Japanese school anticipates increased enrollment | Local News


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first meeting of the Huntsville Japanese Supplementary School on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Established in northern Alabama almost 40 years ago, the school meets on Saturdays. JSS students only attend five class periods per week and the school year runs from April to March.

Designed for students in Grades 1 through 9, the school‘s goal is to teach Japanese language and math to the children of Japanese employees who have been transferred to northern Alabama on a non-permanent basis. Upon returning to Japan, students can easily readjust to the education system in that country.

Yasuhiro Deguchi, who chairs JSS’s board of directors, said the second half of the year has recently started. The addition of 16 new students brought the total enrollment to 44. As of March 2020, he estimated that more than 70 students would attend Saturday school.

In addition to serving on the board of directors of JSS, Deguchi is president of TRIS USA Inc. in Athens. The company manufactures carbon brushes for direct current motors.

“We plan to increase the number of students at JSS through Mazda-Toyota (Y-tec Keylex Toyotetsu Alabama) and other Japanese automotive suppliers,” Deguchi said.

The council is also working to get more instructors and educational spaces.

Former UAH student Shigeyuki Ueno has been teaching at JSS since the school began meeting on the UAH campus.

“The JSS is not compulsory and is primarily aimed at students returning to Japan and want a smooth transition from school in the United States to Japan,” he said. “Students learn subjects similar to those taught in Japan.”

On average, children in Japan spend more days but fewer hours in school. According to the Center for Public Education, US public schools require students to be in class between 175 and 180 days per year. Japanese students attend school for up to 250 days a year, but not all of that time is spent teaching in the classroom.

Because it is crucial for Japanese children to hold onto as many of the country’s traditions as possible, some Japanese traditions are shared with the northern Alabama community. Events include the Setsubun Bean Tossing Festival (seasonal division), which takes place in early February, one day before the start of spring, according to the Japanese lunar calendar. People scatter beans the night before to drive away evil spirits and invite good luck.

“Shichi-go-san” is a traditional rite of passage and feast day when parents take their 3, 5 and 7 year old children to shrines.

Since 2010, more than 200 Japanese complementary schools have been established in 56 countries.

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