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Health Benefits of Renkon

  • Posted by:
  • April 21, 2014

The lotus is often used to synbolize divine beauty. Most Asian deities are depicted seated on a lotus flower. In Buddhism, a lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind. Legend also tells us that Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to already walk, and wherever he stepped, lotus flowers blossomed. The lotus plant is considered versatile because aside from its aesthetic characteristics and spiritual representation, most of the plant (flower, leaves, seeds, and root) is edible and can be used in various culinary preparations. In Japan, the lotus root (a rhizome), renkon in Japanese, is used in many cooking techniques: pickled, stir fried, an ingredient for salads, and as a dry snack food.

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Renkon is largely found underwater. It is similar in shape to a long squash. The outside has a thick reddish brown peel. As you remove the thick covering, you are left with a white interior with intricate holes that look almost like lace. Renkon is slightly sweet and crunchy in texture similar to a water chestnut. Aside from the many gastronomic delights of renkon, it is also known to have astounding health benefits.

Renkon. | Jack

renkon

Renkon is rich in macronutrients.

A 100-gram serving of lotus root contains only 74 calories. But it packs in 3 grams of protein (5% of the required daily value), 17 grams of carbohydrate (6% of the required daily value), and 5 grams of fiber (25% of the required daily value).

Farming lotus roots. | Nishioka Corporation

Renkon is full of vitamins.

A single serving of lotus root provides the body with 44 mg of vitamin C (73% of the daily required) value. Renkon also provides 0.3 mg of vitamin B-6 and 0.2 mg of riboflavin, (13% of the required daily value for each), and it also contains 0.2 mg of thiamine (11% of the required daily value). Vitamin C is an antioxidant that aids in freeing the body from cell damaging free radicals. It also helps in generating new cells and is important in healing wounds. B vitamins are responsible for transforming the food we eat into energy as well as keeping the skin, liver, hair, and eyes healthy.

Renkon is packed with minerals.

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A serving of lotus root contains 1.2 mg of iron and 23 mg of magnesium (6% of the required daily amount), 556 mg of potassium (16% of the required daily value), and 100 mg of phosphorus (10% of the required daily value). Potassium aids the body in controlling blood pressure and is important for maintaining muscle and nerve functions.  Phosphorus is essential in creating DNA and strengthening the teeth and bones as well as repairing the body’s cells. Iron is necessary for creating red blood cells and transporting oxygen while magnesium helps the body keep blood sugar levels in check and allows the body to maintain normal nerve, muscle, and immune functions.

baby lotus root. | kettebelletj

Renkon helps relieve hay fever.

Another important benefit of renkon is the presence of tannins (a type of biomolecule) and polyphenols that are effective in relieving hay fever. With spring in full bloom in Japan, the lotus root will be heaven sent.

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Celebrating Easter with Origami

  • Posted by:
  • April 16, 2014

This weekend is Easter Sunday weekend. Easter’s popularity is rising: stores and big companies are creating products and packaging for just the occasion.  Easter is a Christian holiday that commemorates the culmination of the Passion of Christ. It is preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of abstinence, prayer, and penance. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary, an event considered the foundation of the Christian faith. Christianity is among one of Japan’s minority religions: less than one percent of the Japanese population are Christian.

Easter or Fukkatsusai (復活祭) in Japanese (“Fukkatsu” means revival and “sai” means festival) is fast becoming a popular occasion in Japan although not yet to the extent of other Western celebrations: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Halloween.  Easter usually coincides with cherry blossoms and plum tree blooms in all their glory. Easter bunnies and eggs are also popular during Easter. They appear in various items like chocolates, candies, cakes, and even the famous Japanese art of paper folding, origami.

Here are some cute, fun Easter origami tutorials.

