Mr. Assi was born in the Ivory Coast, holds a master's
degree in International Relations and has taught Economics at the City
University of New York. As a non-fiction writer, he has also published
various books. At the same time, Mr. Assi's avocation is ballroom dancing,
and as a dancer he has been featured in various publications such as
The New York Times.
Connection to Tenri Cultural Institute
By Victorien A. Assi
With Hanae Nishimura in front of the Main Sanctuary
It all began in the Fall of 2005 in the Computer Room of LaGuardia
Community College of the City University of New York where I have been
teaching Economics. I struck up a conversation with a young man who happened
to be affiliated with Tenri Cultural Institute; in fact that young man
was an instructor at Tenri.
When I let him know about my enthusiasm about
the Japanese language, he recommended me to find out about the courses
that were available (offered to) beginners. I heeded the young manís recommendation
by going to 43A on West 13th Street between 5th Avenue and Avenue of the
Americas in Manhattan. When I arrived at the institute, I was impressed
by the warm welcome the staff and instructors have shown.
One the successful methods of the educational division of the school was
to give a placement test to new students who want to take Japanese classes
at Tenri; this is meant to evaluate the levels of the new students and
to better place them in the appropriate classes or levels. So I went through
the process and I was placed in a beginnerís class. The instruction has
been incisive, the teachers have been helpful and they have always lent
caring attention to their students; all this, of course, fosters the learning
of the Japanese language. I completed my first year with a noticeable
improvement in my ability to make sentences in Japanese without having
to use the dictionary. In my second year of study at Tenri I related to
my teachers my plans to go to Japan for a few weeks vacation. The Director
of the Institute, Rev. Okui, had personally put me in touch with, Hanae
sensei, a former staff who was then living in Tenri City, Japan.
Enjoying the atmosphere in
Upon arrival I visited the city. Located near
Nara (the Cultural Capital) Tenri City is surrounded by mountains on a
flat and agreeable land. It was in this area that I have observed the
altruism, kindness, and warmth of the inhabitants. I have seen the devotion,
dedication of the Tenri City dwellers. I had the opportunity to visit
the Sanctuary and walked through the pavilions and the rooms of this magnificent
house of worship. I later visited the Museum near Tenri High School and
the University across the way from the Sanctuary. Accompanied by Hanae
sensei, the tour and the visit of these places allowed me to learn further
about Japanese history, culture and heritage; this confirms the cultural
and religious forces that Tenri represents for Japan and for East Asia.
The pleasant atmosphere and the hospitable attitudes of young
and older people had increased my appreciation of the place and that ignited
desire to return to Tenri for the second time.
I must also mention that with the JR Rail Pass, I was able to visit and
stay for a day or two in the following cities: Otaru, Sapporo, Hakodate,
Tokyo, Nagoya (where I went to the Aichi Expo), Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji,
Osaka, Hiroshima, Hakata, and Nagasaki. Of all the places I had visited,
Kyoto and Tenri remain the most memorable places, which I plan to visit
again when I go to Japan in the near future.
Tenri Cultural Institute has also been supportive in many
other ways. For example when I published my novel (The Crossroads) Rev.
Okui and his assistant Michael Yuge have allowed me to use the their cultural
space for my second book signing (the first book signing being at New
York Hilton and Towers).
With this connection and possibility bridging cultures, I would recommend
Tenri the beginners and advanced language learner. Tenri will also top
my list of recommendation to people who aspire to learn and discover and
to those who want to prop up their Japanese language and learn about the
society and culture as well.