learn all about their culture
Activities in taster: Introduction to Japan, greetings in Japanese, numbers 1-10 in Japanese, explanation about the Japanese festival “Kodomo no Hi” (Children’s Day) and making a Kodomo No Hi carp streamer.
Feedback: "The children thoroughly enjoyed the taster session. The volunteer ensured that her lesson had the right amount of pace, particularly for each of the different age groups. The volunteer made her sessions interactive for the children which they really loved. They have been trying out the different greetings at different opportunities during the school day.” (Mrs Rose, KS1 leader and Year 2 teacher)
Notes: The children are now looking forward to celebrating 'Children's Day' in May.

Dartford Science & Technology College, 21 February
Foundation Secondary School in Kent
Aims of taster: Hoping to lead towards staple Japanese enrichment activity.
Activities in taster: Introduction to Japan, greetings in Japanese, numbers 1-10 in Japanese, making origami hearts
Feedback: “"Students were very engaged” (Mrs Cordery,  Director of Learning for MFL)
Notes: Following the taster, the school has expressed a keen interest in launching a Japanese club

Temple Ewell Church of England Primary School, 8 February
Primary Academy in Kent
Activities in taster: Greetings, self-introductions in Japanese, colours in Japanese, making origami planes
Feedback: "The children thoroughly enjoyed working with Aiko. We had an Ofsted inspection at the time - they were very impressed and it is mentioned in the report."” (Mrs Matthews, Head of School) – You can view the school’s Ofsted report here (the taster is mentioned on Page 4)
Notes: The school has since expressed an interest in launching a Japanese club

Holtspur School, 7 February
Community Primary School in Buckinghamshire
Aims of taster: Part of term topic on Japan
Activities in taster: Looking at volcanoes in Japan, introduction to Japanese writing, introduction to Japanese seasons and culture, greetings in Japanese, trying Japanese writing
Feedback: “The volunteer was very approachable and delivered a great session."
Notes: Following the taster, the school has expressed an interest in doing more work with Japanese language and culture.

Randal Cremer Primary School, 6 February
Community Primary School in Hackney
Aims of taster: Linking to the topic of robots, with a focus of robots in Japan
Activities in taster: Introduction to Japan, greetings in Japanese and bowing, Japanese numbers
Feedback: "Noel and Kanako were fantastic volunteers. They were so enthusiastic and really engaged the children in the learning. Noel was so kind to bring resources with him and the powerpoints were really interesting and informative. Many thanks!" (Miss Ekers, Class Teacher)
Notes: The lead volunteer for this taster, Noel Thatcher MBE, is a Paralympic gold medallist and fluent Japanese speaker who has previously supported the Japan Foundation at other events such as the Language Show Live. During his taster, the pupils also got to hear about his experiences in Japan and see his gold medals! 

Japanese taster at Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, January 2017. From This Is Wiltshire.

Japanese taster at Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, January 2017. 
This Is Wiltshire.

Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, 27 January
Primary Academy in Swindon
Aims of taster: Part of an International Day
Activities in taster: Introduction to Japan, greetings in Japanese and bowing, origami, names and sounds of animals in Japanese, counting in Japanese, writing in Japanese
Feedback: " The PowerPoint produced by our volunteer was excellent and child friendly. The children were inspired to repeat Japanese spoken words by listening and repeating the language... Japanese day was enjoyed by all pupils."
Notes: The visit was reported in the local press, This Is Wiltshire

Eldersfield Lawn CofE Primary School, 13 January
Voluntary Controlled Primary School in Worcestershire
Aims of taster: Part of a Japanese Day. The Headteacher had recently returned from a trip to Japan through the Japan Foundation’s Group Tour Programme for Headteachers. He had given the pupils a taste of  his visit and they are were keen to learn more about Japanese culture and its language
Activities in taster: Japanese greetings, bowing,  quiz about Japanese culture, numbers in Japanese, origami
Notes: The school has said that it is keen to start Japanese lessons

Japanese club receives praise from Ofsted

Ofsted have reacted very positively to seeing a popular Japanese club at Longman's Hill Community Primary school in Selby, Yorkshire.  The school received the following comments in their Ofsted report:

“Personal development, behaviour and welfare: Outstanding
There is a wide range of after-school and lunchtime clubs, such as a computing club and a very popular Japanese club. Pupils were very keen to tell inspectors the Japanese phrases they had learned and how they study Japanese culture.”

