Wednesday, September 14, 2011


During our two-week study vacation at the Yamasa Institute, we were faced with an unhappy reality.  There is an unofficial holiday in Japan called Obon.  This is a four-day weekend (Fri-Mon) in August during which Japanese people go back to their hometowns and pay respects to their ancestors. 

I have nothing against Obon or Japanese culture.  However I do take issue with the fact that we were charged for Japanese classes for the Friday and Monday during Obon.  Classes that we didn’t get-because Yamasa was closed.

In Yamasa’s defense, they do list this on their website…but the website is extremely difficult to navigate.

As a foreigner who lives in Japan, I can say for myself that it didn’t even occur to me to check the “holidays and closed days” calendar on Yamasa’s website.  Karl and I have a calendar hanging in our apartment that listed all the official holidays of Japan.  There are no official holidays in August, so why would I check? 

Karl and I did know in advance that Yamasa would be closed during Obon, only because of a friend who had attended classes there last year.  For students staying for several months or even several weeks, this isn’t much of an issue.  However, for those of us only staying two weeks, it’s a big deal.  Especially for people who spend their own money plus transportation from overseas.  (Yamasa is not cheap.)  It is not fun to realize upon your arrival that you will lose two days of classes while still having to pay.

We would have gone during other weeks, but it was not possible due to other obligations in our schedules.  We were irritated.  But we still had a good time and learned a lot.  The teachers and programs offered at Yamasa are very good. 

So we made the best of it.  We spent one day at the beach.  I got my hair cut.  We visited a castle.  And we studied.  A lot.

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