Founder and Managing Headmistress
Born in Japan, from an early age Ruriko always wanted to travel and live in America. She has lived in Illinois, California, and the Netherlands, where she studied and, initially, worked for Xerox. In 2003, while living in Silicon Valley, California she began her first company, the predecessor of the Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy, English Vitamin. Initially geared towards helping the families of expats working in the United States, Ms. Yamaki brought her method back to Japan where she learned to perfect it. She has worked with the Japanese at Hitachi, NEC, NHK, Panasonic, NTT Docomo, Apple, Google, and when first launched, her English Vitamin podcast became the second most popular downloaded podcast on iTunes and her Business Lessons on Audible were top sellers in Japan.
She has developed a method of learning English that is both natural and similar to how students in America and other English speaking nations teach their children to speak and read. After mastering basic phonics and the 315 Dolch words, students then begin to learn English through reading classic children’s literature. She is very selective in who she teaches but says that any child willing to put in the hard work, and who has the support of their families at home, will succeed using her method.
Outside of the particulars, in regards to the classics she uses and the materials she creates, Ms. Yamaki has three principles that are the foundation of her methodology, love, discipline, and freedom. Students need a loving and nurturing atmosphere in order for them to thrive at learning anything. When they feel loved and appreciated, they are open to new ideas and learning. Discipline is the second most important principle. Without hard work, a firm hand, and students having the discipline to practice and work outside of class, it is impossible for them to be successful. Finally, we have freedom. Students should feel free to be inquisitive and to be themselves. Through discipline and love, students can find freedom and use their new language abilities with boundless ends.
Playtime is also imperative. Science without love is destructive, and love without science powerless as the British philosopher Bertrand Russell says. The children at the Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy get break time with every lesson to play, laugh, and enjoy their time. Children naturally want to play and in doing so, using as much English as possible, they learn even more so than they would at any other typical English language school. The end result is that their English improves significantly.
Ms. Yamaki has been perfecting her methods, and making children the center of her world, for nearly twenty years. The students who stick with her method are able to go from zero knowledge of English to be able to read novels such as Charlotte’s Web, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in two years time. If parents want their children to learn English, and are encouraging at home, they do not need to send their children to international schools, they just need to put in the work and use her methodology.
The teachers Ms. Yamaki chooses are also highly qualified, high-quality individuals. She spends a great deal of time vetting and interviewing every single person she works with. Only teachers who show a highly developed sense of empathy, a strong work ethic, and unquestionable character are allowed to work for the Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy. She thinks of all her students as her children and her teachers as an extension of herself, and as such, is fastidious in maintaining the quality, not just of the education she is providing, but also in maintaining the quality of atmosphere. Quality teachers and a positive learning environment are just as important as her principles and methods, and Ms. Yamaki provides.
Ms. Yamaki also knows that parents play a very important role in encouraging their children to learn a new language and so she does her best to develop relationships with them, meets with then often, and hosts a number of annual events where the students, teachers, and families can socialize outside of the classroom. The parents spend a good amount of time at the school with Ms. Yamaki, so she can learn how the students are outside the classroom and at home in order to develop the most nurturing learning environment possible. She says doing so is fundamental to helping her three principles prosper.
Ms. Yamaki will be launching an online platform later this year providing English language learning materials so that she can help as many as possible learn her methods should they wish to do so. Although selective with whom she decides to take on, she is always willing to give a trial period to any prospective student who wishes to come to The Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy.
Senior Language Arts Teacher, Content Creator
Born in Michigan, though raised in several U.S. states, Richard attended Choate Rosemary Hall, a private prep school in Wallingford Connecticut, before eventually attending Hunter College in New York City where he studied classic languages, Latin and Greek, as well as economics. He came to Japan because his wife always wanted to live here. While his passion was hockey, having played and coached from the age of five through to his twenties, his wife’s passion was the Japanese language. She received the MEXT scholarship from the Japanese government to achieve an MBA at Yokohama National University and Richard came with her. He always wanted to live in another country and learn another language and so this was a great opportunity for both of them!
Soon, after arriving in Japan, Richard applied to be an English teacher at English Vitamin, now Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy, and has been there for three years. Comparing the students he teaches to the ones he once taught in New York, he has nothing but kind words to say. “They work hard, are well behaved, and have a lot of support and involvement at home from their families to help achieve English fluency. The kids at English Vitamin work really hard, and it’s the work we don’t see, the work they put in at home to go above and beyond, is what really makes them exceptional.”
He also appreciates that, unlike most other language schools, Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy plans gatherings with their students and their families, such as Christmas parties and summer barbeques, which he feels is a really nice way to get to know the children and their parents outside of class. “The community feels that the Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy creates is really special and makes all the difference in the language learning development of our students.”
Media Director, Humanities and Language Arts Department Head
Robert was born in Seattle, but grew up all over the United States, attending thirteen different schools up till he attended the University of Washington where he double majored in International Relations at the Jackson School of International Studies and Journalism. He also went to high school in Japan through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program when he was sixteen and attended Adachi High School in Tokyo. Then, at twenty, he came back to Japan for another yearlong exchange program to study at Sophia University.
It was there he first came to English Vitamin, now Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy, where he interned for and learned a lot from Ms. Yamaki. After graduating college, and taking a gap year to teach ESL in China, Robert moved to New York City where he would eventually go on to work at Keio Academy of New York for seven years. While supervising the dormitories he also taught English during the school year, and English and Social Studies for Keio’s middle school summer program. During the seven years, he worked at Keio Robert also went on to achieve an M.A. in Education Leadership from the University of Connecticut. After leaving Keio, Robert returned to Seattle to run admissions and marketing for a private school where he learned a lot about running education programs and child development from some brilliant colleagues.
Finally, after thirteen years of knowing each other, and connecting on and off over the years, Ms. Yamaki brought Robert back to Japan to help expand the Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy and create new educational programs. He also occasionally teaches at the Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy, having gotten a lot of teaching experience at Keio Academy of New York and, simply, because of his love of teaching. He has only been at the Musashi-Kosugi Language Arts Academy for a month but has been blown away by the skill of the students and their language ability. “It is truly a testament to Ruriko Yamaki’s English Vitamin methods and the very special children she chooses to teach English to. Every child she chooses is unique, bright, and a hard worker. They also clearly have strong support at home.” Having worked and taught at Keio Academy of New York for so long, Robert believes the environment makes all the difference. “A positive environment and strong familial support make it possible for language learning to thrive, and Ms. Yamaki has clearly created that.”