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About us

A real class in an unreal world

With a plethora of textbooks, grammar guides, vocabulary books, and even books trying to explain “the mystery of Japanese,” wouldn’t it be nice to just sit back, relax and learn in an environment led by a professional teacher living in Japan with not only knowledge about the language but also the culture?

And all that while having fun!?

And access from anywhere in the world?

Even while you sit in your underwear sipping gin ‘n’ juice?!*

If so, welcome to Kotoba Miners: Practical, activity-driven, structured Japanese language education for the 21st Century.

Textbook content without the textbook

Sure, self-studying is a good way to go about learning a language, but where do you get the chance to practice the instant you learn something new? With us, you have the opportunity to use what you learn 24/7 with our committed community and staff members.

5 things virtual worlds offer that textbooks don’t

  1. An immersive learning environment
  2. Speaking practice
  3. Social learning
  4. Instant feedback
  5. A creative arena

Learning in a virtual world is much like learning in the real-world. Unlike a textbook, it is possible to interact with the environment and players which give instant feedback. Experiential learning is 'learning by doing'. A textbook can teach you about how to order an egg bagel, coffee with soy-milk, and blueberry muffin, but it cannot give you the experience of actually doing it. And it is this "experience" that your brain needs to retain the knowledge.

A class in progress

All of our classes are based on practical, real-world activities that build on one another from week to week. Start by describing the colour of other students clothes, talk about your family and friends, progress onto group role-plays, and end in a 100% Japanese only environment speaking with Japanese natives.

Don’t understand something? Ask us in class.

A textbook certainly can’t do that!

Constantly updated

The virtual world that we use is called Minecraft. Yeah, you know, that silly, blocky, yet crazily addictive game, right? Minecraft is constantly updated with new, interesting content, which is apt, because so is our course and server! If I have an idea for a new learning activity, you’ll be the first to know about it!! Additionally, with a community of eager learners, community based activities pop up from time to time, too.

Forums to stay in touch with other learners, create activities, or study groups.

Not just a Minecraft server

Although we use Minecraft predominantly as the stage to teach lessons, the community certainly goes beyond that. Some of the things we do outside of class:

  • Textbook content, without the textbook. Get interactive grammar examples with real life relevance including:
  • Directions activity
  • Guess Who
  • Amazon Mall
  • Japanese Adventure
  • Group builds
  • Supportive 24/7 community driven IRC (internet relay chat) channel
  • Get in touch with teacher any time of the day (Cannot guarantee a reply 100% of the time..! Teachers need sleep, too!)
  • Supportive 24/7 TeamSpeak server to practice your Japanese speaking with community members outside of class!
  • discuss your favorite anime
  • play your favorite games besides Minecraft (LoL, Dota, MTGO, etc.)
  • speak with Japanese natives
  • Forum for additional support & studying
  • Journals
  • Homework
  • Feedback
  • Engaging curriculum that promotes studying outside of lessons
  • Weekly homework, written, speaking, partner/group homework
  • Monthly tests to gauge your comprehension and provide insight to your strengths and opportunities.

About the teacher

Kotoba Miners started as a research project for the head teacher: me, James York (Twitter). I am currently studying for an EdD in Education with the University of Leicester (link) where my research is about online learning and particularly the appropriation of virtual worlds as language learning domains.

When not working on this project, I teach English full-time at Tokyo Denki University as an assistant professor. A part of my job is to teach a weekly seminar class involving this project. I teach English to my Japanese students using the server, so you will have the opportunity to interact once a week (if not more) with these students in game.

More about me:
Age: 31

Time in Japan: 9 years

JLPT Level: 1

Hobbies: Make music as Cheapshot, organise Japan’s biggest chiptune event: Square Sounds Tokyo.

Married, two kids, home-owner, and permanent resident of Japan.

Personal anecdote on experiential learning

When I first came to Japan, and still knew little of the language I was left in charge of a friends 3 year old daughter for a few minutes. She was playing with her dolls speaking all sorts of stuff that I had no idea about. I nodded and played along, trying to bluff my way through the encounter until she turned to me, handed me a large handkerchief and said 'tsutsunde!' Oh boy, was I in trouble. I had no idea what this was.

She repeated it: “Tsutsunde!!”

This time taking the handkerchief from me and wrapping it loosely around her dolly. I got it! She wanted me to wrap the dolly up in with the handkerchief like a blanket. Completing this action she seemed satisfied and I came away with a new word.

Upon consulting my dictionary and other resources afterwards, I learned three new things.

  1. The verb “to wrap” 包む/つつむ/tsutsumu
  2. The TE-form conjugation of verbs,
  3. How the TE-form alone can be used to express an informal request.


Jan 17, 2014
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