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I’ve had Ikeda before, for intermediate/advanced Japanese, and he was great then. At that level, it’s not that bad because you have a textbook that comes with drills and homework, and your biggest projects are skits, speeches, and short essays. There’s one midterm and one final.
Advanced reading and writing, though, is something entirely else. For starters, I expected that we would be reading novels or short stories and be writing responses or reflection papers or something of that nature. Nope. The topics of this class for spring 2013 were misused words, youth-speak/vocabulary, metaphorical language (can you explain to me what metonymy is in English? Can you do it in Japanese? uhh), and dialects. All the readings were extremely technical and contained tons and tons of kanji I had never seen before (I’m above-average at reading comprehension, but 5-7 pages of this stuff would take me at least a couple of days, if not more, to get through if I didn’t want to go crazy), which I guess explains the “reading” part of the class’s name.
But writing? Not much writing here. There are NO homework assignments. Great, you might think. Except no. The midterms (there were two!) have questions that would have been great to have on homework assignments beforehand to ensure that you understood the topics. Luckily Ikeda is a pretty easy grader, at least in comparison to Kawanishi and Nogami, so even though I fumbled a bit on explaining why this particular phrase was a synecdoche, I did alright. Still, even if you sit through every class and write down notes furiously, you might still come up on several questions on the tests and realize you have no idea how to explain the answer (if you have the foggiest idea HOW to answer at all). Homework honestly would have helped in cementing the material, even if he occasionally handed out in-class work for us to do together and explained it afterwards.
Also, there is a final paper. This one sneaks up on you, because Ikeda stresses it at the start of the quarter, then barely mentions it for the next six or seven weeks, and then suddenly you realize you have a bunch of term papers and projects all due in ninth/tenth week and whoa I have a Japanese paper?! When did that happen? He also gives absolutely zero guidance beforehand on where to find sources or articles. Other professors will give you very helpful handouts about online journals and that sort of thing, but nope. You’re left to fend for yourself here. Yes, you could go to his office hours with a paper idea and hopefully he could guide you in the right direction, but you’re really left on your own on this one. He assumed his syllabus explained everything (it didn’t) and so didn’t make an announcement about it until ninth week, after a bunch of us started pestering him about the paper. The lack of writing assignments doesn’t help here, either, as you’ve gone a whole quarter with ZERO formal writing practice.
All this is not to say that Ikeda is a terrible guy, like some professors. He’s a funny person (funny as in “makes jokes often” as well as “kind of weird”) and rather lenient on a lot of things, especially grading. But he was always ten minutes late to our class (some excuse about needing to go up to his office before come to our class, but honestly how does that take more than 20 minutes?) and often left us to our own devices when he had us break up into groups to discuss the readings. Like he would just leave and come back ten minutes later with drinks and snacks for himself. He could definitely use some more structure and organization to his upper division classes. We aren’t just talking about the basics of Japanese culture at this level; we’re discussing stuff the average native speaker would have difficulty explaining, with or without all the technical definitions.
So if you really want to get better in your fluency, I’d recommend Kawanishi (she’s actually a much nicer grader than you might think) or Nogami. I don’t feel like I really learned anything super useful in this class, in terms of content, kanji, or writing ability. I love Ikeda, but this class with him was kind of a joke.
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...
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.
お邪魔しまーす。池田先生は多分UCLAで最高の日本語先生です。私には今まで最高の先生なんです。じゃ、今から英語で詳しく褒めまーす。Mr. Ikeda does a sublime job of bringing down what would otherwise be a truckload of overly complex vocabulary in his speech/lecture right to a small step above the class' average level, making it extremely easy to understand everything he is saying. When he uses a word most people do not know, and he knows that most people do not know it, he explains its meaning in easier Japanese. With the class being taught in Japanese, the lecture can get a bit tiring, but discussions and small group activities help woke me up. You can talk to him anytime about any problem (literally), and is the nicest guy in and outside of class. 100% 10/10 take this guy if possible.
