KICL – 3 pros

KICL (Kyoto Institute of Culture and Language) is a Japanese language school based in Sakyo ward, NE of downtown Kyoto.  It’s a great language school with connections to sister schools allowing a more university campus lifestyle.  When I first came to Kyoto I met some other language students but from another school, ARC Academy, and when they heard that I was going to be attending KICL, they were all shocked and asked isn’t it going to be difficult?  I honestly had no idea what was in store.  

I specifically chose KICL over ARC Academy because of the campus life available through KICL’s sister schools.

Although I do not know the specifics of ARC Academy’s requirements, standards and pace, I can vouch for KICL being a tough language school.  KICL is known for giving their students the abilities to attend a Japanese university or find work in Japan, thus their syllabus is mainly geared towards that objective.  Whatever your reason for studying Japanese is, you will learn what you need to learn here at KICL.

You will learn Japanese here at this school.

  • They only teach in Japanese and even without knowing any Japanese beforehand, you will learn to understand everything in the classroom.
  • If you are a complete beginner, do not worry, there are translated materials allowing a much easier transition.  From what I know, they have English, French, Italian, Thai, Chinese/Taiwanese, and Indonesian.  The textbook is the almighty Minna no Nihongo so there might be other languages as well.

5 days a week, Monday through Friday.

  • Normal classes are held M-F from 9am-12:30pm.  There are two other mandatory afternoon classes which was Tuesday and Thursday last semester, but this semester they have one afternoon class varying depending on your JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level.
  • Yes, one of the two mandatory afternoon classes is a JLPT class.  You will be provided a JLPT textbook and go over practice problems once a week in hopes to prepare you for the exam.  Even if you do not plan to take the exam, you are required to go to class.  I will say that even if you have no interest in the JLPT, the class is good in enforcing what you learn during regular class and even help you learn more material.
  • The other afternoon class is a supplemental class providing information on Japan, it’s culture and such.  Although it may seem overwhelming, and you will probably think it is overwhelming when you start, in the end it is a great way to be exposed to the Japanese language and culture.

From day one you are to study grammar, writing, reading, speaking, and listening.

  • It will be challenging but it’s a great format for all kind of learners.  For me, it’s difficult for me to learn and remember new vocabulary without seeing it in writing.  Others may learn better from hearing new vocabulary, either way you will be pushed to utilize what you learn through the textbook and class towards grammar, writing, reading, speaking and listening.
  • Since it is difficult to cover all five grounds at the same time, some may feel that one is more emphasized than the other.  I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted out of learning Japanese, but I knew that I wanted to be able to carry out conversations in Japanese.  Knowing that, I soon came to realize that we didn’t have enough conversation time during classes.  The classes are interactive, but for me not knowing any other foreign languages at the time, being able to think and speak in a new language came last.
  • But if you take into consideration that this language school is known for getting their students to universities or find a job, it may make sense that they would focus less on conversational skills.  Or that it will come naturally once you know the basic grammar and vocabulary.  Well, what I’m saying is that it’s a common complaint about KICL amongst its students.

Also, I would like to point out that there are more language schools other than ARC Academy and KICL.  I think that these two are simply the most popular or well-known at the moment.  There are a lot of other language schools in this university city.


  1. Hey!

    I would like to ask you a couple of question about KICL.

    I’m considering going to a language course in Kyoto for 6 months. I was in Kyoto this year for one month and studied in ARC Academy for 3 weeks. Now that I’m planning the 6 months trip, I have more schools to choose from and came across KICL. ARC was good enough in my opinion, but I’m exploring other options too if I happen to find something even better. 🙂

    You described before how you spend almost all of your time on studying, but how’s your schedule now? Do you feel that you get enough free time? How are the afternoon culture classes?

    ARC’s location seems way better than KICL’s as you can quickly get to Kyoto center by bike. How do you feel about KICL’s location and where do you live? Do you find it troublesome to go to for example Sanjo area (or do you even go there?).

    The biggest thing I’m interested in KICL is the culture side. I’m especially interested in Japanese dances (the traditional one [kyomai or nihon buyo, not sure what it’s actually called] and yosakoi), playing taiko drums and doing kyudo. Learning tea ceremony and other traditional things like that would also be nice. Do you know if it is possible to attend some clubs like these when you study at KICL (or do you have time for that?)?

    Sorry for asking so many question, but I couldn’t find any answers by googling stuff.

    Have a nice day! 🙂

    1. Hi Kata,

      I also have a part-time job and so that also takes up time. A lot of students are very active in extracurricular activities in the university or in clubs across various universities within the city. Everyone learns at a different speed and the trick is to simply study a little everyday and build that habit. I often either study a lot, or don’t study at all.

      KICL is not the most convenient if you are trying to stay in the center of the city. The center is great for everything but I prefer to stay outside of the center for a more peaceful lifestyle. From KICL, you can get to the center within 30 minutes by bus, train, or bicycle. I always choose to bike somewhere since it is free and great exercise; I recommend purchasing a bicycle!

      KICL does a good job teaching their students about Kyoto’s culture as they often speak about it during lessons, and in the afternoon classes on Tuesdays, and there’s even an elective to cover it all. There’s also a Bunka Day (Culture Day) and you get to choose which activities you would like to participate in; unfortunately you can only do one activity and it is only once a semester. But, there are many opportunities outside the university, and their clubs as well to experience Kyoto’s culture!

      1. I’m thinking about attending this school, how much did you improve your japanese through the year you studied? Did you pass any JLPT?

      2. Hey John, the school definitely helps you to learn and/or improve your Japanese! They have a strict program though, and if you aren’t serious about it, and would rather have a slower and more casual learning environment, I would not recommend this school to you. I did pass the N2 but not confidently so I don’t feel quite qualified but hey, I passed. Did you check out my post of the cons of the school? Check those out too and let me know if you have any other concerns!

  2. Hi Paul!
    I’ve read both your posts about the pros and cons of the KICL, and since I’m planning to study in Kyoto myself starting in October I’d like to ask you a something. You see, I’ve been learning Japanese in university for 4 years already, but the level in our University is not that high…. so we end up “knowing” lots of grammar but we can’t use any of it because we haven’t been training neither our conversation nor writing skills. Despite that, I took the JLPT 3 last December and I think I may pass it. The thing is, that I’ll only be able to be in Japan for 6 months, and I really want to use that time to learn as much Japanese as I can, so that’s why I’d prefer studying in KICL rather than in ARC (which also seems a nice school but not that serious… and I want to make sure I don’t waste my money, haha). I’ve read in Gogonihon that KICL is really tough school, but I’ve also read in the comments above that you even had time to have a part-time job. So my question is, is it really that hard to study there? Do you think it is possible to be studying in the KICL, having a part-time job and having some free time in the weekend to travel a little bit around Japan or simply to experience life in Japan? I wouldn’t like to be spending 6 months there and not seeing anything apart from the school either.. haha.

    Thanks for your time. I hope you have a nice day!

    1. Lola, a lot of time has passed and I haven’t looked at this blog in so long! Apologies for that as you probably needed a reply ASAP 😦
      To answer your question though, I think if you’re a serious enough student and always on top of your studies then you can definitely manage a part-time job while studying. I had enough time to relax and enjoy living in Japan at the same time and travel during the vacations. But I was there for a year as opposed to your 6 months so you may not get as much time to travel as I did but you can definitely see the Kansai area on weekends or on holidays or whatnot!

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