Easter bunny

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Click image or here: http://youtu.be/RiTc5Sdd95I#aid=P9SxxtK_NL4

3D Easter egg

easteregg

Click image or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJFPDVxHSS8

Easter basket

easterbasket

Click image or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRjPR83V0y4

Sakura

sakuraori

Click image or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTByrE3Kldk

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Famous Japanese Olympians Through the Years

  • Posted by:
  • April 14, 2014

Since last September’s announcement by the International Olympic Committee that Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, preparations have been well under way. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) created the Bureau of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Preparation on the 1st of January this year. The bureau is tasked to formulate the plans for the 2020 Summer Games to further aid in the capabilities of TMG’s sports administration.

Here’s a look back on some of Japan’s famous Olympic athletes through the years:

Kumagai

Ichiya “Ichy” Kumagai (熊谷 一弥 Kumagai Ichiya, 1890 – 1968) – born in in Ōmuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, he was the first Japanese Olympic medalist who won in tennis in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Kumagae actually won two silver medals, one in the men’s singles event where he lost to the South African Louis Raymond and the other in the men’s doubles event with his tennis partner Seiichiro Kashio, losing to Oswald Turnbull and Maxwell Woosnam from Great Britain.

Ichiya Kumagai

Nishida

Sueo Ōe (大江 季雄 Ōe Sueo,  1914 – 1941) and Shuhei Nishida (西田 修平 Nishida Shūhei, 1910 – 1997) – they both mainly competed in pole vaulting. In the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, both athletes tied for second place. Sueo Ōe refused to compete with his friend Shuhei Nishida, leaving Ōe with the bronze medal. When the athletes returned home to Japan, Nishida later recalled, “we joined half of the silver medal with half the bronze medal, which we would both keep. This made us very famous, for these medals were called the Medals of Eternal Friendship.”

Shuhei Nishida

Endo

Yukio Endo (遠藤 幸雄 Endō Yukio, 1937 – 2009) – a gymnast, Yukio Endo won gold medals with the Japanese team in three Olympics in 1960 (Rome), 1964 (Tokyo) and 1968 (Mexico). He also received two individual gold medals in parallel bars and individual- all-around at the 1964 Summer Olympics.

Yukio Endo. | Kroon, Ron / Anefo

 

Kosei

Kosei Inoue (井上 康生 Inoue Kōsei, born May 15, 1978 in Miyakonojo, Miyazaki) – a Judo practitioner, he garnered a gold medal in the under 100 kilogram class at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. He is widely known for his specialty throws and Ōuchi gari (大内刈, major inner reap) and Uchi Mata (内股, inner thigh throw).

Kosei Inoue. | Daniel Vaulot

 

 

 

 

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The True Essence of the Lotus

  • Posted by:
  • April 11, 2014

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Nelumbo nucifera (lotus) is an aquatic plant from the family Nelumbonaceae. Often cultivated in water gardens and considered the national flower of India and Vietnam, the lotus is a symbolic flower in Buddhism. Buddha and bodhisattva images are often seen seated on lotus flowers connoting that the flower can also double as a comfortable chair, which may be the key to sitting for quite a long period of time while meditating. The lotus position is thus named because one tends to look like a lotus flower when one is seated in that way. The lotus is also said to represent the womb of the world in the Womb World Mandala of Shingon Buddhism. The lotus seeds may also be viable for many years. The oldest known lotus germination is from 1,300 year old seeds recovered from a dry lakebed in northeastern China.

Lotus flower. | Chris Gladis

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In Japan, the lotus is a popular plant. Kanrensetsu is the lotus viewing season. Special boats made available during the season allow people to witness the beautiful spectacle in ponds or lakes where lotus flowers are plentiful. The flower is revered because of its resilience to rise from the dirty water and bloom into a beautiful flower. This process is said to symbolize attaining enlightenment. The fleeting beauty of the flower is also compared to the cycle of life. Many attest that you can hear the actual sound as the flowers crack open as they bloom.

Buddha statue on a lotus throne.

