Today I visited HUE’s Hakodate campus. It’s smaller than Sapporo, but the team made it a packed day for getting a sense of the work they do here and how they connect to Japanese education overall. After a campus tour, I sat in on two classes, both in Japanese. The first featured student presentations on their visits to a nearby affiliated school. The students presented on the school’s approach to special education, including how the school interprets ministry guidelines and tries to foster students’ autonomy and independence. The second class was a high level language learning course. Several of the students in the class are “N1” students – the highest level for Japanese language learners and well above some of the other classes I visited last week. Beer taxes around the world was an unusual topic, but hey, it was interesting!
After lunch with my hosts I had the chance to meet with the head of HUE-Hakodate’s Regional Education program. We spoke through an interpreter (Andre, a Newfoundlander who teaches in the program), exchanging ideas about education and the different things HUE and UofC are working on. I’ve been lucky enough to chat with teachers from other programs in Canada about these things (how is your program structured? Why do you do what you do? What are you good at? What do you struggle with?), but this was the first time I was able to chat with someone running a program in another country with such a different perspective. We found a lot of common ground – Alberta and Hokkaido are both home to Indigenous peoples, for example – as well as differences and quirks in our systems (Japanese teachers are regularly moved every few years; French is one of our official languages yet most Canadians learn less French than Japanese students learn English).
Today’s my last full day in Japan and it was a great way to end off my stay here. I’ve been asked several times when I’m coming back. I don’t know – but I’d like to, and I’d definitely recommend Japan on the whole. It’s easy to get around, the food is great and has plenty of variety, and almost everyone I met was helpful and kind despite my linguistic bumbling.
The TABers coming here in the fall are in great hands, and I think they’ll learn a lot from the HUE team. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures – 4 airports in a day and lots of places to get awkwardly lost in. See you in Calgary!