So once all the weaboos drop the class after week 3 because they realized the language is much more than just KAWAII ANIME talk, the class becomes much more bearable. Definitely requires a LOT of work remembering all the kanji characters and grammatical rules, but if you're willing to put in the work it's doable. My favorite part of the class was when these two guys who always sat in the very front row would always try to show off their "knowledge" of Japanese (asking very rhetorical questions or answer questions using vocab we haven't covered yet) and Ikeda Sensei just telling them their question was irrelevant or condescendingly correcting them. See ya'll in japanese 2!
The key to learning Japanese at this level is repetition. The reps at vocab, grammar, and kanji are all structured through the class design of homework, daily quizzes and the other assignments mentioned in another review. So Ikeda's class is pretty good at this.
They won't spend a lot of time drilling on hiragana/katakana though. Ikeda and his TAs expect you to pretty much teach yourself, which most dedicated students manage to do within the first week or two.
If you have the opportunity to take J1-2-3 with Ikeda, do it!! It's hilarious when he roasts people in class and he makes the class super fun. He's mad chill if you ever talk to him outside of lecture, too.
I'm putting this under Japanese 1 so that people looking for a language to take will see this, but understand that I have taken 1 year of language under Ikeda (Japanese 1, 2,and 3).
I just finished my first year here at UCLA, and I can quite safely say that Japanese class was one of the only classes I looked forward to taking each day, especially discussion. Ikeda-sensei can be a very funny guy at times, and the discussions are a blast as you're kinda just sitting around and talking about random stuff while trying to learn a new language with all of your peers. Everyone was super friendly, and it was great having such a casual class that you could actively participate in with great peers that were trying to learn along with you, unlike say a normal GE where you just wanna get the notes for the exam.
Enough of that though, you're reading this to see what you'll be jumping into if you want to take Japanese over something more useful like Spanish or something. The biggest point I want to drive home with this review: this class is a TON of work. One way I liked to put it to my friends is that this class was just a "huge mental burden" across the entire year. Every week, there are 2 vocab and 2 grammar quizzes, 2 worksheets, reading logs near the end of the quarter, and even some essays to write every once in a while. Even though the work is always pretty easy, taking much much less mental effort than say trying to tackle some physics problems, it hangs over your head all the time; there's always something you need to study for tomorrow. I'm not sure if this is useful to anyone here, but that's why I'm glad I took this class as a freshman rather than as a junior like most other people in the class because I'm note quite yet super jaded from all the other GEs and work I have to do yet for my major, and I had lots of time to think about learning Japanese.
Ikeda-sensei can be a bit frustrating because his explanations can be quite lacking sometimes (e.g. his famous "It depends on the context" answer oof) but it's more often than not quite good. He also isn't the clearest communicator, often relying on sending messages through CCLE and not clearly stating in advance when certain due dates are.
Another really nice thing about this class is that you don't have to spend a dime on textbooks or any other material as the instructors create course packets for you as the kind of "textbook" for the class, which is really cool of them.
One tip: lots of the sentences on the homework and grammar quizzes are almost perfect copies of example sentences given in places like the course packets or discussion practices, you just have to go digging sometimes.
TL;DR: Japanese is a crapton of work, but classes can be really fun and casual, and Ikeda is a great guy to take it with. Be prepared to put in lots of time outside of class, read through and memorize the example sentences a lot.
Mr. Ikeda is a funny person, chill and relaxed. He said Japanese 4 is a review of Japanese 1,2,3, so if you have done a good job before, then this is going to be a beyond easy class for you. If you have done a poor job in Japanese First Year, or if you are a transfer student, then you'd better change the grade type to pass or no pass, or you will taste the full wrath that is Ikeda.
He is not the most caring lecturer. I mean it he doesn't really care about his students. If you want a chill lecturer, then he is fine, but other wise, my friends who took Menjo said Menjo is a better lecturer.