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The lotus plant has many uses. The dried seed heads, which resemble the spout of a watering can, are coveted as decorative plants once dried, and make wonderful long-lasting flower arrangements. The seeds, young leaves, flowers, and roots are all edible. The petals can be used as garnish, some huge leaves are used for wrapping food, young lotus stems can be used for salads, and the lotus root is an ingredient that has many uses. It is used in making soups, braised and stir fried dishes, and oftentimes the lotus rootlets are pickled. The common way of pickling is with rice vinegar, chili, garlic, and sugar. It adds more texture and flavor to a meal. The stamens are also dried and made into a type of herbal tea called liánhuā cha in Chinese, and it is also used to add to the scent of tea leaves in Vietnam known as trà sen, chè sen, or chè ướp sen. Lotus nuts or seeds can be also be eaten raw or dried then popped like popcorn. It can also be boiled to make a paste and is a popular ingredient in making pastries such as rice flour pudding, mooncake, and daifuku.

Hashimoto’s ma-dai sashimi with pickled lotus root and other ingredients. | Renée Suen

The lotus is more than a pretty flower. Its many uses and symbolic meanings give us a whole new perspective when appreciating the true essence of the lotus plant.

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Amazing Pioneering Concepts and Inventions by the Japanese

  • Posted by:
  • April 7, 2014

Japan is known for creating some of the best state of the art technologies of our time. But not everyone is aware of the other groundbreaking ideas and inventions the Japanese have contributed for centuries to our everyday existence from the field of science to literature.

Here are just a few pioneering concepts and inventions by Japanese.

Portable calculator – Before we had pocket calculators, an abacus was the calculating tool for centuries before the written numeral system was used. The abacus is still used today by many merchants and traders in parts of the world such as Africa and Asia.

In addition, the first pocket calculators were initially marketed in Japan in 1970 and soon spread all around the globe. The first portable calculator models were Sharp QT-8B “micro Compet” and Sanyo ICC-0081 “Mini Calculator.”  Soon, smaller and more portable calculators emerged  that weighed much less and boasted of technologies such as fluorescent displays and rechargeable NiCad batteries. The first truly handy and pocket-sized calculator was the Busicom LE-120A, introduced in 1971.

Hanaoka_Seishu

Concept of the flying saucer – an iconic science fiction symbol, the flying saucer is mentioned in the 10th-century Japanese narrative The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. It describes a round flying machine that resembles a flying saucer.

General anesthesia – Hanaoka Seishū (華岡 青洲, October 23, 1760 – November 21, 1835) was the first surgeon to use general anesthesia in 1804 while performing surgery. He learned traditional Japanese medicine and Dutch surgical techniques and successfully carried out experimental procedures at the time such as the removal of necrotic bone, tumor excision, and some types of plastic surgery.

Image from “Surgical Casebook” by Hanaoka Seishu.

blueray

Concept of time travel – the earliest example of a story involving time travel in any literary work can be traced back to the 8th- century tale of Urashima Tarō (浦島 太郎). The tale tells us the story of a Japanese fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded a visit to the palace of the Dragon God, Ryūjin at Ryūgū-jō, below the sea where he stays for three days. When he resurfaces and returns to his village, he discovers he is 300 years in the future.

Blu-ray Disc – Shuji Nakamura invented the Blu-ray Disc, which makes use of blue laser diodes used by Sony.  It applied UDO (Ultra Density Optical) and DVR Blue (together with the company, Pioneer), a format of rewritable discs which eventually became the Blu-ray Disc.  Flash memory, (both NOR and NAND types) was invented by Dr. Fujio Masuoka .

Blu-ray Disc. | summerwind

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Traditional Japanese Dolls

  • Posted by:
  • April 3, 2014

Traditional Japanese dolls are also known as ningyō (人形), literally “human shape.” There are different types of traditional Japanese dolls in various forms ranging from babies, imperial court personalities, and warriors, to gods. Many Japanese dolls have a story and a long standing tradition and are still made today for shrines at homes, for festivals such as Kodomo no Hi (childrens festival) and Hinamatsuri (doll festival), and for gift giving.

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During the Jōmon period (8000-200 BC) and the Kofun period (300-600 AD), the craft of creating Dogū (humanoid figure) dolls was already apparent in Japan. The history and origins of the Hinamatsuri festival indicate that ancient Japanese made dolls out of grass were blessed and thrown into the river at Ise Shrine in 3 BC. At the height of the Heian period, several types of dolls were created and patterned from the novel “The Tale of Genji,” written by Lady Murasaki. Children played with dolls, women made protective dolls to give to children, and dolls were used in traditional ceremonies.