This primary school has been running a successful Japanese club since 2015. Since introducing the club, the number of pupils wanting to be involved has doubled, so the school applied and  received a grant from the Japan Foundation’s Local Project Support Programme in 2016. You can see the full Ofsted report here

Primary Japanese Resource Sharing Workshop - 2016

On December 5th 2016, 26 teachers of Japanese joined the Japan Foundation for a resource sharing workshop at Conway hall in London. This event brought together primary teachers of Japanese to share their ideas about what went well with their Japanese teaching over the last year.

The day started with the introduction of the fantastic Momotaro (Peach Boy) play that was written and tested by Helen Morris from Madley Primary School. Participants got to see how Helen introduced the vocabulary and how she prepared them for their performance. You can see a small clip of the play here, and a performance of a Japanese dance here.

The next presentation was from Clare Kuroishi, from the Norton Knatchbull School who showed how she has used kendo and rajio taiso to teach actions and parts of the body. Clare has been teaching Japanese though physical education and so it was really interesting to see how she integrated language learning with movement.

After this, Aya Kamura Mirto from Carden Primary school shared how she taught about the weather in Japanese. Aya encouraged her pupils to make teru teru bozu (weather charms), as well as getting them to sing lots of songs which she shared with other participants. One participant, Sarah Hart told us that she “enjoyed all the sessions, as each offered a different perspective to teaching Japanese.”

Lastly, the Japan Foundation’s Chief Language Advisor Makoto Netsu, introduced some new sections of the Japan Foundation Japanese Scheme of Work for Primary Schools, which is packed full of lesson plans, resources and exciting and fun ideas for teaching primary-level Japanese to Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5 pupils. Participants were shown the topics for the new materials and then went through the new materials for teaching about shopping (including role plays). These new materials will be available to download on our website soon.

One participant, Jacob Smith said the following: “really useful event- I never realised there were so many useful resources/ so much support available!” While Shraddha Payyappilly mentioned that “all speakers distributing materials that they have used in past was really helpful.”

You can see photos from this event on the Japan Foundation Facebook page here, and you can download some of the presentations and resources below.

We would like to thank all participants for coming, especially our guest speakers!

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Japanese Taster for Schools (JTS) Programme Volunteer Training Day November 2016

On November 25th 2016, 32 current and prospective volunteers attended a Training Day for the Japan Foundation’s Japanese Taster for Schools (JTS) Programme, in which native and fluent Japanese speakers conduct free Japanese taster sessions in UK schools. The Training Day was held at Conway Hall in London.

After an overview for new volunteers about the Japan Foundation and the JTS programme itself, the participants heard reports from volunteers who had held Japanese tasters at schools via the JTS Programme. Aya Kamura Mirto on her visit to Westdene Primary School in Brighton; a taster which led to her being employed there as teacher of their Japanese club. Next, Ceri Edwards talked about her visit to Chaddesley Corbett Primary School in Worcestershire, which also resulted in the school starting a Japanese Club at which Ceri now works.

These reports were followed by workshops held by two of the JTS Programme’s most experienced volunteers. Mihoko Noguchi, who has been volunteering for JTS for over 2 years and has visited 12 schools, presented some of the ways to teach Japanese in Secondary Schools, with a particular focus on numbers and enjoyable ways to teach them. She was followed by Hitomi Ito-Burton, who has been a JTS volunteer for over 4 years and has visited 9 schools, and she presented on teaching activities for Primary School pupils, including song and dance.

Finally, the Training Day ended with a discussion session on ideas for teaching Japanese as a home, heritage and mother-tongue language, led by Japan Foundation London’s Chief Japanese Language Advisor, Makoto Netsu. The discussion enabled participants to exchange tips and tricks on teaching Japanese to their pupils and their own children.

Some of the feedback from participants from the training day included:


(“The reports on school visits by volunteers were really useful. I got a good grasp of volunteering is really like.”)

“I enjoyed the activities for teaching Japanese. By being made to join in the activities, I was able to understand clearly their effectiveness and how fun it can be for both the student and volunteers themselves.”

(“It was good to be able to exchange all sorts of ideas. I now want to put some of the practical ideas for activities for teaching Japanese to use.”)

