Coto Language Academy offers various Japanese classes for foreigners. I spent 4 weeks in an intensive course (level Beginner 2) in September of 2017 to learn enough Japanese to make traveling in Japan both easier and more fun. (See the previous post for a review of the school.)
The school also offers a weekly activity that highlights an aspect of Japanese culture. Over all I found these activities well run, enjoyable and a great way to meet other students and practice Japanese.
Evening at the Twinkle Races
Twinkle Races is the name of Tokyo’s nighttime horse races located at the Tokyo City Keiba track off the monorail line to the Haneda Airport. 10 to 12 students participated in this event. We met at the school and took the 40 minutes train ride to the track.
The school’s assistants provided written information on how to place a bet and then at the track demonstrated how to fill out the form and enter it in the automated machine to get your betting ticket. They gave us each two 100 yen coins to place our own bets.
The races and betting work pretty much like they do at other race tracks.
You have a chance to see the horses before the race, place your bets, and then watch the race. It’s about 35 minutes between races. There is also food and drinks available at the track.
Surprisingly, the stands were quite full on a Wednesday evening.
Cooking Class – Shikaimaki
Shikaimaki is a kind of sushi roll with cucumber and egg. While the flavors are not really that interesting – cooked egg, cucumber and rice – the final design is quite spectacular and relatively easy to achieve.
The staff made this activity very easy having everything planned out and precut. We had to color the rice and let it cool and then put the roll together through a series of rolling, cutting and combining. I won’t go into the details but they made it easy, explaining each step in both Japanese and English.
I was surprised how easy it was and that everyone was very successful in creating a nice looking roll. It was a perfect task for an hour long cooking class.
Again the staff was well prepared. The instructor for this event was accompanied by a translator so that instructions were given in both Japanese and English. It’s a very visual activity so that you really don’t need to know much if any Japanese to participate and enjoy the class.
The instructor demonstrated the sitting posture, how you put ink on the brush and the proper way to hold the brush before demonstrating the actual brush strokes.
It’s a simple process but difficult to perfect. You certainly won’t master calligraphy in an hour class but you can practice and create a work of your own. The instructor demonstrated 3 characters for us to practice, first on tissue paper then at the end of the class on a clean board for our final masterpiece.
Festival and Omikoshi
Through the school you have the opportunity to participate in an Omikoshi, the carrying of a Shinto shrine through a neighborhood.
While donning a rented happi jacket and helping the locals carry the incredibly heavy shrine through the streets may seem underwhelming, this neighborhood event has an energy that needs to be experienced to be understood.
The locals dress in crisp team happi jackets, proudly representing their local business.
As they carry the shrine through the neighborhood they bounce it up and down to a chant while the lead guy does everything he can to hold them back.
The heat, sweat, weight of the shrine, and the rhythm of the chanting create a dynamism and strength in community.
The school’s assistants do a great job of giving the students ample opportunity to participate as well as fetching the well-deserved beer and snacks at break time. If you will be at the language school in September I highly recommend you sign up for this event.