My name is Ben, founder and Head Chef of the Udon Classroom はじめまして
I thought I’d use this opportunity to tell you a little bit about me. Who I am, why I started Udon Classroom.
So let’s start near the beginning, primary school (that’s British English for “elementary school”, y’all). As a geeky kid in the UK, I obsessed over everything Pokemon related! This was my first introduction to the land of the rising the sun. My interest in Japan evolved into my high school years; falling in love with the culture, folk tales, and oriental mystery behind Japan.
During my 20’s, I used YouTube to search for answers and came across Ken Cannon’s “Japanese Through Anime” course. It was awesome as it covered a lot of basics super fast and he explained things through funny stories. This was a massive influence on my teaching style as every one of his lessons were really engaging and mega helpful.
I had never actually spoke to a real living Japanese person before with my new foundation of knowledge. I was extremely nervous and apprehensive but I knew it was the next necessary step. I found a Japanese teacher in my town who I had a weekly lesson with. These lessons forced me to actually use my Japanese and get used to sounding the words and stringing basic sentences together.
After a while we decided that I was ready for the JLPT N4 test so I took this in London and passed! Wooo. I felt a great sense of achievement in doing this and the feeling of success spurred me on to my next step! Let’s go to Japan.
So at the age of 21, I booked a plane ticket to Tokyo and a few hostels. In the September of 2014 I was in Japan for the first time. OMG! It was the best experience of my life. All of a sudden this language that only existed in my text books had come to life. I was using it, all be it slowly, to ask things, buy things, check into hotels, and even to make friends.
So as soon as I came back, I applied for a teaching Job with a company called Nova. I had my skype interview and got the Job. I was absolutely buzzing! Studying harder than ever, I had two months to prepare and get ready for this adventure of a lifetime.
When I arrived, I was shown to my little Japanese style accommodation in a town called Takesato in Saitama (next to Tokyo). Being dropped in the deep end, not knowing anyone, was the best thing that ever could have happened for my Japanese ability. I was forced to communicate with Japanese people having nothing else to fall back on. I still continued to study every day with the textbook series, “Minna No Nihongo”, and can honestly say that this was the point in my life where I improved the most.
I made some wonderful friends and had some amazing experiences, I even got to sing at a Japanese wedding! This was a time in my life I will never ever forget.
After coming back home I went to take the JLPT N3 test and failed, largely due to my Kanji ability. It’s just like skipping leg day! Skipping Kanji day is not cool. It sucked! I felt demotivated and took a break from Japanese.
At this point I felt like I could have quit Japanese forever, but I didn’t. It was an important lesson for me to learn to come back stronger and keep going no matter how I feel. So a year later I went back and passed, woo!
I decided to start Udon classroom at the end of 2018 to help people like me take their first step into the Japanese language and have fun at the same time.
I am now aiming to take the JLPT N2 at the end of this year, with my overall aim being N1 in 2020!
I hope you enjoyed reading this little story about me and I really hope you enjoy my efforts in giving something back to the community!