Logo c. Eurocentres

Japanese Class at
Eurocentres Kanazawa

For all of us who came to Kanazawa, the primary motivation was to study Japanese. The school which drew us there was the Japanese program of Eurocentres, a group headquartered in Switzerland but run from London, dedicated to teaching languages where they are spoken worldwide.

Kaze II Class

I was placed into Kaze ("wind") II, one of the more advanced classes (I'm pretty sure purely because I managed to use "n desu" in a sentence at my interview). At left you can see our classroom, complete with a typical days' board scribblings. Each day we had four hours of classroom lessons, and usually 1-2 hours of homework (whew! it had been a long time since I experienced homework).

At left: Yamamori-sensei, Jose-san, me, Chris, David, and Saito-sensei (aka, "she whose dream it is to marry Brad Pitt" -- it sounds much nicer in Japanese).


As you can see above, the classes were very small. Not only did we only have 3-4 people in class, we had three different teachers. In addition to Yamamori-sensei and Saito-sensei, we had Kanaya-sensei, seen at left. Kanaya-sensei began each class by drawing hysterical cartoon versions of each student on the board.

I have a not-unusual American habit of holding up my hands and waving two fingers to indicate a direct quotation. I soon learned that this little piece of sign language does not translate to Japan. My teachers, especially Yamamori-sensei, found this hilarous and referred to it as "doing the bunny". At left, Yamamori-sensei mercilessly mocks me by "doing the bunny."


Our text was Minna no Nihongo, volume II. All of the Japanese classes I had taken prior to this (in the US) used Japanese for Busy People. The senseis all assured me that Minna no Nihongo has much better material on Japanese grammar, and they were quite right about that. Although it has fewer conversational examples, it's a much better description of grammatical constructs.

We covered 1 (and occasionally 1 1/2) chapters of Minna no Nihongo per day. This was a pretty different rate of learning than I was used to! The great thing about an intensive school like this is that I could sense my Japanese improving every day while I was Eurocentres.


Simon, Matt, Frances, Lesley, and a couple others were placed in Tori ("bird") class. All of us were very pleased with the leveling of the classes -- the students in a given class were well-matched for language ability, which of course aids learning a lot.

At left: Tori class in session. At right: Lesley proves that even when the camera is pointed at Matt and Frances, she can horn in on the picture. As you go though the site, "Lesley the camera-conscious" will become a major theme.


Break Time

In between each class we had a ten minute break, with a twenty-minute break mid-morning. All the students would drift out to the lobby area of the fourth floor of the Rifare building, where Eurocentres was located. This was where our social groups formed, plans for cultural outings were circulated, and a lot of bottled green tea was consumed.

At left: Matt, Sondra, Pierre, and Urs hanging on the balcony, with a view of nearby Kanazawa behind them.

BreakTime5.jpg Usually we would end up congregating around the Eurocentres reception desk. Yasuko Aizawa, the Eurocentres Program Director shown at right, would valiantly attempt to ignore us and work at her desk in the Eurocentres office while we hovered. It rarely worked. EurocentresOffice.jpg
CanonicalDavid.jpg As is often true when traveling, the students clumped up in various ways. David (an American shown at left), Chris (au Australian, shown with David in Katamachi, the Kanazawa entertainment district, at right) and James formed the "Katamachi" contingent. David was openly smitten with Japanese girls and had already managed to start dating a-ko by the time we showed up. Chris loved Japan and was trying to talk Yasuko into hiring him for the fall.

For the record, here are the 17 students who made up the May session at Eurocentres Kanazawa, and their country of origin.

Joy Baer, Canada Chris Booth, Australia Frances Chen, Canada Urs Gort, Switzerland
Leo Hourvitz, USA Simon Kammerman, Switzerland James Kirby, USA Seul Lee, USA
Sandra Leyva, Spain David Lovett, USA Leslie Luchayco, Philippines Pierre Meader, Switzerland
Matt Meyer, USA Jose Saenz, Panama Jacques Villettaz, Switzerland Christian Waidacher, Switzerland
Hans Wirz, Switzerland      

The Speech

Each month, a new set of students shows up at Eurocentres Kanazawa. For that month, each student stays for two, three, or four weeks. On the last day, the student gives a speech (in Japanese, mochiron) to the school. At right Christian, a student who left at the end of our first week, gives his good-bye speech.


At right, the assembled group listens with awe (but relatively little comprehension, since we're new) to Christian's speech. Although we're all smiles now, as the speech goes on it occurs to this that this means we will have to give a speech when we leave. Ruh-roh Rastro.

At left: Matt, Frances, Jose, David, Pierre (behind David), Lesley, sensei, Christian, sensei, Chris, Jack.

By my last day, speaking in Japanese wasn't so terrifying, thanks to the efforts of senseis Saito, Yamamori, and Kanaya. Upon completing my speech, at right, I bow. Thankfully, I got to speak before the other student whose last day was the same as mine -- Hans-san. Hans has been to Eurocentres Kanazwa multiple times and really knows how to speak Japanese. He told a complete story in his speech (sadly, about the death of his host family's dog).

photo c. 2004 Matthew Meyer

Alas, as always in Kanazawa, my trip was over far too soon. I completely enjoyed both times I went to Eurocentres, and it improved my Japanese tremendously! As I write this, in October 2006, I am about to move to Japan and start work there (keep an eye on my blog for updates from Tokyo). That would have been totally impossible without my time at Eurocentres Kanazawa.

At left is the charming origami card Yasuko made for me at the end of our far-too-short May 2004 session in Kanazawa.

  map Kanazawa next Yoshikawa-san
  © 2006 Leo Hourvitz