For a beginner class, I'd say Ikeda was OK, but the homework and discussions are more crucial than the lectures themselves. It's these that will allow you to develop your Japanese a lot better. Ask your TA's a lot of questions since you will learn and understand the majority of the material in the discussion. If you're like me and watch a lot of anime, grammar and vocabulary in Japan 1 should be fairly easy to learn with not a lot of practice; however, the Kanji is so, so important in the nine language courses, that you have to keep track and memorize each character (you will be tested on them, and you will be marked down in later assignments for not using Kanji). The class is structured as follows... -Five vocabulary quizzes (for the latter three, you must be able to write Kanji) -Homework (due every discussion) -5 Reading Logs (read assigned texts and write a "journal") -Four Lesson quizzes (no Kanji required, just tests your grammar) -A composition essay and recording (you need a recording, rough and final draft essay about yourself) -Discussion participation (15% of your grade, go to each one) -Final oral test (an interview) and a cumulative written test. Stay on top of your grammar, and religiously practice writing Kanji on your homework from the get-go, and you will do well in this class.
I loved this class. He's pretty easy-going and not that tough of a grader, though be forewarned -- if it's apparent that you already have a more-than-average mastery of Japanese (at least relative to the rest of the class), he will be grading you a bit harder than the others. This is especially relevant if you test in and/or your speaking ability is significantly better than your handle on grammar/kanji. But, in general, you have to completely forget or misuse grammar to get marked down in oral tests (he even corrected me a few times on my grammar, and I got a perfect score overall). He's a bit picky when it comes kanji on homework (write it even if you haven't learned it! it makes for good practice! ...so he says), but usually you don't have to write kanji on the tests OR the finals, unless it's a kanji section. He's planning on starting a J-pop singing club and a manga-reading club in the near future. I probably should have just left it at that and not written anything else...