The 3 Best Japanese Language Schools in the Philippines

Students in a classroom holding their calligraphy

So, you’ve decided to take language classes in a school. But where should you enroll? There are so many Japanese language classes to choose from! Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, more programs offering online Japanese classes have sprung out, thus increasing available options.

Most schools or services that you’ll come across offer only until JLPT N4 level. These are usually courses that are purely conducted online or are offered by small TESDA-accredited institutions and by universities such as UP and Ateneo.

The tuition fee ranges from Php4,000 to Php10,000 for N5-N4 bundled courses. It’s nearly impossible to enumerate them all here, but if you are interested in these cheaper course offerings, you can find most of them through Facebook.

In this post, I have listed the three most renowned Japanese language schools in the Philippines.

These long-established institutions have high-caliber teachers and hold an impressive track record of producing Japanese bilinguals. With such a level of reputation and credibility, you’ll be receiving the best quality of Japanese language education possible.

Nihongo Center Foundation

Nihongo Center Foundation (NCF) is the premier Japanese language school in the Philippines. NCF was founded in 1997 by the former Philippine Ambassador to Japan, Amb. Jose S. Laurel III. However, its beginnings can be traced to as early as 1969, when it was still a Japanese language training facility managed by the Embassy of Japan.

Since its establishment, NCF has maintained its close ties with the Embassy of Japan and the Japan Foundation. It has taught thousands of Filipinos with its comprehensive learning program under the supervision of its strong faculty.

NCF has perhaps the widest array of course offerings, encompassing all levels of Japanese proficiency. The main courses, Basic Japanese 1 to 5 and Intermediate Japanese 1 to 6, cover JLPT levels N5 to N2. In addition, review courses from N4 to N1 are available for those who are aiming to pass the JLPT.

The N1 review class sets NCF out from other institutions since a similar course cannot be found anywhere else. This most difficult and advanced course is taught by a highly experienced native Japanese instructor who has been teaching in the Philippines for 30 years. The N1 review class is only held every Saturday, and it is limited to N2 certificate holders.

Other courses are also available depending on the needs of the students, such as conversation, translation, and business Japanese. Those who prefer a personalized study program can avail of one-on-one tutorials. NCF also provides customized or industry-specific courses for corporate clients, and translation and interpretation services.

NCF is one of the three institutions designated to provide a six-month intensive Japanese preparatory training to nurses and caregivers prior to their deployment to Japan under the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA).

NCF cultivates the interest of its students in Japanese culture through activities and events outside of the classroom. Every year, NCF opens its doors for the annual Open House event, where visitors can join contests, play games, attend free Japanese language classes, and avail of bilingual career consultations.

Students who want to test their Japanese skills can participate in the Kake International Japanese Speech Contest and have the chance to represent the Philippines in the grand finals in Okayama City, Japan.

NCF has two branches—Manila and Makati. Class schedules are quite flexible, with regular weekday and weekend schedules in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The average tuition fee for the main courses is Php15,000 for 64 hours (except for Basic 1 which has 72 hours). Financial aid and scholarships are available.

Courses OfferedJLPT Review – N4, N3, N2, N1
Basic Japanese – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (equivalent to N5-N4)
Intermediate Japanese – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (equivalent to N3-N2)
Conversational Japanese (Marugoto) – 1, 2
Translation Course (Japanese to English)
Business Japanese – Conversational, Advanced
One-on-One Tutorials
*Online classes are available for Basic Japanese only as of July 2022

Japanese Language Research Center

Japanese Language Research Center (JLRC) is an esteemed institution that was established in 2001. Its founder is a University of the Philippines graduate who has been an exchange student in Japan.

JLRC emphasizes its motto of “less time, less cost, less effort” in learning Japanese, and boasts its own carefully curated training module and learning materials. JLRC also prides itself as the only “research center” of the Japanese language in the country.

JLRC primarily provides JLPT courses ranging from N5 to N2. Their N5 and N4 courses include their original textbooks—Intensive Japanese, Hiragana/Katakana Workbook, and Kanji Workbook. The higher-level classes, N3 and N2, use a combination of well-known JLPT preparation books, Shin Kanzen Master and Nihongo Sou Matome.

Students who want to join the N3 and N2 classes can do so at any time at their convenience under a “start today” system. In addition to the JLPT courses, JLRC offers one-on-one tutorials, corporate classes, TESDA courses, and translation services.

