If you’ve recently moved to Japan, you might be thinking about learning the language to help you communicate with the locals and understand the culture. Of course, there are plenty of online courses and ‘learn Japanese’ book/CD packages but there’s nothing like a bit of face-to-face learning in a local setting. Kobe has around 44,000 foreign residents so the city is home to many who either don’t speak Japanese or speak it as a second language. Those who want to learn or brush up on their skills can find classes ranging from beginner to advanced level.
You can find volunteer-led classes that are run for free if you want to sample a few sessions without committing to anything. These are mostly less formal sessions but a good chance to meet some of the local people as well as expats. You may be asked to make a donation towards class materials.
Kobe International Community Center
Kobe International Community Center (KICC) runs a free service matching volunteer Japanese speakers with foreign residents wanting to learn the language. 50 people are paired each month with volunteers for 6 months of free lessons. Skill levels vary as the volunteers are not trained teachers. A fee is charged for study materials.
International Education and Resource Network
International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) runs free sessions for foreign residents every Sunday (10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) at the Kobe Center for Overseas Migration and Cultural Interaction. Lessons are taught by university students and are available at beginner and intermediate level. An additional session has just started for children, three Sundays a month. Course materials need to be paid for.
Low cost sessions
Hyogo International Association
For affordable classes, the Hyogo International Association is a good option. They hold beginner level sessions two evenings per week for a total of 16 sessions running twice per year (May/June and October/November) for 2,000 yen per term. There is also an intensive summer course option running in July/August for 4,000 yen.
Nihonga Hiroba Okamoto
Nihonga Hiroba Okamoto offers beginner-level sessions taught by volunteers on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Lessons only cost 1,000 yen per month but you will need to pay a membership fee of 2,000 yen (which lasts one year) and fund course materials.
Sessions for children and young people
Kobe Kodomo Nikoniko Kai
Kobe Kodomo Nikoniko Kai runs sessions teaching children Japanese every Thursday and Saturday (4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) at the Honjyo Chiiki Fukushi Center in the Higashi Nada ward. The cost is 1,600 yen per month plus an insurance fee.
Kobe Student Youth Center
Kobe Student Youth Center offers classes run by volunteers through a scholarship fund. A 200 yen fee is charged per class in addition to course materials that need to be paid for. Classes are available in slots of up to 2 hours any day between Monday and Saturday.
Full price sessions
Lexis Japan is rated as one of the best language schools in Japan and attracts students from all across the globe. Located next to Motomachi Station, the school offers everything from beginner to advanced level Japanese courses, including intensive courses, evening courses and summer programs. Prices vary – a 9-week evening course at beginner level is around 29,700 yen.
Communica Institute in Sannomiya has been teaching Japanese for over 25 years, specialising in intercultural communication. The school runs long and short-term courses as well as private lessons, offering courses in both general and business Japanese. Courses are around 175,000 yen for 3 months and 360,000 yen for 6 months plus registration fees.
By Cpl. Janessa Pon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons