With his unconditional love for Vietnam and its people, a Japanese man has decided to stay in the Southeast Asian country and offer free Japanese lessons to children in Hoi An, a popular ancient town in the central province of Quang Nam.
Abe Toru, 77, who was previously a businessman, has chosen the life of a teacher, teaching children in the Vietnamese town his mother tongue for the past couple of months.
His class normally starts at 5:00 pm at a small house on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street with all students, between nine and ten years old, inside the classroom, preparing for their lesson.
As usual, the teacher arrives on his bicycle about five minutes later, saying “konnichiwa” while bowing to the young learners.
Toru was previously a representative of a Japanese company in Ho Chi Minh City, and returned to his home country two years ago.
The Japanese man had opportunities to attend four Japan-Vietnam cultural festivals in Hoi An, he said, adding that the Vietnamese city eventually came to hold a special place in his heart following his stays there.
Toru fell in love with the friendly and hospitable Hoi An people, considering the town his second home, and therefore not hesitating to offer complimentary Japanese lessons to local children.
Over the past two months, the sound of children spelling Japanese characters has become a feature of the ancient town, intriguing local residents and tourists who flock to the classroom to observe and take photos.
“Thanks to this class, I get to study another foreign language aside from English at school,” Nguyen Bao Ngan, a fifth-grader from Nguyen Ba Ngoc Elementary School, said.
“I was able to learn by heart all of the Japanese characters in a short time thanks to the warm and interesting teaching of Mr. Toru,” Ngan continued.
At the end of each lesson, the instructor often organizes such games as origami and puzzles, which are very helpful, the schoolgirl said.
His class currently consists of 40 students selected from two local elementary schools, Toru said, adding that he has another class in the morning to teach other students in his living room .
The kids are adorable, humorous, and very smart, the Japanese teacher assessed, considering them his own children.
Toru has also opened up about his intention to run more classes for all children who wish to learn Japanese, saying that he would continue his role of teacher until his health no longer allows him to do so.
According to Nguyen Van Dung, head of the Education Office in Hoi An, Toru’s classes are scheduled for Monday to Saturday, during which knowledge of the Japanese language and culture is taught to the students.
Dung believes Toru's complimentary classes will tighten the Vietnam-Japan friendship and contribute to the local tourist sector.