This spring, Hiyoshigaoka High School in Kyoto Prefecture opened an English-learning community called “Hello Village,” becoming the first public senior high school in Japan to open such a facility. Kris Ohashi, an English instructor at the school and the “mayor” of the English village, works there full time along with several other teachers.
The on-campus facility focuses on giving students an “in-house, study-abroad experience.” They can go there at lunchtime or after school to speak and play in English. “Our goal is to create an environment where students can feel as if they are overseas,” said Junichi Yamamoto, the school principal.
The village does not ban visitors from speaking in Japanese. “We don’t have strict rules because we want to encourage those who are not good at speaking English to come and join us,” said Ohashi. Plans are also underway to organize programs that local primary and junior high school students, as well as senior citizens, can casually participate in.
Toin Gakuen, a private, 12-year school in Yokohama, set up an English village in April 2014 to promote international exchanges and offer students an English-centered environment.
English villages are spreading among universities and private institutions, inspired by the “E3”facility that Kindai University launched in 2006. The Neyagawa municipal office in Osaka Prefecture opened an English village inside a public facility in 2014. In Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, “English Village Maebashi” was opened in October 2015 on the premises of the Mine Elementary School that was closed in March of the same year. The Tokyo metropolitan government is also looking to open an English village in Koto Ward by the end of September 2018 as part of efforts to improve English-speaking capabilities among children since Tokyo will host the Olympic Games in 2020. (Abridged)