On Saturdays, freshmen Nina Dym and Atsuo Chiu and junior Zoe Dym attend another school where they learn math, history, science and Japanese from a curriculum that teachers in Japan teach to their students and reunite with friends in their community whom they don’t see often.
Chiu and the Dyms attend the Port of Sacramento Japanese School, held at Sacramento State University.
“The principal of the school used to work at CSUS, so the college lets the school rent out Amador Hall for the day,” Nina said.
The Japanese school began in 1978. Chiu and the Dyms have been attending it since kindergarten.
Class is held on Saturdays from 8:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m. for kindergartners through seniors in high school. The school year starts in the beginning of April and continues until the middle of February, following the Japanese school schedule.
Chiu goes to the school because his parents want him to keep up his education level with the students in Japan. All classes are taught in Japanese.
“Most of the people are full Japanese or half,” Chiu said.
Math is taught the same as in America but it’s not separated into different levels. Everyone in the class takes the same math.
“Japanese school is different than SCDS because we only have four classes,” Chiu said. “We have to learn things in 45 to 50 minutes that the kids in Japan learn in about one to two weeks (of everyday class).”
The school has six years of elementary school, three years of middle school and three years of high school. Homework is given every week.
Nina and Chiu are currently in their second year of Japanese middle school.
“We used to have a class of 30 people,” Nina said. “But now we have about 13.”
Zoe, who is in her second year of Japanese high school, has only four in her grade.
Nina said she has thought of quitting many times.
“Over the years I watched my grade shrink as more and more people gave up and decided it was too much to handle two schools,” Nina said. “I’m so proud of my friends and myself for sticking through.”
However, Chiu said he has never thought of quitting.
“I love it,” Chiu said. “I get to meet my friends that I only meet once a week.”
All three say that Japanese school is an opportunity to get to know other Japanese students in the community.
In fact, Nina’s favorite thing about the school is her friends.
“Most of (my friends) don’t live in Sacramento, and so being able to see them every Saturday is really what keeps me motivated to go,” Nina said. “My best friend, who I’ve gone to Japanese school with since kindergarten, lives in Vacaville, so it’s nice being able to see her once a week without driving 45 minutes.
“(But) it’s really tough knowing that all my friends from regular school are sleeping in or hanging out while I’m at school.”
The school also holds events throughout the year that are “really awesome,” according to Nina. These include a field day in the spring with events like relays and tug of war and a picnic at the end with family and friends.
There is also a fall festival put together by the second graders. The children create their own games that the school can play, and the parents make mochi as a treat.
“During the winter we have an event where each class performs for the whole school and parents to see,” Nina said. “My class once did a choreographed jump rope act where we showed different techniques with music in the background.”