We would like to thank all participants for coming, especially our guest speakers!

You can view more photos from the event on our Facebook page here. 

If you are interested in taking part in the JTS programme as a volunteer, please click here for more information.

Invitation to Tender 2016-2017

The Japan Foundation London is inviting travel agents based in the UK to submit their offer for the service of coordinating an organised group study tour to Japan in February 2017. The necessarily procedures and specifications can be downloaded from here.

Because of the nature of the tour (i.e. most of the arrangements will occur within Japan), all the information as well as communication concerning this procedure is either provided or conducted only in Japanese.

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Japanese tasters, origami ninjas and “radio exercises” at Language Show Live 2016

A big thank you to everyone who visited the Japan Foundation’s stand at the Language Show Live on 14th, 15th and 16th October at the Olympia, London.

Held once a year, the Language Show is the UK's biggest event for language learners, teachers, linguists and anyone with a passion for languages.  The Japan Foundation’s stand gave visitors a chance to experience Japanese language and culture, including writing their name in Japanese and making origami ninjas! Visitors also assisted by completing surveys about Japanese. 96% of those surveyed said that they were currently studying, had previously studied or were interested in studying Japanese, which is very encouraging! We also found out that a number of Japan Foundation resources, including the Marugoto textbook series, Erin's Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese and MARUGOTO+, were popular among those surveyed. Throughout the show, visitors could also have a free Japanese taster session with Japan Foundation’s Assistant Japanese Language Advisor, Kanako Ukai.

On Saturday morning, we were very lucky to be joined by Mary-Grace Browning MBE, Chair of Examiners for Edexcel GCSE Japanese. She presented a seminar on learning language through problem-solving via a case study of UK-Japan Young Scientists partnerships, which involve exchanges between school students in the UK and Japan to experience science as a cultural bridge where by working together they learn to value each other’s languages and way of life.

Later in the afternoon, we were joined in the Language Show’s Piazza by representatives of the Japan Sport Council, and Paralympian Gold Medallist (and fluent Japanese speaker) Noel Thatcher, to introduce Japanese “radio exercises” or rajio taisoo. First, Noel told us a little bit about what it means to be a Paralympian and the many ways his Japanese language skills have contributed towards his life. Next, Ukai-sensei from the Japan Foundation taught the audience how to count in Japanese and were then given opportunity to practise their new language skills together with trying rajio taisoo for themselves, led by Noel. You can try out rajio taisoo for yourself by watching the video and viewing more information at our Marugoto Life & Culture Lab website.

We would like to thank Mary-Grace Browning, Japan Sport Council, Noel Thatcher and all our Japanese Taster for Schools volunteers who generously donated their time and expertise for the show.  Domo arigato gozaimashita!

Japan Foundation will also be attending the 2017 Language Show Live in London on October 14th – 16th. We hope to see you there!

Meet the University Speech Contest Winners – Giulia Surace

In this series of mini interviews, we’d like to introduce previous winners of the Japanese Speech Contest for University Students, and catch up on how things have been going with them since winning the contest...

Giulia Surace
Speech Category First Prize Winner, 9th Speech Contest (2014)
University: SOAS University of London
Speech Title: “Political Indifference in Japanese Youth”

What made you decide to enter the Speech Contest?

“My Japanese teacher encouraged me to apply, as I had already taken part in the Group Presentation Category during my first year. I remember watching the Speech Category participants and thinking that it would be amazing to be able to do it someday.”

You got First Prize in the contest, which means you won a free return plane ticket to Japan from JAL! What did you do in Japan?

“My trip to Japan was amazing as expected. As I'd already visited most of Honshu while studying abroad in Tokyo, I decided to visit Kyushu, since I'd never been there. Great experience! I visited Fukuoka, Nagasaki and its beautiful bay with so much history; Kagoshima and Kumamoto, with its incredible castle and Inari shrine! But the best part was definitely my onsen (hot spring) tour, travelling around the Oita prefecture and surround by beautiful natural landscapes.”

Do you have any funny stories to share from your time in Japan?

“There was the time when I accidentally walked into an empty onsen for men, realising it was the wrong one only when a group of naked middle-aged men walked in (with my consequent scream and running away naked)!”