KCP students pose beside Japanese doll collection. | KCP Flickr

During the Edo period (1603-1867), when Japan was closed to most trade with the outside world, the craft of doll making was refined to an art form. Wealthy Japanese were willing to spend for beautiful sets of dolls to display in their homes or give as gifts. The sets of intricately made dolls varied in size and design. The trade of doll making was so much in demand that the Japanese government eventually regulated the doll making industry.

Some of the more popular traditional Japanese dolls are:

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Ichimatsu dolls (市松人形) – the original Ichimatsu dolls were named after an 18th-century Kabuki actor. By the 19th century, these types of dolls usually represented children. They are accurately proportioned and have glass eyes and flesh-colored skin. The dolls are made with arms and joints to be able to wear clothes and hold a pose. Baby Ichimatsu dolls with their mischievous expressions were popular during the late 19th century up until the early 20th century. In 1927, 58 original 32-in. dolls were created for the Friendship Doll Exchange program between Japan and the U.S. This further influenced the modern day look of the Ichimatsu dolls which is a more solemn looking girl dressed in a kimono.

Ichimatsu dolls. | Ellie

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Daruma dolls are spherical in shape with red bodies, white faces, and no pupils. They typically represent Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen. It is customary to paint one of the doll’s pupils at the beginning of New Year, make a wish, and  if it comes true, to paint the second pupil. Daruma dolls are supposed to bring good fortune, prosperity, and fortitude to reach goals.

Daruma doll. | Quinn Dombrowski

Iki-ningyō  – these life-like, life-sized dolls were used in misemono shows and portrayed characters in stories. The dolls lent a sense of realism to the story and usually shocked the audience: they were played out in scenes such as lying in a pool of blood.

Other such traditional Japanese dolls are teru teru bozu and Kokeshi dolls that each have their own interesting origins and stories.

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Contemporary Art: Japanese Manhole Covers

  • Posted by:
  • March 31, 2014

manhole2

It seems unlikely that anyone would give a manhole cover a second glance as they pass it by.  Manhole covers are generally round, and the reasons for this were made popular in a Microsoft job-interview question of why they were so. (The question was meant to discover a person’s thinking process and had more than one correct answer - because heavy round covers can be more easily moved by being rolled, a circular shape has a smaller surface than a square one, etc.) However, it is not uncommon to have other manhole shapes such as rectangles and squares. In the U.S., particularly in Nashua, New Hampshire, manholes and their covers are triangular in shape and they point in the direction of the underlying flow. But they will soon be phased out because they are not big enough to meet modern safety standards and a manufacturer that produces large enough triangles cannot be found. There are still some triangular manholes in San Francisco and in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Sébastien Bertrand

manhole1

Manhole covers have a design that must provide traction for traffic moving over it. This is essential when the ground gets slippery in wet weather. An effective design has multi-directional lines for better drag. In Japan, manholes and their covers are typically circular in shape. But what makes the covers so unique is that nearly 95% of the 1,780 municipalities of Japan have engraved or painted manhole covers in multiple colors and intricate designs.  Popular manhole cover designs are official flowers, trees, animals, local spots, and other things a particular municipality is known for. These designs do not only provide traction, but they are also recognizable from every direction, with an artistic appeal that will surely last for several decades or longer.

Toby Oxborrow

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In the late 1950s, larger cities in Japan were using original manhole cover designs. When the engineers from the big cities worked on sewer systems in other parts of the country, they brought the manhole cover designs with them, which is why you can see Tokyo Nagoya manhole cover designs in other parts of Japan.  In the 1980s, the proliferation of more artistic and original manhole cover designs spread throughout Japan.  According to Noboru Fujiwara of the Japan Ground Manhole Association, credit for making visible and artistic manhole cover designs goes to Yasutake Kameda, a Japanese ranking bureaucrat in the construction ministry. Only 60% of Japanese households were part of the municipal sewer system. He needed to raise social acceptance for the costly public works that largely took place underground, unnoticed and under-appreciated. Kameda thought of making water systems more visible by encouraging residents of cities and even people from smaller communities to take part in developing unique cover designs with local appeal.

