Meet Takuya Kojima: the Newest Member of the CHL Japanese Language Program

Takuja Kojima (Photo: Gouri Banerji)
Takuja Kojima (Photo: Gouri Banerji)

If you were a new student waiting for your teacher to enter the classroom, you could very easily miss the entry of Takuya—you’d simply mistake him for another student.

According to him, he is often asked to go through an ID check! He’s cool, casual, dresses like an uber-cool student, and he loves to play baseball. However, don’t go by the looks…Takuya Kojima Sensei comes with a host of Japanese-language experience. We caught up with him recently to get to know him better and understand his vision for the Japanese language program at ANU.

Welcome to CHL! Tell us about yourself – your beginnings and your journey to ANU. What inspired you to get into teaching?

I was born and raised in Nagoya, a city located in the heart of Japan. Like any other city in the world, Nagoya offers its own unique charm. One aspect I particularly want visitors to experience is its distinctive food culture, featuring dishes like Miso-Nikomi Udon, Hitsumabushi, and Doteni. They all look so dark but incredibly tasty. 

You may see how Miso-Nikomi Udon looks like via the link here.

During my time at a Doshisha University in Kyoto, a very traditional Japanese but international city, I developed a growing interest in languages, cultures, and histories beyond Japan. This led me to embark on solo trips abroad for both leisure and educational purposes. It was during my exchange year at UNSW Sydney that I encountered Japanese language education for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised to discover people who were actively learning Japanese.

As a teaching assistant, students often approached me with questions about Japanese language and culture, but I found myself unable to provide satisfactory answers. This realization made me acutely aware of my own limited knowledge about Japan, which motivated me to seek a deeper understanding.

During that time, I became fascinated with the reasons behind why and how people learn Japanese, especially as someone who was born and raised in Japan. These interests ultimately shaped my academic pursuits, focusing on Japanese learning, the identity of Japanese learners, Japanese teaching, dialects in Japan, media in Japan, intercultural communication in Japan, and linguistic landscape in Japan, to name a few.

As I approached the completion of my PhD at UNSW Sydney, focusing on Japanese as a foreign language pedagogy, I developed a strong desire to experience the world outside Australia. Consequently, I chose Venice, Italy as my next destination. During my time there, I explored every single street of Venice when not engaging in research and teaching. The city immersed me in art that I struggle to describe in words, yet its beauty resonated deeply within me. As a result, integrating art and creativity—often found in artworks—into Japanese language education has become a significant focus of my academic interests. I intend to delve into this area alongside my colleagues and students at CHL.

Takuja Kojima (Photo: Gouri Banerji)
Takuja Kojima (Photo: Gouri Banerji)

What is your teaching motto or style? 

I always strive to foster a social learning experience for my students. Even within the confines of a classroom, I design the environment and activities to resemble real-world scenarios, such as working in a supermarket, handling customer inquiries in an office, cooking in a kitchen, filming a movie at school or debating to decide on an action plan against global warming. 

For me, classrooms are not just spaces for preparation but for practice. We share a common purpose that extends beyond the classroom, engaging in activities that reflect real-life experiences. To take the social learning experience further, I encourage students to venture beyond the classroom boundaries. They can visit local restaurants and report their experiences in Japanese, guide Japanese visitors on campus tours, or create and share Japanese media content online. This way, students can develop their Japanese language skills while actively participating in and acting upon society.

Why do you think learning languages is so important?

Learning new languages has the power to impact our perception, understanding, and engagement with the world, ultimately shaking and re-shaping our very identities. Language serves as the medium through which we give meaning to our sensory experiences—what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and feel. Even grasping a single word in a new language can offer fresh perspectives on what we thought we already knew. It enables us to attribute significance to previously unfamiliar concepts or experiences, fostering a deeper level of comprehension and appreciation for the world around us.

Personally, witnessing students who have recently embarked on their Japanese language journey pleasantly express their newfound ability to understand previously unfamiliar aspects in their lives, such as product names at a MUJI store, fills me with delight. These real-life examples illustrate the transformative nature of language learning. By embracing language diversity, we open ourselves up to new possibilities and enrich our collective experiences.


What is your advice to students who want to learn Japanese? Why is CHL a great place for this?

My advice to students learning Japanese is to actively seek out and develop relationships with Japanese-speaking friends, create regular opportunities to use the language, and maintain but cultivate a strong interest and passion for Japan. While teachers will provide valuable information and classes will help you understand and utilize Japanese to the best of your abilities, it is essential for students to take personal initiative and put in their own effort continuously.

Successful language learning rarely occurs alone or overnight.

The Japanese Studies program at CHL offers an excellent learning environment with small class sizes, which is quite different from the classes with 50 or more students that I observed or taught elsewhere. The smaller class sizes at CHL facilitate easy connections among students, allowing them to expand their network of friends and practice Japanese together without feeling overwhelmed. Skilled and experienced teachers are always there to support the students.

Additionally, upon arriving in Canberra, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a wealth of Japanese language-related resources in the surrounding city, including shops and restaurants that offer opportunities for genuine engagement with the language. Moreover, CHL offers a diverse range of content courses, including linguistics, translation, teaching, literature, culture, history, politics, and more. These courses cater to diverse students' individual interests and passions, providing comprehensive coverage and cultivation.

Last but not least, ANU provides one of the most extensive lists of exchange partners in Japan for its students. I strongly encourage students to make the most of these opportunities while studying at ANU.

Takuja Kojima (Photo: Gouri Banerji)
Takuja Kojima (Photo: Gouri Banerji)

What is your favourite word or expression in Japanese? What does it mean and why is it your favourite?

One of my favourite Japanese expressions is 急がば回れ (Isogaba-maware). It means that we better to take a safer and longer path than a dangerous and short-cut path, especially when we are in a rush. It emphasises that proceeding slowly and steadily yields better quality outcomes in the end. As I have grown up, the world has become increasingly fast-paced. I often felt the pressure to rush through tasks and accomplish more in the same amount of time, and I started to adopt this approach myself. However, at some point, I realized that this approach was compromising the quality of my thoughts, actions, relationships, and work. That's when the expression "急がば回れ" resurfaced in my mind. Since then, I have been taking more time to understand the reasons behind my actions, explore and evaluate possible options, plan thoroughly, and deliver outcomes than before.

Does language pedagogy vary across the world? In your experience, what difference do you find between teaching in Italy, Japan, and now Australia?

Japanese language pedagogy indeed varies across the world. In Japan, teachers often capitalise on the abundant local resources available in their communities. They encourage students to engage with Japanese people, explore Japanese culture, and visit historical sites that often go unnoticed unless prompted.

In Italy, particularly within the university context, Japanese teaching tends to focus on nurturing students to become experts in Japanese Studies. Proficiency in reading skills, supported by a solid foundation of grammar and vocabulary knowledge, holds paramount importance. As a result, many students aspire to become translators there, utilizing their deep understanding of Japanese language and culture.

In Australia, the emphasis is often placed on effective communication in Japanese. This emphasis may be attributed to the country's multicultural and multilingual nature. Consequently, students in Australia tend to be talkative even when communicating in Japanese. I find this situation ideal as it allows students to connect with other Japanese speakers, regardless of whether they have grown up in Japan or abroad.


What can students look forward to in your classroom?

Firstly, they can find opportunities to have a study buddy and build a supportive group of friends. Most of the time, I encourage them to work together in pairs or groups. They can focus on individual studies when they are back home. However, I respect their preference for quiet reflection in the classroom, especially when dealing with complex concepts.

Secondly, they can expect to have opportunities to connect with communities beyond our classroom walls. Lately, I have been really interested in boundary-crossing learning. It can be a game-changer that profoundly impacts the student learning experience, if applied wisely. In this type of learning, students will not just accept what is given to them as the established norm. Instead, they will actively think, evaluate, critique, discuss, and take action on what is right in front of them.

What is your passion when you’re not teaching?

When I “choose” to enter off-duty mode, three passions come to the forefront.

Firstly, I have a deep love for sports, especially baseball, which I have been playing for nearly 30 years. What fascinates me about it is the cognitive and mental engagement it requires both during gameplay and while watching matches. Baseball involves strategic thinking, and players use their minds as much as their bodies during the intervals between plays. Additionally, I have recently developed a keen interest in yoga, as it provides a means to connect with myself and gain a better understanding of my physical and mental well-being.

Secondly, I cherish the joy of travelling. I have been fortunate enough to explore over 30 countries thus far. Traveling has not only opened numerous doors for me but has also served as a reminder of the immeasurable value of my family and home. My future plans include visiting more countries in Europe and exploring countries in Africa.

Last but certainly not least, I find immense pleasure in experiencing various forms of art. Living in Venice, Italy, heightened my appreciation for art, as it surrounded me with paintings, sculptures, and music at every turn. Engaging with artistic expressions has a profound impact on how I perceive and understand the world.