I joined the Yorkshire and Humberside Japanese School in my second year of secondary school.
Although it was a small school, I was warmly welcomed and was able to get to know the students very quickly. My time at the school was only two years, but I loved it so much that I continued to go there after graduation as an assistant at the nursery. It was a friendly place where we played together during recess, regardless of age, and where we always had a lot of laughs.
In recess, we exchanged information about things we didn’t know about the local school and how to make Japanese food, and at the bazaar, we gave each other clothes and toys at reasonable prices.
Many of the children could only speak either English or Japanese, but when they found common interests or good friends, they often learned languages at an astonishing speed. I was also encouraged by my classmates’ smug looks at my weekly Kanji test, and I began to desperately memorize Kanji characters, which I must have hated.
Now that I am an adult, and have moved to London, I meet many Japanese people who grew up in supplementary schools, and I even bumped into a Yorkshire and Humberside graduate. They speak Japanese so fluently that you would not know they grew up in England unless they told you. Many of them are sincere and earnest like Japanese people, but they also see the world from a broad perspective without discrimination or prejudice, making them very likeable people. Perhaps it is because they have experience of both Japan and England, two countries that are very different from each other, that they are able to see things from many different perspectives.
I hope more children attend the Yorkshire and Humberside Japanese School because it motivates children who grew up in England to learn Japanese, and for children who grew up in Japan, it provides a familiar and comforting environment.