OKFoundryCompany

Today, Japan is known for having beautiful manhole covers that make it impossible for people to  pass without appreciating the details in the otherwise mundane.

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KCP Student Views, Part 3

  • Posted by:
  • March 28, 2014

2013 was a fun and memorable year for KCP students. They share with us their takeaways of the language and culture program, and on life as a study abroad student in Japan. In this third installment of a 3-part series, students give more valuable insights into the KCP program.

sv5I’m a bargain shopper, so I looked at a lot of different study abroad options in Japan before selecting KCP. I was slightly worried because I literally could not find any bad comments about KCP anywhere online, and that made me suspicious . . . But the truth is, KCP is simply the best! I have no complaints at all. Michiko-san and Tanaka-san are sooo helpful. They even helped me and some friends reserve bus tickets and sleeping arrangements for Fuji-san! For anyone seriously interested in learning Japanese, KCP is fast-paced but really fun. I totally recommend it!
–Laura Hicks

I love that the school is in the heart of Tokyo and that all the classes are in Japanese. Since the classes are taught only in Japanese it pushes me to study more.
–Alice Hoglund

When I arrived at KCP, I was one of five or so American-speaking students in a classroom filled with Korean and Chinese students with whom I could not communicate at all. Getting to know those people through a shared language while I learned it alongside them was an incredibly satisfying experience.
–Joseph Comer

sv7

It’s definitely a very good school for learning Japanese. I’ve learned a ton–and that’s what I wanted to do. I would definitely recommend this school to any students wanting to learn Japanese.
–Miriam Karavias

If you’re considering KCP, just sign up. If you have to, save up for it. It was worth it. I continue to learn the language, I continue to make new friends, I continue to find new, unfamiliar, and exciting places; and all of this was possible because I made the decision to learn at KCP. I have met some really great people (friends as well as teachers) who have helped me grow as a person. I’m thankful for the time I’ve spent here. It really has gone by too fast, but I will forever remember the memories I’ve made here.
–Malia Romar

I thought being in a class full almost entirely of students that could not speak English was very helpful, as it forced me to communicate in Japanese in order to make friends. It also forced me to think in Japanese about all of the things I am learning, rather than translating them in my head from Japanese to English.
–Erin Longstreet

sv6

This program is very intense and will take up a lot of your time studying. This is for serious students only, but it is very effective for those who want to learn Japanese seriously and efficiently. It is definitely one of the greatest programs I know.
–Veena Aragam

Don’t do KCP if you’re not really enthusiastic about learning Japanese. KCP’s program is rigorous and demanding, but if you put forth the effort to study and really try to master the material, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish here. Coming to KCP was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I did things that I never thought I would do in a language that I had zero knowledge of. Everyone at KCP is willing to help you as long as you’re willing to help yourself and put your best foot forward every day. I would recommend KCP to anyone interested in learning Japanese. So sad to leave!
–Andrew Kustodowicz

 

For Parts 1 and 2 of this series, visit:

KCP Student Views, Part 1
KCP Stuent Views, Part 2

 

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The Brave Onna-bugeisha

  • Posted by:
  • March 25, 2014

Onna-bugeisha (女武芸者) were Japanese women warriors who came from the Japanese upper class. They were widows, wives, daughters, and some were even rebels. They answered to the call of duty and courageously fought in battle alongside the samurai men. They were skillfully trained in martial arts and wielded weapons such as the naginata (a wooden shaft with a curved blade on the end) and the kaiken (an 8-10 inch long, single or double bladed dagger).   During the early Heian and Kamakura periods, prominent women in the battlefields eventually went on to lead their own clans. These brave women used their skills to bring about economic and social change, and even today, their stories continue to inspire us with their honor, courage, and valor.

