Charming in Yukatas

By Layana Turner

At the end of January students from Shikoku University came to visit and gave us presentations/performance of different famous Japanese activities. It was like a cultural immersion day!

While the students were setting up their tables I spotted a long Maroon Robe with pink and purple flowers littered on it. My attention was snatched from whatever I was doing before (I still can’t remember) and my sole goal was making sure that my friends and I got to that table as soon as possible.

When I arrived a very nice student named Yayoi Osugi told me that I would look best if I tried on the Maroon “Yukata.” Little did she know I’d been eyeing it ever since it was sat on that table. She asked me if that was okay and I said yes, maybe a little bit too quickly but she seemed happy about my excitement so I wasn’t too embarrassed. Yayoi helped me into the yukata along with some really pretty accessories. I really love kimonos and yukatas so I felt as if I had checked something off of my list of things to try. Yayoi then asked if we could take some pictures together, so I proceeded to take many pictures with her and all of the other students. After, she asked if there was a way for me to contact her, so we exchanged information and I said goodbye as I moved to the next station.

I feel very grateful that I am able to participate in things like this and I will make sure that this experience isn’t wasted by keeping in contact with Yayoi.


Okayama University

By Rakiya Washington

On January 28 my Japanese program was able to receive a presentation about Okayama University and its Discovery Program. I learned about the extremely lenient tuition and room and board fees and how international students are already eligible for the scholarship provided by the Discovery program. I really enjoyed the university’s atmosphere and environment. I also appreciated how considerate they were with accepting students. The acceptance to the college is not strict at all and they keep your GPA out of their choosing process because they want to give everyone a fair chance. I just thought that was so caring and sympathetic, which is why I have decided that I would start to look at this college and other colleges in Japan. The presentation really pushed me to research about more of what’s available in my country, but also internationally.

Okayama University Visit

By Bryson Torgovitsky

On 28 January, Professor Takayuki Yoshioka of Okayama University came to our class and told us about his school’s normal program and the extended Discovery program. I was surprised to hear about the price of Okayama University’s tuition, a little less than $5,000, and the price of their normal housing, $100. My sister has been going to the College of Charleston in South Carolina, but I frequently overhear my parents and her complaining about the expenses of college. Since she is paying for college out of state, the price of her overall expenses during her 2015-2016 school year was just over $28,000. This is about five times more than Okayama University’s tuition and housing fees combined. Professor Yoshioka even told us that the tuition fee could receive a 50 to 100% waiver!

The reasonable price of Okayama University caught my eye first, but the Discovery program sealed the deal for me. I have a personal desire to study marine biology, and the promise of a school with a program that encourages foreign exchange students is very appealing to me. Besides the Discovery program’s expression of Okayama University’s intention to host exchange students, Professor Yoshioka told us that the Discovery program presented eligible students with a monthly research grant of $350. The potential for an affordable education in a country that I want to learn more about, with an additional grant so that I can fund my marine biology research, are more than reason enough for me to plan to apply to Okayama University next year when I am a high school senior.

Arlington Cemetery with the Kakehashi Students

by Skyy Genies

On Sunday January 29, 2017, two of my classmates, Rakiya and Chidera, and I met the Kakehashi Japanese exchange students at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. Even though, I was born and live here in DC, I have never been to Arlington Cemetery, so from the beginning, I knew this was going to be a life-changing experience for me in many ways.

When we first arrived, we were kind of shy so we walked behind the Japanese students for a while. Then when the crowd slowed down to take pictures, we introduced ourselves to the Kakehashi leader. Immediately, we were greeted and thanked for coming by the Japanese students. This felt, amazing because not only did it make us feel comfortable, but appreciated even though we were the ones who were thankful.

We trekked along the paths throughout the cemetery, taking pictures, learning facts about the sites. This was very fun and educational, however for me, the most memorable moment about this experience was watching the “Changing of the Guard” Ceremony at “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” We all watched in awe as the precise and synchronized guards saluted the tomb, checked their rifles, and yelled their duties. Afterwards, the Japanese students asked if we’ve ever been here before and what that meant, in this moment, we were the same. I didn’t know any more about what we just watched than they did. We learned and grew together as a group despite our cultural differences.

After the ceremony, we walked through the amazing amphitheater and museum. Then we walked to the peak of the cemetery where you could see the Capitol and monuments. It was here that we took the group photo. Even though we weren’t formally a part of the Kakehashi program, we were graciously invited to be a part of the photo. This was our last stop at the cemetery. After the peak, we walked to the seating and were asked to take selfies with the Japanese students. This was so nice, even though we had just met, I felt comfortable around these students as if I have known them for much longer than just a day ago.

It was then that I realized, that Japan was the place I wanted to be, I am so grateful that I was able to spend that time with the Kakehashi students. It changed my life drastically.

Gift Exchange

Ana –

Everyone from the Shikoku University Kakehashi group was very nice and welcoming. As a person who has social anxiety, I was enjoying interacting with them and their presentations. It left a huge impact on me so I wanted to say/show how grateful I was. So we made these thank you note boxes with candy inside.

Daniel –

It was a bit tiring on my bones, but I did not regret it. I wanted to help make the gifts because I felt a need to show my gratefulness and give them the same happiness that was given to me. Both receiving and giving gifts left a huge smile on my face, and engraved good memories in my mind.