Haha, oh dear! So what are you doing now?

“I'm currently in charge of digital sales for the Asian market at Penguin Random House UK, a book publishing house. Before that I worked as a reporter/assistant correspondent for the London bureau of the Chunichi Shimbun/Tokyo Shimbun. “

Have your Japanese language skills been useful for these jobs?

“I use my Japanese when dealing with Japanese clients and that's extremely helpful. I certainly used it more when I worked at the newspaper since the two journalists were Japanese and spoke little English. Nevertheless, being able to speak Japanese is definitely an advantage even when dealing with Asia in general.”

How has taking part in (and winning!) the Speech Contest helped you in your career?

“Winning the contest frequently came up during job interviews, as it's quite an impressive achievement. It certainly is a proof that I can speak Japanese as a lot of employers are worried that people say they speak a language without actually being able to. It also shows initiative, proactivity and the ability to research and speak in public about a topic, skills that are very valued by employers nowadays. So it definitely helped me in my career. It adds something special to the CV that others are less likely to have, and anything that sets you apart is always good!”

Finally, do you have a message for all those thinking of applying for the contest this year?

“Being able to take part in such a challenging competition was the greatest reward after studying Japanese for four years . When I took part in the contest, many classmates who definitely stood a chance of winning or getting the top prizes did not apply out of fear (and I was almost one of them), so it'd be great if in the future more students feel encouraged to try.”

We’d like to thank Giulia for taking the time to catch up with us, and we wish her the best of luck for all her future plans. 頑張ってください!

You can read a full report from the 9th University Speech Contest here.

Why not try yourself?! Applications for the Twelfth Speech Contest are now open – find out more and apply here

The return flight to Japan was generously provided by Japan Airlines.


Meet the University Speech Contest Winners - Ash Leigh Spreadbury

In this series of mini interviews, we’d like to introduce previous winners of the Japanese Speech Contest for University Students, and catch up on how things have been going with them since winning the contest...

Ash Leigh Spreadbury
Speech Category First Prize Winner, 10th Speech Contest (2015)
University: University of Sheffield
Speech Title: “Globalisation and English Curriculum in Japan”

You got First Prize in the contest, which means you won a free return plane ticket to Japan from JAL! What did you do in Japan?

“I made good use of another prize, the Japan Rail Pass from the Japan Centre, and spent most of my time travelling around the country visiting friends. Perhaps most interesting was going to Akita prefecture where I got to go inside one of the old samurai residences (武家屋敷, bukeyashiki) in Kakunodate and visited Lake Tazawa (one of the filming locations for IRIS if you're a K-drama fan!) which was beautiful in autumn.”


Photos by taken by Ash Leigh during his trip

What are you doing now with your Japanese?

“I am currently enrolled on a Master's program at Keio University studying linguistics with a MEXT scholarship.

It was through studying the Japanese language (because it is so different to English) that I became interested in linguistics in general and chose to pursue it for my Master's. Furthermore, were it not for having studied Japanese, I would not have been able to enrol on this course as all of the classes and communication with professors is conducted in Japanese.”

How has taking part in (and winning!) the Speech Contest helped you in this path?

“Winning the Speech Contest is something which I made sure to mention in both my MEXT scholarship and Keio entrance applications. I like to think that the Speech Contest provided more practical evidence of my ability to live and study in Japan (in Japanese).”

We’d like to thank Ash Leigh for taking the time to catch up with us, and we wish him the best of luck with his Master’s program. 頑張ってください!

You can read a full report from the 10th University Speech Contest here.

Why not try yourself?! Applications for the Twelfth Speech Contest are now open – find out more and apply here.

The return flight to Japan was generously provided by Japan Airlines and the JR Rail Pass by the Japan Centre.


Meet the Japanese Speech Contest Winners – Laura Onciu

In this series of mini interviews, we’d like to introduce previous winners of the Japanese Speech Contest for University Students, and catch up on how things have been going with them since winning the contest...

Laura Onciu
Speech Category First Prize Winner, 11th Speech Contest (2016)
University: Newcastle University
Speech Title: Norms  that create reverse discrimination - Adverse effects of conventional wisdom in Japan.

What did it feel like to take part in the contest and win First Prize?

