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…

Japanese New Year Celebration

By Chidera Obiwuma

On Sunday January 29, 2016 the Japanese students from Shikoku University invited some of the Japanese Plus students to go along with them to a Japanese festival. The festival was a Japanese New Year Celebration, and it was sponsored by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, D.C.

I was one of those who went along and it was honestly a fun experience. At the festival I got to see and taste new things that I never knew about before. I got to try a melon flavored Japanese soda. It was tricky to open compared to American soda; however it was quite tasty. I also learned about a traditional Japanese game called Kendama. At the festival they had a competition amongst the kids to see who was the best skilled and there was also a presentation by two young men who participate in Kendama competitions around the world.

Afterwards, I got to have a little experience myself. Kendama is a traditional Japanese toy that has three cups, a spike, and a ball hanging by a string. The goal is to get the spike into the hole at the bottom of the ball and you can also use creative ways to do this. On my first try it was really difficult but I kept trying until I finally made the spike go in the ball. The game requires a lot of balance and precision. The trick is in the knees.