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Highlighted Programs

The JHL programs highlighted on this page, implemented through the hard work of teachers and administrators from all over the U.S., were selected by JFLA. Please feel free to contact JFLA regarding any programs you would like us to share about on this page.

The MUSUBI Iowa Japanese Heritage Language (JHL) Classroom was established in 2021 as a group of volunteer parents. Since 2023, MUSUBI has operated under the umbrella of the Japan-America Society of Iowa (JASI), focusing on three pillars: ① activities centered around children, ② providing a space for parents raising children abroad, and ③ supporting the activities of
small-scale JHL classrooms and groups as community hubs, both in-person
and online.
In our children-focused activities, we aim to facilitate enjoyable living and learning experiences through Japanese language until around the age of 10, using textbooks certified by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). For older children, we simultaneously
pursue cultural content exploration and language acquisition, striving to connect students’ learning with their local community. By leveraging the strengths of both in-person and online formats, and engaging in joint activities with JHL groups domestically and internationally through online platforms, our classroom provides a unique environment where children with diverse perspectives gather across states and countries to learn together.
Furthermore, recognizing the importance of supporting parents who facilitate their children’s Japanese language education, and the importance of JHL groups’ presence in communities, we conduct outreach activities to raise awareness of Japanese language parenting from infancy, and we support activities of those who assist in connecting children with Japan in various regions.

The MUSUBI Iowa Japanese Heritage Language (JHL) Classroom

In April 2021, SC Nihongo Club (under the Japan-America Association of South Carolina) opened its doors to provide Japanese heritage language (JHL) education for the children of US permanent residents from Japan. In addition to JHL-1 and JHL-2 classes, a “Mommy-and-Me” class was started in the fall of 2023. Our educational objective is to cultivate a positive attitude for lifelong learning of the Japanese language through project-based instruction that takes advantage of the childrenʼs multi-lingual/multi-cultural skills. We aim to foster global talent with Japanese identity in all our students. With the Teaching Material Support Grant from JFLA, we incorporated “Tadoku” graded readers into our curriculum to encourage a love of reading and building vocabulary. The increasing number of free online books with audio has helped to make a gradual impact on this activity.
We have implemented innovative approaches to alleviate many problems managing weekend Japanese schools abroad. For example, teaching assistants are recruited to facilitate classes of children with varying language skill levels. We offer a ticket-based, pay-per-class tuition to allow children busy with extracurricular activities to continue learning Japanese. Finally, we developed and implemented the teacher rotation system to reduce burdens on teachers, which, in turn, made recruiting easier.

South Carolina Nihongo Club Presentation

The Japanese Academy of the Rockies (JAR) was established in Colorado in September 2006 to teach younger children Japanese as a heritage language. JAR started with around 20 students ranging from three to five years old, taught by three teachers. Soon after the opening of the school, the Japan Foundation awarded its Teaching Material Purchase Grant to JAR, which enabled the school to enrich its curriculum and its students’ learning experiences. Since then, JAR has grown to teach about 150 students from toddlers as young as two years old to high school AP program students, as of August 2023.

Our primary goal is to teach Japanese language and culture to anyone who is interested in learning them, regardless of the extent of their Japanese language background. Currently, we offer a total of 15 classes via two different approaches; one focuses on developing students’ language proficiency based on the grade level reading and writing skills, while the other focuses on teaching Japanese as a foreign language to students with limited exposure to the language. Ultimately all JAR classes aim to teach students to effectively communicate in Japanese.

Our secondary goal is to offer a safe and comfortable place where Japanese speakers and learners of all levels can talk, share information, and support each other in the greater Denver metro area. We strive to create and promote a sense of community in which students, parents, guardians, teachers, and staff members can belong.

Princeton Community Japanese Language School (PCJLS) was founded in 1980 as Hoshuko. It also offered a JFL program following the school spirit of “opening its doors to everyone who has a strong desire to learn Japanese language and culture.” The first JHL curriculum was offered in 1995 for high school students who intended to pursue their college education in the United States. In 2004, in response to a strong demand from the families who do not plan to go back to Japan, a JHL program for elementary school students was implemented. The program added a middle school curriculum in 2007. By 2012, it became a full-fledged JHL program serving students from first to twelfth grade. At PCJLS, after students finish the kindergarten program, they can study the Japanese language and culture in either Hoshuko, the JHL program, or the JFL program depending on their purposes and language proficiencies. 

The PCJLS’s JHL curriculum focuses on building literacy in Japanese based on students’ Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS). Its goal is for students to be able to communicate their own thoughts in their own words with confidence. In choosing materials, it considers students’ cognitive abilities so that students study age-appropriate contents. It also selects materials that do not assume students’ Japanese cultural knowledge. The instructors in the JHL program meet regularly to develop their pedagogical skills and learn trends in language instruction.