“This was the second time I took part in the Speech Contest, the first being in 2014 when I won 2nd prize in the Individual Category, so I was much more relaxed about it. I had decided to enjoy it, rather than worry about winning, and to be honest, it never even crossed my mind that I would win First Prize! I believe it is quite easy to tell that from the face I made when my name was called. I was extremely happy when I won however, as this meant I could return to Japan sooner than I had expected.”

Your prizes included a free return plane ticket to Japan from JAL, didn’t it? Have you used it yet?

“I went to Japan in August, almost a year after my exchange there ended. It was great to be able to return and meet all my friends.”

What was it like flying with JAL?

“When I boarded the JAL plane in London, it felt as if I was already in Japan. Impeccable service, plane looked completely new and the cabin assistants were among the nicest I ever flew with. It made my flight experience so much better, and that was very important because it was a long haul flight. In addition to this, I was very excited to find out that the JAL entertainment system had loaded some of the Japanese films I wanted to watch, such as the 20th Conan movie or the 2nd Ansatsu Kyoshitsu one. Not going to the cinema most of the time means 6-8 month wait for the DVDs to be released, so being able to watch them on the plane took my mind off the long flight time. All in all, what I can say is that, if I ever have to fly to Japan again, JAL will be the obvious choice.”

So what did you do in Japan?

“I went to Tokyo and spent most of my time there, but thanks to the JR Pass I received, I was able to travel throughout Japan! When I lived in Japan, I did travel, but there were and still are many place I wanted to visit. This time, I went to Nagoya, Ise, Kanazawa, Aomori, Hakodate and Izu. I went to the Ise Jinguu, toured the Ninja Temple in Kanazawa, drank apple cider in Aomori, enjoyed Hakodate’s 1 million dollar night view and drove by the ocean in Izu! It was by far the best trip ever.”

What things did you most enjoy?

“First of all, I loved being back in Japan. The perfect service, the amazing food, the sights, but most importantly my dear friends there.

Something that got my attention this time was a small hostel in Hakodate – Oyado Aozora – which had a sky mural on the ceiling. I love the sky so it was a nice surprise. Plus, the lady in charge was also very nice so I had a great time! Hakodate is definitely at the top of my what-to-visit recommendation list.”

What are you doing now? What plans do you have for the future, and will they involve Japanese?

“Right now, I am back at Newcastle for my last year of bachelors. My plans for the future most certainly include Japan and the use of Japanese. I will hopefully be back in Japan soon, and who knows, maybe watch the Tokyo Olympics live!”

Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for students studying Japanese? And would you encourage other students to enter the contest?

“Work on your practical Japanese skills! Exams are important, but they are useless if you can’t actually use it. Do participate in the speech contest! Thanks to taking part in the Speech Contest, I can now talk in front of people without stressing out (not so much at least!). It is a very useful experience, and working hard to get there improves your Japanese more than studying for a test does. And also, you might win and get to tour Japan! There is literally nobody in the world that has never wished for that!”

We’d like to thank Laura for taking the time to catch up with us, and we wish her the best of luck in her final year at university. 頑張ってください!

You can read a full report from the 10th University Speech Contest here.

Why not try yourself?! Applications for the Twelfth Speech Contest are now open – find out more and apply here.

The return flight to Japan was generously provided by Japan Airlines and the JR Rail Pass by Central Japan Railway Company.


New Marugoto Textbook released in October

We’re pleased to announce that the new Marugoto Intermediate B1 textbook will be released on October 1st 2016.

You can get a sneak preview of the contents, sample pages and audio learning materials at the Marugoto series homepage here.

About Marugoto

Marugoto: Japanese Language and Culture is a coursebook series that is based on the JF Standard for Japanese Language Education, and offers learning in both language and culture.

Marugoto is designed in such a way that Japanese language and culture can be studied together. It aims to increase communicative skill and responds to the needs of learners who desire to become able to speak in Japanese in as short a time as possible. Through useful topics, audio learning materials and full-colour photographs and illustrations that let you get a glimpse of Japanese life and culture, it is possible to rapidly deepen learners' interest in Japan and Japanese language. This book allows learners around the world to feel the joy of using Japanese and steadily increasing what they can do in the language.

Find out more about Marugoto:

  • Marugoto Official Website

  • Marugoto PLUS Supplementary website for learners

  • Information on Marugoto textbooks

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