JLRC allows some flexibility for interested enrollees who might not want to commit to the program yet. They are given the option to observe and evaluate the class in the first session. If they are not satisfied with their experience, they can get a full refund as long as they notify JLRC prior to the start of the second session.

On top of the 100% money-back guarantee, students may retake Japanese language classes for free if they fail the JLPT N5 or N4, provided that they have at least a 90% attendance record.

Classes are offered on weekdays and weekends, with timeslots in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The tuition fee and length of the JLPT courses range from Php21,000 for 100 hours (N5) to Php36,000 for 145 hours (N2). Students are allowed to pay in monthly installments until the end of the program. JLRC’s campus is located in Mandaluyong.

Courses OfferedJLPT Review – N5, N4, N3, N2
Fundamentals of Japanese Language and Work Ethics (TESDA Course)
Intensive Oral or Intensive Oral with Writing
One-on-One Tutorials
*Online classes are available for all JLPT courses

Unmei Nihongo Center

Unmei Nihongo Center has been teaching Japanese to Filipino students since it started in 2009. From its humble beginnings as a five-student class in Maginhawa UP , it has now expanded to three branches—Ortigas, Laguna, and Cebu.

Over the years, Unmei has built its reputation as one of the best facilities for Japanese language education, earning brand awards for “Best Japanese Language School” from 2012 to 2016.

Unmei offers core preparatory classes for Basic 1 and 2 (N5), Intermediate 1 and 2 (N4), Pre-Advanced (N3), and Advanced (N2). They also help students who plan to take the JLPT through its review courses ranging from N5 to N2. For learners who prefer a more condensed curriculum focusing on speaking only, they can enroll in the Conversational course or Functional 1 and 2 courses.

Interestingly, Unmei has English and Tagalog courses for Japanese nationals. These are mainly aimed at Japanese expatriates who are working in the Philippines. Other than language classes, Unmei offers translation and interpretation services as well.

Classes are held on weekdays and weekends. Students may take courses with each session at 3 hours, in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Whole-day classes are also available, starting from 9am to 4pm, for a total of 6 hours per session. Regular fees range from Php34,500 for 150 hours (N5) to Php101,000 for 200 hours (N2). Promo fees are sometimes offered at less than half of the regular fees.

Courses OfferedJLPT Review – N5, N4, N3, N2
Basic 1-2, Intermediate 1- 2, Pre-Advanced, Advanced (equivalent to N5-N2)
Conversational Course
Functional Japanese – 1, 2
Effective English for Japanese (for Japanese nationals)
Tagalog for Japanese (for Japanese nationals)
*Online classes are available for all JLPT courses and Basic 1 to Advanced courses

I have limited the above list to schools that meet these two criteria: (1) It must offer at least until N2 level of classes and (2) it should have been in existence for the past 10 years. However, I’d like to introduce one more institution that you can consider:

Japan Foundation Manila

The Japan Foundation is the arm of the Japanese government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in promoting Japanese culture internationally. Its Philippine office is located in Makati City.

Although Japan Foundation Manila (JFM) administers the JLPT in the Philippines, it does not offer rigid and intensive courses aimed at passing such an exam. Instead, its courses, called “Marugoto”, are centered on developing conversational skills while learning about Japanese culture. The levels range from Starter (CEFR A1) to Intermediate 1 (CEFR B1) and are further divided into two to four modules per level. In terms of JLPT level, Intermediate 1 is roughly equivalent to lower N3.

Students who are struggling with kana and basic kanji can get tutor support at JFM for 3 sessions at 6 hours each. Additionally, anyone can join the Oshaberi Salon, a venue where participants can practice conversing in Japanese based on the session’s theme. Oshaberi Salon is a monthly activity that is entirely free.

If you prefer learning Japanese by speaking without intensive reading and writing, JFM may be your perfect choice. The class fees are easy on the wallet, too. Each module ranges from Php3,800 to Php5,200, excluding textbook fees.

Courses OfferedMarugoto – Starter, Elementary 1-2, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate 1
Tutor Support Course – Hiragana, Katakana, Basic Kanji

Whether you are a beginner with zero knowledge or an experienced learner looking to improve your Japanese, you can find a course that is appropriate for your level. These are just some of the best schools if you want to learn Japanese very seriously. But more importantly, always remember to have fun learning Japanese!

Author: Francesca Galve

Japanese language enthusiast (JLPT N1). Master's student in Tokyo, Japan. Accountant by profession.

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