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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2015 Winter Issue]>Journey of a U.K. Returnee – Representing CHESS

Hakumon CHUOIndex

Global People

Journey of a U.K. Returnee – Representing CHESS

Ikki Asai, a second-year student in the Faculty of Policy Studies and the president of the Chuo University English Speaking Society (CHESS), was raised in London for six years from the age of two. Asai says “I am glad that I learned English when I was small.” His English is so perfect that you would not guess he was from Japan.

A nap in the park

Asai’s father was stationed in London, so Ikki left Japan when he was two years old. He lived in the UK until he was eight years old (second grade in elementary school).

He entered a local private school that offers classes in English. In his class were of course, British students, but also Indians and many others from Europe, who have a deep relationship with the UK. There were three others from Japan, and were classified in the minority. They also played cricket, the national sport of the country, during P.E. class.

“When I was four or five, or at least when I could understand what was going on around me, I came back to Japan for a short while and I was shocked. Wow, it’s like a foreign country, I thought. The residential areas only had white lines separating the sidewalk from the road, and houses were all packed tightly together. There were vending machines on the side walk too.”

The unique way of living in Japan seemed so distant to him, for he had been raised under international standards.

Every Saturday, he went to a supplementary school to learn Japanese in the UK. He studied Kanji, Hiragana and read children’s tales. He spoke to his parents in Japanese, but also spoke with his sister, who was three years older, in English.

They had a swing and kicked the ball in their yard.

He ate a mix of Japanese cuisine and local food at home. “There were no genuine Japanese dishes. Even when I wanted to eat them, there were times when we were not able to get all the ingredients.”

They often went on trips as a family. They traveled to Paris on the Eurostar which also carried their car. Essentially it is a train version of a ferry.

They went around castles, looked at ruins and visited churches. They traveled to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy by plane or ferry.

“I was young so I didn’t understand the ruins. My mom was very impressed though.”

At the age of eight, he returned to Japan and experienced the lifestyle there for the first time. “I was shocked once again because everyone was Japanese.”

Ikki Asai as a child when he was in the UK (second person from the right; both photos provided by himself)

While he was trying to blend in with the Japanese, he somewhat drifted away from English, however “I entered university, joined the English Speaking Society and slowly began to regain my international senses.”

During his six year stay in the UK, he was able to learn British and speak English fluently. He could understand whether someone is Spanish or from the Middle East simply from their English. For him, having multiple nationalities is normal, and interracial problems are issues at hand.

“I want to work using English. I would love to work in London. This time I will appreciate castles and ruins better. I might shout for joy like my mother once did.”

With a bright smile, Asai is indeed a gentleman raised in the United Kingdom.

About us

Fun and Educational CHESS

President Asai (left) and Vice President Hirata

Asai spent his childhood overseas and felt familiar with English, but he was afraid of speaking to people without a script. The reason why he became able to confidently speak English in public without using notes was his experience at Chuo English Speaking Society (CHESS), for which he serves as president now.

CHESS has approximately 200 members (students). We are striving to create a club where people can have fun as they learn and use practical English.

The main activities are: giving speeches in English; going to tourist spots in the Metropolitan area and being an impromptu “guide” for overseas visitors; performing drama – acting in an English play (100 minutes long) twice a year on the university stage.

CHESS members communicate with Chuo University exchange students on a daily basis and voluntarily give lessons in the clubroom. They actively participate in ESS events held by other universities.

Interview with Asai

Here, I would like to share one of our activities that are particularly popular with students. Every year in late June, we hold a “CHESS DISCUSSION” event which is the largest ESS event run by a university in the Kanto region. Here is an example of how it runs.

Scene from the CHESS DISCUSSION 2015

We choose a single English word to be the main theme for the event. This is called the Topic, which for example, can be the word “SPECIAL”. We form teams of 5 or 6 Table Members. A student from the hosting university takes charge of the group and becomes the Table Leader. Once each person has introduced themselves in English, the group engages in discussions while asking questions from one another.

Question 1: Do you have anything special about you?
Question 2: What is “SPECIAL”?
Question 3: What is “SPECIAL”?

The question is called the ITEM. We discuss for two and a half hours, and then summarize the opinions we have shared and agree on.

How did you interpret the word “SPECIAL”? You may come to a new sense of values and enjoy the time spoken in English. Everything outside of the topic and item is entirely up to you, and thus the process and what happens at each table is different. Even if you don’t have any confidence in English, we provide support, so you don’t need to worry.

We have been pouring our heart and soul into the preparation for hosting the event every year. We decorate the hall according to the topic. In addition to the entertainment at the opening and closing ceremonies, we endeavor to make the time we spend together fun, bright and meaningful.

To ensure everything progresses smoothly, we have been preparing since May and practicing late until the university closing hours of 11 p.m.

Over 200 ESS students from other universities attended. Of course our students participated as well, and the large lecture room in the Building No.8 in Tama Campus was filled to capacity.

The moderators were President Ikki Asai and Vice President Mizuho Hirata. They tried to liven up the hall, but they were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the participants. There were heated discussions and some students were even in tears from the sheer emotion of the event.

All members, including the staff of CHESS, joined hands to realize the CHESS DISCUSSION. A portion of this event is on YouTube.

We would like you to feel our enthusiasm and seriousness – so intense that we’re about to jump out of the video screen!

Chuo University ESS President, Ikki Asai
Vice President, Mizuho Hirata

List of Available Locations on Campus

“Hakumon Chuo”, the information magazine published by Chuo University students, is available at the following buildings on campus.

Tama Campus Faculty and Graduate School Offices; Student Affairs Office; University Library; Green Terrace; Careers Advisory Office; Association of Student Clubs; International Center; 1st Floor Co-op Store; Center for Admission; Honoh-no-Tou
Korakuen Campus Science and Engineering faculty Offices; Co-op Store; Business School Office
Ichigaya Campus Law School Offices
Ichigayatamachi Campus Comprehensive Information Booth; Accounting School Office
Surugadai Memorial Hall 1st Floor Lobby