The Nihongo House is one of AIU’s themed houses, in which students who share a particular interest live together and carry out activities related to that interest.
In Nihongo House, we meet at least once a week, and often spend time together, studying or just hanging out, in a lounge dedicated for our private use. Although AIU is located in Japan, the extensive use of English here means that there is surprisingly little opportunity to speak Japanese! This must surely be one of the few places in Japan where foreigners actually complain that they don’t get to speak Japanese enough. Nihongo House provides a supportive environment for learning and practicing Japanese outside of Japanese classes.
That is not to say that we spend all our time studying! We take turns to organize a weekly activity of our choice, many of which turn out to be food-related. So far this semester, we’ve had Japanese coffee & tea, bread, and American sweets, amongst others. The weather is getting colder, so we have Kansai-style okonomiyaki and Japanese/Thai sukiyaki coming up soon!
Last month, we were invited to join the local Kitsune Matsuri (Fox Festival), in which participants paint their faces as foxes, dress in kimono, and walk along the streets of Akita City while giving out sweets and dried stalks of rice to onlookers. According to tradition, both male and female participants dress in female kimono. The sight of middle-aged Japanese men parading down the streets in typically female garb was undoubtedly unique, and something I doubt I will ever see again. We are also in the midst of planning a wagashi (Japanese traditional sweets) workshop, and a calligraphy event. These events and activities are sponsored, so members do not have to pay any fees out of pocket.
Since we are a small house (the smallest amongst the three* Houses!), we live in a very cosy and intimate environment. This makes it easier to ensure that everyone is engaged and having fun, and that no one is being left out. House members often spend time together outside of house activities as well. It’s not uncommon to see us eating together at the cafeteria, or going to the Aeon mall nearby.
If you have an appreciation for the Japanese language and would like to make friends with similar interests, I recommend applying to live in Nihongo House during your stay here!
Note: There were three houses in Fall 2018, at the time of this article. The number of houses varies based on new proposals each semester.