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May 3, 2022

Go beyond the classroom and explore Japan’s culture at JCCC.

JCCC is one of the only community colleges in the area to offer Japanese language courses, and that’s just the beginning.

Students interested in learning more about Japan can study abroad, join the Japanese Conversation Table and participate in the Heartland Japanese Language Contest held every year.

Study Abroad in Japan!

Students who want to study abroad in Japan have a lot of options—eight of them, to be exact.

From exchange programs and internships opportunities to trips over breaks to prominent Japanese cities, students have multiple ways to explore Japan through JCCC.

Assistant Professor Kotoko Grass will be leading an upcoming trip to Tokyo with the Game Development and Web Design & Digital Media departments.

Participants majoring in these fields will be introduced to career opportunities in Japan and visit game and web development studios. They will also be taking a language course designed to help beginners learn conversational Japanese. The class is called “Japanese Conversation for True Beginners” and it will be offered in Spring 2024.

“During their stay in Tokyo, participants will go to a language school in the morning, enjoy cultural activities and sightseeing in the afternoon, and stay with host families in the evening,” said Grass. “It will be quite an eventful, interesting and educational study abroad experience!”

Japanese Conversation Table

Participate in the Japanese Conversation Table, an informal social gathering that takes place every other Sunday at JCCC’s Billington Library from 3 to 4 p.m. Students, professors and community friends who enjoy speaking Japanese attend to practice their language skills and participate in fun activities.

Grass hosts with help from Yuki Ochi, a former Japanese tutor; interested attendees can reach out to Grass for additional information at

“Depending on the student's proficiency, I prepare different kinds of activities that use level-appropriate language skills,” said Grass. “Japanese snacks are the prizes for winning games and activities.”

Grass also uses the table to host cultural workshops. In Fall 2021, she invited a Japanese Yosakoi dance team. More recently, she hosted calligraphy workshops and a Japanese poem workshop for students who wanted to submit their work to the Heartland Japanese Language Contest. Her efforts paid off.

“I am so proud that many of our students won the first, second and third places in the calligraphy and poem competition,” she said.

The JCCC Professor Who Started the Language Contest

For over 20 years, Dianne Daugherty has been the brains behind the Heartland Japanese Language Contest.

“During my first year of teaching Japanese at the Shawnee Mission Center for International Studies, I collaborated with a few other area Japanese teachers to establish a contest for Japanese language learners,” she said.

Since then, participation has grown, and categories have increased.

Recently, the contest began offering mail-in events for calligraphy and tanka, a genre of classical Japanese poetry, along with the in-person events. There were also three events where students could submit their work digitally, as well as two online quizzes open to participants.

“That expanded our entries and included students from schools in Illinois, Iowa and Oklahoma, along with entries from Kansas and Missouri,” Daugherty said.

International relations student Nathan Spickelmier, who placed second in the tanka category and first in the virtual quiz, is already looking forward to next year’s event.

“I really enjoyed the Japanese Language Contest,” Nathan said. “It gave me a chance to see how much progress I've made studying the language. The competition was also a great place to meet new people that shared my interest in the Japanese language.”

Tristan Curtin, who placed second in the calligraphy category, enjoys meeting language learners from other schools.

“There were many schools in attendance, and I was pleased to see so much cultural exchange,” he said. “The event provided enrichment to the Japanese language and culture that will prove invaluable to me in the future.”

Bringing Japanese Culture to the Classroom

Daugherty lived in Japan for three years and makes regular visits to the country to learn new skills.

“I’ve studied ikebana (flower arranging) and received a teaching certificate for it in 1992,” she said. “I’ve also learned the tea ceremony, calligraphy and the study of the kimono.”

Because culture and language often go hand in hand, Daugherty makes an effort to include what she’s learned throughout her teachings at JCCC.

She added, “I enjoy highlighting these cultural insights and providing opportunities for additional study and discussion in my classes.”

Learn Japanese at JCCC

Looking to learn Japanese, expand your cultural understanding and even study abroad in Japan? Then JCCC is the place to be! Learn more about our Japanese program and enroll today!