By Raven Bluford

In the third chapter of Geek in Japan, the topic I found most interesting was the section about the importance of humility in Japan. The Japanese language holds many forms of honorifics to show respect, which in retrospect is different to English because it doesn’t have any honorifics and the language only really holds informal dialogue. The Japanese also show humility by not taking credit, even if they worked hard, because it shows that they respect the people around them who in some way had a contribution to their success. This is quite different from America, because we usually don’t acknowledge other people in our success unless it is a big accomplishment, in which case we thank our families but no one else.

Stouder-Sensei’s Visit

By Rakiya Washington

stouderWhile in the Japanese Plus Program, I have been informed by multiple presentations by various visitors. One of the most interesting visits was Stouder-Sensei’s visit. She was a foreign language teacher from Washington Latin who spoke of how she learned Japanese and the struggles she went through. Most importantly, she provided us with tips on how she overcame obstacles with learning Japanese and the determination she applied to her desire of learning Japanese.

She told us that since she was born in a place without much diversity, she was not exposed to other cultures, but when she learned about other cultures, she wanted to connect more by learning the language. When she traveled to Japan herself, she was able to adapt to the Japanese culture and way of thinking. For example, she explained how in Japan she was considered a “giant,” but in America she was average size. Her story just pushed me to be even more interested in Japan and it also made me desire traveling to Japan in order to experience the things she had. I really like Japan and its culture and I would love to be able to become semi-fluent in Japanese and immerse myself in the culture physically.


By Bryson Torgovitsky

Just after New Year’s Day, I attended a Karuta Competition hosted in Bethesda, Maryland by the DC Inishie Karuta Club. I had never heard of Karuta competition but I recognized it from anime after I saw the first match. Unfortunately, I could not play since Karuta involves being able to understand spoken and written Hiragana. As of now, I have only partial comprehension of written Hiragana and I have not learned enough to understand spoken Japanese (yet!). Instead, I played a different Japanese card game with my classmates Dakharai and Daniel, and other people who were at the tournament: Pick-Up Priest.


Pick-Up Priest does not involve language comprehension, but it does involve interesting cultural references. The cards are a regular man, a demon, priests and a high priest, and nobleman and the emperor. The goal of the game is to collect as many cards as possible, but the cards are all selected at random from the stack, which creates the game’s difficulty! Each card has a unique function. The priests force you to put all of your cards in the central pot while the high priest makes you and the two people adjacent to you put all of your cards in the pot. Whoever draws a card depicting a woman can take those cards from the pot! The emperor takes the cards of the two players who are next to you and you add them to your pile, and the nobleman can take from the person on your left or right. The demon allows you to take from the pot and from your two adjacent opponents, so everyone wants that card!

I won twice when we played, but Daniel won at least four times! He kept using the nobleman cards to steal mine, so I could have won if I sat further away from him. Dakharai, on the other hand, kept losing all of his cards to the priests so he only won the last match. Daniel and I like to tease him about his bad luck; now we call him “Priest!”


Nengajo Contest

By Ana Nguyen

The Japan Information & Culture Center (JICC) holds a nengajo contest near new years where the winner receives a new years goodie bag called a fukubukuro. It was the year of the rooster and everyone in our class made a nengajo. Everyone had a different design. One person drew a chick hatching, another person drew muscular roosters, one person drew a robotic rooster with aliens. Below are a few examples of what our class drew.







And me, Ana:


New Year Tradition and Celebration in Japan

By Nuu Hightower

Around the Christmas holiday season, we were having a discussion of how people in Japan celebrate New Year’s. I figured we would eventually talk about that since it was the season. Plus, I actually was wondering about that at some point and thought that maybe it would be similar to Chinese New Year, like wearing more traditional colors and such; even thinking that they send red letters to family members. Part of me also thought they celebrate it according to the Lunar Calendar since Japan follows Chinese Zodiacs in their calendar. Let’s start off with the fact that the Japanese don’t necessarily celebrate it at Lunar Year, unlike some other East/South East Asian countries. They celebrate it at the usual January 1st like western countries. Their activities, customs and traditions, however, are different to how usual westerners would celebrate. And no, they don’t send red letters. They DO send something else however!

Those letters are called “Nengajo”, which are basically greeting cards to send as appreciation and good luck for the New Year. Although, don’t give those cards to people who have a family member who died recently to cheer them up because they “need time to mourn.” While I understand that, I personally wouldn’t mind a card to show that someone cared but I guess it’s just a different mindset…!

Another tradition is these small, bamboo-like trees outside people’s homes called a “kadomatsu (門松)”. While I thought they were for decoration (though people definitely decorate them though), they’re essentially there to purify homes and welcome gods. Also they apparently always have an orange along with the tree to offer as a gift to said gods. What if you end up changing up the fruit instead of the usual orange? Like an apple? I mean I’d take the apple.

Anyway, a lot of these traditions are from their belief called Shintoism, which wasn’t discussed in class at all…not yet anyway. There were other ways New Year’s is celebrated in Japan, like flying kites and visiting shrines and temples (again, following their beliefs), but they weren’t discussed in detail in class. If we had enough time to talk about that further, it would’ve been nice to have a discussion of cultural differences…! Something about discussing cultural differences really intrigues me, like the fact that people celebrate things DIFFERENT from my own culture!! That’s wild. Wonder how much fun they have on that holiday with lots to do…