How to make your own Matcha tea

By Talia Zitner

After watching the Japanese exchange students show us the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, I decided to recreate it in my own kitchen. Using the tea cup the students gave to us as a gift and Matcha powder from Japan, I set to work trying to replicate the unique flavor of the tea.

Step 1: Set up your tea and powder. Matcha is is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea.

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Step 2: Boil your water and pour the powder into the teacup.

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Step 3: Pour in water and whisk with fork or other utensil (unlike other tea, instead of steeping the powder. is dissolved by mixing!)

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Step 4: Once tea is dissolved, hold in left palm and rotate clockwise twice in order to admire the design on the cup!

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Step 5: Enjoy!

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Awa Dance

By Anastasia Wass

On Saturday January 28, a group of Japanese students from Shikoku University visited our class to teach us about Japanese culture. They came to the United States as part of the Kakehashi program, a fully-funded youth cultural exchange program, for students from Japan and the United States to experience and learn about each other’s cultures.

The students from Shikoku University presented many new and interesting aspects of Japanese culture, through presentations and interactive stations. One activity that struck me was the Awa dance, a traditional dance from the Tokushima prefecture in Shikoku, Japan.

Shikoku, home to Shikoku University, is known for their Awa Dance Festival, which is held for a few days of August of every summer as part of the larger Obon Festival. It is the largest dance festival in Japan, attracting many tourists every year. But the tradition of the Awa dance goes back much further. There is record of similar dances in the area as early as the 1300s.

Female and male dancers have distinct dances, in part due to the different costumes of the dancers. Male dancers dressed in the looser yukata dance a crouched dance that allows for much more freedom of movement, whereas female dancers wearing the more restrictive Kimonos, dance with a more lifted upright posture. Today, however, dancers can participate in either dance regardless of gender.

We were taught a simplified version of the Awa dance as a healthy exercise. The dance steps were all simple, but the pace of the movements was meant to make the activity a more strenuous exercise. I found that the dance was relaxing, and after doing the movements, I felt less stressed. The movements were complex enough that my mind was occupied, but not so much that I was scrambling to keep up. And I liked the idea of connecting with such an old and culturally meaningful dance through a more modern lens.

My experience with the students from Shikoku University

By Chi Onyeka

On Saturday January 28th, 23 students and two leaders from Shikoku University paid the Japanese Plus group a visit on behalf of the Kakehashi Exchange program, organized by the youth exchange organization, Youth For Understanding. Shikoku University is a private university located in the Tokushima prefecture in Japan. The students spent a little bit less than a week in DC while visiting various places, such as historical sites, museums, and schools.

In Class Experience

When the Shikoku students arrived, we had to introduce ourselves and after introductions, they presented powerpoints about the Tokushima Prefecture in which Shikoku University is located. Then they set up various stations including Yukata (a style of traditional dressing), Japanese tea or Ocha, calligraphy where our names were written in Kanji, Karate, the traditional Awa dance and my personal favorite, the Origami station. After we completed the stations, they gave us many gifts and with hopes to be able to contact the, I and some other students gave them our business cards.

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Outside Experience

After class, we went to Z-burger and questions were exchanged such as why we decided to start learning Japanese. When we departed, the other Japanese Plus students and I went to a Bingata Festival. As a side note, we all left with at least two bags of fries because after they finished their burgers, they were full so they gave us their fries because they wouldn’t be able to take them along and we were just overwhelmed with the amount of fries we had to eat!

The next day, Sunday, I and four other students met up with the students at Arlington National Cemetery. Funny story, Bryson Torgovitsky and I got lost trying to find them and we went all the way up the hill not knowing that we passed them and we met them around the middle of the hill. Once we found them we looked at a bunch of war artifacts and visited various important tombs, like the burial site of President Kennedy.

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Afterwards, we went to Pentagon Mall for lunch and it was there that I heard the best question of the weekend that completely baffled me, was: How do I feel with Trump as our President? I didn’t know how to answer the question because I didn’t want to glorify America, nor did I want to demoralize it because I didn’t want to sound conceited, but it was their first time visiting and I didn’t want to just rant about it so I just said “It is what it is, and four years to come, there’ll be another election”.

It was at our next stop that the kindest thing was done. First things first, we went to a Japanese New Year’s festival and they had a lot of performances, food (it’s also where I had my first ramune, yummy!) and games. So I wanted to play a game that required a ticket so I whipped out $5 to pay for three tickets to find that one of the students paid for Bryson and I to play the game! I was so grateful and afterwards I just felt in so much debt from all the gifts, food, and experiences I had gotten from them in the past weekend. At the time I really didn’t know how to thank them.

Gift Exchange

As said before, I really didn’t know how to thank the students for their kindness. I wasn’t the only one. After the New Year’s festival, I went to Ana Nguyen’s house to make gifts for them including candies and little notes expressing our gratefulness. They had previously complained about how long it took them to make the boxes and I was reluctant to believe them because I thought “How hard could it be to make and fill up 27 boxes?”

Once I got permission from my mom, I bought my sweet contribution and headed on over to her house. Daniel Ruiz and another friend of theirs had been working since morning and just finished making the boxes and lids when I arrived. I got there around 5 in the afternoon and didn’t leave until 10 at night. Apparently it was that hard to make and fill 27 boxes. In total, 14 hours were spent making the presents for the students. We didn’t want to just buy them something to take home because they would already have that initiative since this was their first time visiting the US. We also decided to make them at home because we learned in class one day about how much the Japanese valued homemade gifts.

To be honest, the next day, the 14 hours we slaved making the boxes was totally worth every second. The looks on their faces couldn’t have been made just buying them something and putting it in a gift bag. We took a lot of selfies together and one final picture before our last departure. The only thing that made me feel bad was that they gave me even more things before we left! I still feel in debt to them but I can do nothing but hope they had an amazing time in the United States.

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