Calgary Japanese Language School was established in 1975 by Dr. Kinji Magara, Jerry Nagata, Norio Yamamoto and Dr. Ted Yoshida (current President of the school) . Despite financial, resource and many other challenges, they started classes for about 60 Japanese students with the strong support of the Consulate General of Japan in Edmonton, the Alberta Government, the Calgary Board of Education and Queen Elizabeth High School.
While students had limited learning resources and study materials, cultural films provided by the Consulate General of Japan were invaluable in teaching students Japanese culture, history and daily lifestyle. Early notable activities included a summer camp held at Silver Creek Ranch in Water Valley. Thanks to the support of dedicated parents who raised money with various fundraising activities, the day of the camp began with a 7:30 am “Rajio Taiso” exercise followed by hiking, horseback riding, fishing, games, film showing, and marshmallow roasting.
A mature adult class was added in the 1984-85 school year comprised of 22 students in preparation for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games.
With Japan’s “economic miracle” in the 1980s, a significant increase in non-Japanese student registrations reflected the growing interest in anything Japanese. Attendance continued to increase into the 2000s due mainly to a large number of Japanese immigrants. Education appears to be recession proof as the economic downturn of 2007 and 2008 had no effect on student registration. Conversely, enrollment reached 250 students by 2009-2010 and surpassed 300 students in 2012-2013.
Our school began as a way for Japanese descendants to pass on their language and culture. Now our school has become a place where students with various backgrounds come to learn the Japanese language and culture. It is a community-based school providing opportunities and personal enrichment for all. Recently we see students whose parents graduated from our school decades ago. Inheriting language and culture is not easy but at our school learning is surely advancing.