We have invited people who have immigrated from abroad and are now living in the Shiribeshi region of central Hokkaido to contribute columns from a variety of perspectives. The columns appear in Japanese in the morning edition of the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper every other Monday. https://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/series/s_cool_otaru
In this section, the columns are posted in the author's original text.
【Column】Japanese language classes see boost in popularity in Niseko Town
Over 1,000 foreign residents live and work in Niseko Town and Kutchan Town. Niseko Town alone has long term foreign residents from over 30 different countries, which gives it a distinctly multicultural feel that is difficult to find in other parts of Japan. Niseko Town Hall Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) such as myself have worked with these residents to plan multicultural events in the past, from a Halloween event with the local Hokkaido International School to a Bosnian Coffee Hour hosted by two Niseko Town residents from Bosnia.
It is no secret that English, as the international language of business, becomes the lingua franca in the resort areas that dot the mountainside, but many foreign residents also speak Japanese or have a strong desire to learn Japanese. Prospective learners often have difficulty finding an affordable classroom setting for language learning, particularly during the coronavirus epidemic. That is why the Niseko Town Hall has begun offering Japanese language classes for foreign residents living in the Niseko area.
The Niseko Japanese language program began in 2018 with only eight students, but we added several new classes in response to the surge in interest this past summer. All the classes are split between two teachers, myself and my fellow American coworker, Mitchel. Our students have many different reasons for joining the classes. One student wanted to learn Japanese so that they could speak with their Japanese girlfriend’s parents, while another student wanted to learn so that they could understand their coworkers at their farming job. There were also several students that work in hotels who wanted to improve their Japanese customer service. By the end of the summer, over 100 students from more than 20 different countries had participated in one of our five different summer courses. Three of these courses (totaling about 50 students) will continue for the foreseeable future.
Our students come from a variety of backgrounds. While some students already understand basic conversation, others have never studied Japanese before. We have several different levels of classes to accommodate these different needs, including classes that start by learning hiragana. I hope that by learning Japanese, more foreign residents will be able to make friends with their Japanese neighbors and actively participate in the Niseko community.