Japanese Heritage School of Portland (JHSP) opened its doors in September 2014 and provides four classes for children K-8 who live in the Portland metropolitan area of Oregon.

Our school focuses on creating a curriculum that allows students to learn “living Japanese” through hands-on activities such as experiments, practice, observations, and investigations. We emphasize learning the language through activities that involve “thinking,” “creating,” and “researching” on their own. We also incorporate cultural events such as Sports Day, Autumn Flavors Day, New Year, Setsubun, and Keisho spring festival into our classes, providing numerous opportunities to experience Japanese culture. Furthermore, during mixed class time at the end of each class, lower-grade students have the chance to learn Japanese from higher-grade students, while higher-grade students serve as role models for the lower-grade students.

Our goal is to foster a positive identity and lifelong engagement with the Japanese language and culture. We aim to nurture individuals who can thrive in the future international society.

Orange Coast Gakuen (OCG), one of the oldest and largest Japanese language schools in Orange County, is a parent-run school that teaches Japanese to all children, regardless of background and proficiency level. The vast majority of its students are heritage language learners or have a Japanese cultural background. OCG strives to create lifelong learners of Japanese. The school believes that students learn best when they are engaged and enjoying their lessons. Its curriculum is thus interactive and theme-based, built around topics that students find meaningful to their lives. Some of these themes include school and family life (both in the U.S. and in Japan), games and sports, food, and health. These themes overlap with topics that students already know about or are interested in, which bolsters their confidence and thus makes learning easier.  The curriculum also incorporates numerous Japanese cultural events, and students are then able to experience these events on a first-hand basis. 

OCG’s curriculum was created by a team of academic advisors from California State University Long Beach who are nationally recognized experts in the field of teaching language to heritage learners. Those advisors continue to oversee the curriculum and provide guidance and training to OCG teachers on a weekly basis.  The school also supports extra training for its teachers, including participation in various national and regional workshops, some of which have been hosted by OCG and led by their advisors. JFLA was proud to award OCG its Teaching Material Purchase Grant in 2018, 2019, and 2021 to increase their supply of authentic reading materials differentiated by grade level.

Kujira Gakuen started in 1987 after a few mothers of same-aged children got together and lamented how their children were growing up without much knowledge of Japanese folktales, songs, or culture. This conversation between a few proactive mothers led to them holding a weekly heritage class for their children at each other’s houses. Later in 2001, Kujira Gakuen obtained official NPO designation. In 2011, the school established its JHL elementary school program which currently has two beginner preschool levels (ages 3-4 & ages 5-6) and two primary school levels (ages 5-6 & ages 9-11) that meet weekly. 
The program was started and is still run by volunteer parents passionate about passing Japanese culture and language onto their children. JFLA provided its Teaching Material Purchase Grant in 2021 to help Kujira Gakuen obtain new textbooks, reading materials, and other resources.

Michigan Japanese Heritage Center (MJHC) first began offering its Japanese language-and-culture heritage classes in 2021 to students from grades 3 through 12, and it is currently the only JHL program in Michigan. In 2022, JFLA provided its Salary Assistance Grant so that MJHC could hire a new teacher with broad knowledge of, and expertise in, JHL education. The MJHC curriculum is based on the K-16 World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, with age corresponding to proficiency level. By organizing classes by proficiency level and specializing in a wide variety of projects, MJHC provides an environment where students can individually and collaboratively learn authentic Japanese language and culture. MJHC received JFLA’s Teaching Material Purchase Grant in 2021, which it used to increase its supply of textbooks and study materials. Students regularly participate in local Japanese cultural events where they have opportunities to take on a leadership role in contributing to the wider cultural exchange. MJHC offers three types of classes: In-person, asynchronous online, and hybrid.

“Courtesy of

Japanese Language School of Philadelphia (JLSP), founded in 1972, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. While JLSP is an educational institution partially supported by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the JHL courses it has offered for nearly 30 years are entirely funded from student tuition, with no financial support from the Japanese government.  Because JLSP’s JHL courses have always operated independently, JFLA was able to award its Salary Assistance Grant to JLSP in 2016 which allowed them to establish and maintain upper-level JHL courses and thereby double their student enrollment.

The Washington Japanese Heritage Center (WJHC) opened its doors in spring of 2004 and serves children ages 6-18 and their families residing in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. In addition to their heritage language and culture classes, WJHC offers a very successful adult program for family members of current students and alumni. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, WJHC experienced a sudden and significant drop in student enrollment which brought financial strain upon them due to loss of tuition revenue. JFLA awarded WJHC its COVID-19 Special Relief Salary Assistance Grant, and the school was able to use the grant to maintain its full course load online and retain all teaching positions.

Washington Japanese Heritage Center Presentation