Nihongo Scotland began in the early Summer of 2014. JET Programme Alumni Jess Brown had been organising and participating in Japanese lessons for the JETAA Community for a number of years and felt that speaking Japanese once a week for a couple of hours was not conducive to good progress. She also found herself regularly hurriedly completing homework assignments just minutes before her class, thereby still condensing her Japanese practice into only one day. The other students in the class admitted to the same.
Jess suggested a homework club to her fellow students and they arranged to meet in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh, in a relatively new pub called ‘Platform 5’. The group invited other JETAA members who had indicted interest in studying but had not been able to sign up to the regular classes and the free club began as most do, as a small group with a few like-minded individuals. Jess purchased Japanese language textbooks and went back through her English Teaching resources to find interesting ways to work with the grammar points that had come up in classes. From about the second or third week of meeting up, a couple of native Japanese friends came along to assist and the group began to take shape. The pub was very noisy and often busy with sporting events shown on screens around the bar.The group realised that the pub was not quite right and soon moved to the Starbucks opposite Haymarket Station.
Once at Starbucks, and after consultation with attendees, the meeting day was changed to Fridays weekly from 6-8pm and the team working at Starbucks were happy to have the group as long as they left quickly when the coffee shop closed at 8pm. Jess chose to name the group ‘Nihongo Scotland’ and the existence of the group was shared on social media via the JETAA Scotland Facebook page. Non-JETs began to attend after finding the event on the internet and although the group had begun as a supplementary homework night for members of JETAA, the group opened up to ‘anyone with an interest in learning Japanese’. Graham and Kayo found the group and attended before Kayo returned to Japan. Even away from the group Kayo was extremely supportive and created an event page on Facebook to help with advertising, and the number of attendees began to grow. At times the small Starbucks was crammed with people speaking and playing games in Japanese. Native Japanese speakers turned up and as a thank you, Jess provided them with free drinks . Sometimes there were more than two native speakers and so other group members stepped in to share the drink costs. A friendly little group had formed.
As 2014 entered Winter, the Starbucks employees informed ‘Nihongo Scotland’ that their opening hours would shorten by one hour, closing at 7pm. This was a minor blow to the group and they set about looking for a new venue.
‘Burger’ had just opened on Shandwick Place and after some investigation and discussion it was deemed a very suitable replacement venue as it allowed more flexibility with space, time and table size (also better dinner choices and importantly for some – alcohol provision).