Hiromi Kishimizu
Senior Instructor
Miyoko Foutch
Assistant Senior Instructor
Izumi Cantlay Kiyomi Chinen
Kisa Horikawa Hiroko Kataoka
Nobuye Kato Yoko Saito
Keiko Sasaki Michiko Schricker
Kozue Steiner

Akemi Tajima

The Curriculum at Orange Coast Gakuen

Classes at OCG are divided into separate tracks, allowing us to tailor our instruction to students with all levels of background in the Japanese language.

Japanese as a Heritage Language, or JHL

The JHL track is designed for students with a strong background in the Japanese language. Some of our JHL students were raised in Japan, while others speak or hear Japanese in their home environments.

Japanese as a Foreign Language, or JFL

JFL classes are designed for students with limited background in Japanese. Some JFL students may hear some Japanese at home, but not at the level of our JHL students, while others have minimal or no exposure.

The difference between JHL and JFL students can be a subtle one. Both tracks teach all language skills, including writing and reading, as well as speaking and listening. The pace of the JHL classes may be faster, however, especially when it comes to kanji and writing.

We at OCG feel that students learn the most when they are challenged at just above their current level. If placed in a class that is too advanced for them, many children fall behind, get discouraged, and lose interest. But if the class is not challenging enough, students also become bored, and lose interest.

Placing your child at just the right level is the best way to make sure that they learn the most, thrive, and gain confidence. Our teachers pay considerable attention to making sure your child is in the right track, and will have frequent consultations with you.

Japanese for High School Students

OCG also teaches High School students who have only recently started learning the Japanese language. These courses focus more on teaching conversational skills and about everyday life in Japan.   

Also, our High School students can use the classes taught at OCG to receive foreign language credit at their local High Schools.  So far, OCG has reaffirmed its accreditation with the schools of the Irvine School District and Huntington Beach School district (unless your High School already teaches Japanese language courses.  Please check with your High School counselor.

OCG also has a class that helps our High School students prepare for the Credit Test and the Advanced Placement Test in Japanese.  More information on these class will be posted soon.

Adult and Cultural Classes at OCG

OCG Adult Japanese  Courses

One of the best ways to maximize your investment in your family’s association with OCG is to enroll in our Adult Japanese Language Course.  The instructor is Ms. Yoko Saito (“Saito Sensei”), a former OCG Head Teacher and faculty member, now in her third year of teaching the adult classes.  Conveniently scheduled during your child’s school day, the adult class information is outlined as follows:

  • 15 week sessions (Winter session starts January 8, 2011); Fall Session begins in September 2011, exact date TBD.
  • Saturdays for 1.5 hours. Beginners class begins at 9:00am and ends 10:30am; the Intermediate class begins at 10:45 am and ends at 12:15 pm.
  • Oral instruction (incl. light conversation practice); written instruction (incl. reading assignments, some homework, quizzes, brief essays)
  • Cost: $225 for 15-week session (parents of enrolled OCG students); $300 for 15-week session (adults without children enrolled in OCG)

Saito Sensei, one of our most popular teachers, leads her classes using wit and humor for the dedicated students who gladly continue taking additional sessions to develop their skills.

Japanese Brush Calligraphy

OCG offers a class in oshūji (お習字), or Japanese brush calligraphy.  This class is open only to students already enrolled in OCG. These one-hour classes are taught after school on Saturdays, for a very small fee. 

Our instructor is our long-time teacher, Tajima sensei.  Our children in the past have absolutely loved this class, and Tajima sensei.

For more information, contact any of the PA officers.

Ikebana (flower arranging)

We also now hold a class in the art of flower arranging (ikebana). Students gather every other Saturday morning, from 9 am to 11 am.  The class is taught by a top-ranked instructor of the Ikenobo (池坊)school, Ogawa sensei. 

The class currently costs $25 per session, which includes the cost of the flowers.  Students also need to join the Ikenobo school, for a fee of $60.  

The class is open to all, even if you do not have a child at OCG.  Beginners are also welcome. 

The Ken-ken-pa series of books have been written for OCG by our Long Beach advisors. These books embody the "Long Beach approach," outlined below. All of the JHL classes will use one of these books.

Jan-ken-pon is a series of books that was co-written by our advisor, Hiroko Kataoka, and adapted for use by OCG. The lower JFL classes will use this series.

Our upper level JFL classes and our Japanese for High School classes will use the Erin book series, written by the Japan Foundation.

The Long Beach Approach (for both JHL and JFL classes)

The Long Beach curriculum starts with the idea that trying to teach Japanese as it is taught in Japan is not the best way to teach children growing up in America. An approach where students learn sentence patterns from a textbook, or copy lists of kanji may work there, but is often a source of drudgery for children here.