Some of the onna-bugeisha throughout history:

onna1

Empress Consort Jingū (神功皇后 Jingū-kōgō)–also known as Empress Regent Jingū (神功天皇 Jingū-tennō).  This Japanese empress ruled from her husband’s death in the year 201 until her son Emperor Ōjin ascended to the throne in 269. Prior to the Meiji period, she was considered the 15th sovereign until the re-evaluation of the extant historical records caused her name to be removed from that list, making her son Emperor Ōjin the 15th Japanese imperial ruler. According to the Nihon Shoki, Empress Consort Jingū led an army in an invasion of Korea and returned to Japan victorious after three years.  Her misasagi (tomb) can be visited at Misasagi-chō in Nara.

Painting of Empress Consort Jingū setting foot in Korea.

Nakanotakeko

Nakano Takeko (中野 竹子, 1847 – 1868)–a prominent female warrior of the Aizu domain who fought and gave her life during the Boshin War (a civil war in Japan from 1868 to 1869 between the ruling forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the imperial court). Nanako Takeko was born in Edo to Nakano Heinai, an Aizu official. She was well trained in literature and martial arts. Later on, her martial arts instructor, Akaoka Daisuke, adopted her. She then joined the Battle of Aizu 1868 and fought with a naginata. She led an ad hoc corps of female warriors who fought independently because senior Aizu retainers did not allow them to fight as an official part of the domain’s army.

Nakano Takeko.

 

Tomoe-Gozen

Their unit was later called the Women’s Army (娘子隊 Jōshitai). She sustained a bullet to the chest and rather than let her head  be taken by the enemy as a trophy, she asked her sister Yūko to cut it off and bury it. Her head was taken to Hōkai-ji Temple (Aizubange, Fukushima) and was buried under a pine tree where a monument for her was erected. 

Tomoe Gozen (巴 御前, 1157?–1247)–a 12th-century female samurai warrior. She was the concubine of Minamoto no Yoshinaka (1154 – 1184, a general of the late Heian Period). She fought in and survived the Genpei War (1180-1185) where she was recognized for her strength and bravery.

Tomoe Gozen

 

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KCP Student Views 2013, Part 2

  • Posted by:
  • March 21, 2014

2013 was a fun and memorable year for KCP students. They share with us their takeaways of the language and culture program, and of life as a study abroad student in Japan. In this second installment of a 3-part series, students give valuable insights into the KCP program.

calli1

The culture class for the U.S. program was wonderful. It gave me an opportunity to visit many interesting sites that I may not have visited on my own otherwise. Mr. Tanaka and Ryuhei were excellent tour guides. My favorite was the overnight trip to Kamakura; it provided a much-needed getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
–Erin Longstreet

Because I am a huge fan of research and spreadsheets, I created an excel worksheet comparing numerous Japanese study abroad programs by cost, housing, length of study, and many other facets. Overall, KCP came out superior based on the amount of things that you get for the price. After completing the program, I can say choosing KCP was a perfect decision. KCP is a real school– professional teachers, strict grading systems, textbooks–the whole package. KCP proved to be much more than I expected. The classes are tough, but it taught me how to work harder and build a work ethic, and I am coming out with many rich experiences thanks to KCP. This school truly prepares you for higher levels and entrance into Japanese colleges.
–Rachel  Burch

classf1

If you are considering the program, I would definitely encourage you to attend KCP. I made so many friends and noticeably improved all areas of my Japanese studies, because of KCP’s amazing teachers. Thanks to the administrative staff, I felt safe knowing that I could ask them for help with any problems I had in any aspect of my life in Japan.
–Jemeene Marson

The workload is intense and requires you to be on top of your studies all the time, so if you only want to have fun, this is not the program for you. However, if you can balance studiousness with some fun on the weekends or after school, then you will have the time of your life. KCP pushes you, but it also offers the best support system (either English support, or talking to your teacher) of any language school I have ever seen. The direct method really encourages you to think in Japanese, rather than try to translate everything back to your native language.
–Jennifer Wu

 

For Part 1 of this series, visit  KCP Student Views, Part 1.

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