Researchers often ask us about learning Japanese, so I went to get advice from the local expert on that topic. Ms. Minako Kato, aka “Kato-sensei,” has been teaching Japanese to learners from all walks of life for 34 years. She has been teaching Japanese around Oshu City since 1996.


Minako Kato is from Oshu City and is 61 years old. After teaching middle and high school students, she started her career as a Japanese teacher for non-native speakers to interact with people from other countries. She has been a Japanese teacher for 34 years.

“When we meet the researchers, we can see what their situation is, what kind of Japanese each person needs to learn, and how they want to schedule lessons. During working hours is one possibility. During free time is another. We could match Japanese teachers with researchers depending on when and how often they can study: twice a week at night or something like that.

1:1 lessons or lessons with just a few learners would be ideal, like one teacher to two or three students. That way we can build up a relationship of trust and relax with each other, study without getting too nervous. It might be difficult to learn Japanese from friends or coworkers. If you’re working together, you could end up using the common language for that workplace for whatever reason.

Do I think there will be enough Japanese teachers? We’ll need to see what the demand is. Not all researchers might want to study with a teacher. But I think the network of Japanese teachers throughout the prefecture can work together to meet their needs. We can work out a system.

It might be fun for the researchers to come to Tuesday classes at ASUPIA (Mizusawa Regional Exchange Hall) once in a while, to meet and chat with other Japanese learners living in the community. We’re a very relaxed bunch, people attend when they want to, and our door is always open.

I recommend learning hiragana and katakana before you come. It doesn’t take that long to learn and makes life a lot more convenient. You don’t necessarily need to worry about kanji yet, you can do that later.

I’ve started to think recently that teaching hiragana is easier and more fun to remember if you just start making words and sentences from the beginning. For example, start with いす(isu, chair). Then switch to a verb, すわる (suwaru, sit). Then make a short sentence. いすにすわる(isu ni suwara, sit in chair). Then you can start to learn what words go with each other.

Learning Japanese doesn’t need to start with a scary wall of text. We can start with words, easy sentences, about whatever you’re interested in or curious about. Your hobbies, your everyday life. Whatever makes you stop and think “what’s this?” Share that with your teacher and we can start lessons from there.

It’d be lovely if ILC researchers are interested in Japan and share what they learned with others. If they could learn Japanese while they’re here, that’d be even better. We’re flattered when people are interested in learning Japanese, this kind of niche language used only in Japan.”

Are you interested in studying Japanese in Oshu City or have any other questions? Please contact Oshu International Relations Association at or 0197-22-6111.

Oshu International Relations Association Homepage: Click here


日本語ってどう覚えればいいのか? 「加藤先生」に聞いてきました


加藤 美奈子(かとうみなこ)







「日本語を勉強する」ときは長い文章ではなく、単語と短い文章から、興味のあるところから入っていいと思います。趣味や日常生活、自分が「あれ? これは何だろう」と思ったところを先生に聞いて、そこから一緒に日本語勉強の第一歩を踏み出せばいいんです。


奥州市で日本語を勉強したい方、その他の質問がある方、奥州市国際交流協会までお問い合わせください。メール:,  電話: 0197-22-6111.