One obvious difference is that children here have less exposure to Japanese in their everyday environment.  For example, in Japan, a child naturally learns vocabulary and grammar at home, and so a main goal of the school is to match sounds with kana and kanji. But for children growing up in America, our curriculum must helpthem acquire both oral language and reading/ writing skills at the same time.  Also in Japan, a child might learn a new kanji in class, then see it on the train, or on TV at home.  Kanji is reinforced everywhere in Japan. An effective curriculum must provide this reinforcement by providing a rich learning environment in which students are exposed to all facets of the Japanese language.

The Long Beach approach is more attuned to the interests and needs of children growing up here. Our advisors believe that language is best acquired when lessons are interactive and based on real-life situations, and when the content of the lessons is meaningful to the students lives.

The Long Beach curriculum is theme-based, built around topics that children will find interesting and relevant. Some of these themes include family life (both here and in Japan), school life, games and sports, food, health, nature, and so on. Some of these themes will overlap with topics that children study in their local schools, which makes learning easier and thus bolsters their confidence.

As one example, a unit might cover the water cycle (rain, evaporation, cloud formation, etc.), a topic that the students already know something about. Students may thus study why clouds form, or what causes thunder, and will do so in different formats – by reading about the topics, orally discussing them, and writing descriptive essays. In the process, students will be taught numerous vocabulary words, kanji, and sentence patterns. The ultimate goal is of course to teach language, but the method is a content-driven one.

OCG also will integrate its various cultural activities into the curriculum.  This will make our cultural events not only interesting, but also useful as a tool to teach language skills. Already in the summer our students are learning about the Tanabata festival, places of origins, and the cultural meaning of the summer festivals. The PA will supplement these class lessons by holding relevant cultural events after students have studied about them.

The Long Beach approach is also highly interactive and encourages students to be more active learners. Many lessons include hands on activities and even experiments. The curriculum also uses small group activities, including having children brainstorm or debate various topics. Even homework assignments will be more appealing, for instance by having children “interview” their parents on that day’s topic, or looking up more information on the internet (for older students).

Our new advisors also use what they call a “spiral” approach to reinforce what our children learn.  In most programs, children learn a kanji in preparation for a test, then forget it a month later.  The Long Beach curriculum is designed to come back to the same material, teaching it in different ways and at more advanced levels.  As just one example, young children may talk about their favorite food, and in later years may teach the rest of the class how to make that dish. The spiral approach seems a much better way to have children learn AND REMEMBER the material.

Finally, the Long Beach curriculum is based on an extremely elaborate and well-defined set of goals and objectives, each tailored to different learner levels. The assessment of students will thus be based on these goals and objectives. We are less reliant on numbers of kanji memorized, or final test scores, but rather on the ability of students to master well-defined tasks.

In sum, the Long Beach curriculum is a truly innovative, well-developed approach. It is backed up by years of academic research and theorizing, but to a lay person also seems to be based on common sense. Above all, the new curriculum is FUN, making it more likely that our children will continue with their studies, and hopefully become lifelong learners of Japanese.

OCG’s Long Beach Advisors

Our new curriculum coordinators are nationally-recognized experts in the field of teaching language to “heritage learners.”  Heritage learners occupy the middle ground between native Japanese children being raised in Japan, and American students who have no background or exposure to the language.  In other words, the vast majority of our students are heritage learners. 

Our advisors have extensive experience in designing teaching methods and materials for Japanese learners from all backgrounds and at all levels.  They are helping to remake our curriculum and teaching approach.  The three advisors form a very impressive team that we feel will make the OCG curriculum one of the strongest and most effective in the region. 

Hiroko Kataoka
OCG Senior Curriculum Advisor

Hiroko Kataoka, OCG Senior Curriculum Advisor Professor, Asian and Asian-American Studies
California State University, Long Beach

Professor Kataoka is an internationally renowned leader and innovator in the field of Japanese language education and pedagogy.  She has taught Japanese language courses for some 35 years, and teacher training courses for over 20 years.

Among her numerous activities, she has served as the Chief Academic Specialist for the Japan Foundation, has chaired the Japanese National Standards Task Force, and has been involved with the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) test on Japanese Language and Culture.  She has received numerous awards, including an award for Leadership from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.


Masako O. Douglas
OCG Curriculum Coordinator

Masako Douglas, OCG Senior Curriculum Advisor Professor, Asian and Asian-American Studies
California State University, Long Beach

Professor Douglas is an expert on language acquisition by young heritage learners, including oral development and acquisition of bi-literacy skills.  She has experience in creating and implementing curriculum programs for JHL learners of all ages, from kindergarten through college.  She is a founder and current coordinator of the JHL Special Interest Group of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, and a founder of the JHL Journal:  Japanese Heritage Language Education.


Kiyomi Chinen
OCG Curriculum Advisor

Kiyomi Chinen, OCG Curriculum Advisor

Assistant Professor,
Asian and Asian-American Studies
California State University, Long Beach

Professor Chinen is a specialist on Second Language Acquisition. Her main research interests include heritage language, social psychology, and immersion programs.  She is on the editorial board of JHL Journal:  Japanese Heritage Language Education.  Professor Chinen is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach.



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