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About Us

Gakuen Board
2022-23 School Year

Denise Akune
Margi Arimitsu-Takemoto
Eddie Cruz

Carolyn Hiraishi
Chie Ishihara

Danny Iwama
Yoshie Le Sieur
Rosa Masaki
Alexsandra Morales
Alison Oshiro-Sakamoto

Cesar Sanchez
James Yamada

To contact the Gakuen Board, please click here.
We are a Japanese language school under the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center located in West Covina, CA that is dedicated to teaching Japanese language, culture and values to interested individuals of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
We currently offer two programs: Japanese language school for K-12 and Japanese conversation class for adults.
Our Mission

To provide a positive environment for children and adults to learn the Japanese language and culture while participating in various activities enhancing their understanding and appreciation of the Japanese language and culture.

Our History

The ESGVJCC's Japanese language school, Gakuen, began as the Baldwin Park Japanese Language School in 1930. Six years later, the school relocated and became the West Covina Japanese Language School. The school closed during the World War II period because all of the Japanese Americans in the eastern end of the San Gabriel Valley were evacuated to Internment Camps. In 1959, the school was re-opened after the re-establishment of the East San Gabriel Vally Japanese Community Center by the efforts of ESGVJCC Co-founder, Kimio Hatakeyama, Reverend Nitta and Mrs. Ikeda of the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple. At that time, the school served twenty elementary school students taught by two teachers. In 1966, Gakuen became a member of the California Japanese Language Schools Association, a movement that produced a restructuring of the curriculum and introduced forms of standardized textbooks.


Since its modest beginnings, the Japanese Language School has grown in enrollment; adding junior high and high school level classes as well as numerous events that promote the experience and education of Japanese culture and traditions such as Undokai (sports day), Japanese calligraphy, and Mochitsuki (mochi pounding). Gakuen has adapted its curriculum to the changing interests over the years as exemplified by some students receiving credit toward their high school's foreign language requirements or elective credit;  some having taken the AP Japanese and Japanese proficiency examinations; and a few having been accepted to universities in Japan to further their education. Gakuen then added Adult Conversation classes, designed to promote spoken proficiency in Japanese within an adult setting. In 2020, a youth conversation class for children ages 12-18 was started, which focuses on the spoken language. As the curriculum evolved over time, so too has its student population. From its exclusively Japanese American beginning in 1930, Gakuen now has an ethnically diverse student population and actively encourages and welcomes students from all cultural backgrounds.

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