I noticed a number of people coming to my page hoping to find some reviews on The Yamasa Institute, so I guess I should do the public some service by writing one since I would also appreciate it if someone does a review on a school I intend to commute to.
I enrolled into the AIJP course at The Yamasa Institute in Okazaki City in the spring of 2010. Application began some 5-6 months before as I had intended to study for 2 terms which meant that I would require a student VISA (which takes notoriously long to apply). Anyhow, the support from the school is good, so you don’t have to worry too much about what you need to submit and when you have to do what.
The website says they offer the lowest (or one of the lowest) fees as they are supported by the Hattori Foundation. I found that to be untrue, or should I say not completely true. While it is absolutely value-for-money in the sense that you have classes even on public holidays, at least most of them so you get the most out of your time at the school, I believe it is not the cheapest around. The tuition fee I paid was slightly cheaper than the current one as the price has been raised. A 6-month course would cost you a little over half a million yen but at the same price, you could study at the language division at Waseda University for a year (according to information I got from the magazine received from Yamasa!)
I’m not going to observe verbal hygiene that much here as politically correct reviews have zero value so I’m going to say, as with all schools, there are good teachers and some who don’t fall under that category at the school (with regard to teaching). I wouldn’t say they are bad because they aren’t. It’s just that when you have great teachers at the school, the others just pale in comparison.
I have been very fortunate to have been taught by most of the really good teachers which numbers to around 10. When you’re enrolled to the course, you also get to do a maximum of 4 elective classes at NO additional cost. Sure, you can choose to take just a couple or not at all, but why not? If you intend to work in Japan, the support from the teachers are excellent. I do not think it is part of their job scope but they are willing to take time out of their busy schedule to help you along. That’s what I liked most about the school. Also, I heard from a friend who studied in a language school in Tokyo that her school does not organise activities for the students AT ALL! At The Yamasa Institute, they organise activities pretty regularly. Sure, some of them cost you money but there are the free ones as well as those that actually pay you to participate!
Another plus point about this school is that the students come from a huge array of countries. Unlike many schools in other places that have over 80% of their students from China or Korea, The Yamasa Institute has a good balance. Sure, the largest groups here are the Taiwanese and Americans but from what I heard, only 25% are Taiwanese and they are the largest group! So during my time there, I had the privilege to meet people from Taiwan, America, Canada, Norway, Germany, England, Hungary, Malaysia, Switzerland, Australia, Indonesia, Korea, Hong Kong, Columbia, Spain and so on…
I also took the JBPP (Japanese for Business and Professional Purposes) class, which should really just be called Business Japanese for easy storage in the regular human brain. It was offered by another division which I don’t remember exactly what it was called because they have so many acronyms at the school, my brain is just a mess of letters now. Anyhow, I took the course at a little over ￥60,000, which I thought was a little steep although it was really useful and increased my knowledge in both the language and business culture of the Japanese. I actually toyed with the idea of withdrawing from the course a couple of times because of the cost (I did not think the content matched the value) but it was good enough to make me stay. If it were at ￥40,000, I probably wouldn’t think about withdrawing.
On a more macro level, being located in Okazaki was one of the major factors in my choice of the school because it is quieter and has fewer distractions which makes it an extremely conducive environment for studying.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, I’d say I’d still go for The Yamasa Institute if I were given another chance. Yes, some other schools may be cheaper but it’s not always about the price.