The Yanesen Language and Culture School, based out of Yanaka, Taito-ku, offers foreigners to get the full Japanese experience. Their motto is “ichi-go ichi-e,” comes from the Japanese tea ceremony and essentially means a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that should be fully experienced and cherished.
The school offers a variety of ways for patrons to learn about Japan, whether it is through special accommodation, several-week Japanese language lessons, or even a single culture lesson.
If you have a few days or a few months, taking a culture class—each run by independently contracted, local teachers—would most definitely be a unique way to experience life in Japan. I took a suiboku-ga class from Yanesen and came away with a few art pieces and a new appreciation for the craft.
The list of culture classes includes:
- sado (Japanese tea ceremony),
- ikebana (flower arrangement),
- rakugo (storytelling),
- shiatsu (massage),
- wadaiko (drum),
- shamisen (three-stringed instrument),
- koto, (a 13-stringed instrument)
- biwa (short-necked lute used for storytelling),
- shakuhachi (flute),
- zazen (Zen meditation)—offered Sunday mornings
- kodo (Japanese incense)
- iaido (Japanese martial art with sword),
- suiboku-ga (Japanese ink painting)
- and sumo wrestling training observation—only offered certain parts of the year)
Most culture classes will require a Japanese speaker, which can be yourself or a volunteer interpreter provided by Yanesen.
Reservation of a class should be made at least a few days before the intended class date, to make sure the class has room or the teacher is available.
The office of Yanesen—which acts as an information center for Yanaka, Sendagi, Nezu and Ueno—is a good source for many maps and guides to the area. There are also quite a few souvenirs to choose from if you wish, with a big focus on cats as a nod to the neighborhood.