Iki

By Charity Chukwu

Do you know someone who seems to be amazing without even trying? They’re wise, skillful, well-rounded, and know it, but are very humble and try to avoid unnecessary drama. This is iki, a Japanese term used to describe people, things, and situations that excel and express individuality without being too flashy or always striving for perfection. An example would be a simple dress with a jacket and flats. Gluing sparkles all over the dress would not be iki. A minivan is iki, but any car from the “Fast and Furious” franchise is not. Baking a cake for your friend’s birthday party would be iki. Baking a huge, multi-layered cake with their face on it for every guest is not.

You get the point.

I seriously relate to this term. It is a crucial part to how I live my life. When you know that you’re truly doing great things, you don’t have to show off because everyone else probably has already taken notice. Iki is, in a way, what everyone wants to be. Always trying to get people to pay attention to you for things like beauty, money, and grades is exhausting. It’s nice to be appreciated for the real you.

Because iki is definitely not average.

Amae

By Skyy Genies

The idea of Amae, which is “the way we act when we wish to be loved or seek attention or when we want to depend on someone else with a sense of submissiveness,” is very interesting to me. I find it intriguing that unlike in the United States, acting cute/spoiled to get attention is a quality that is expected in especially girls. The idea of collectivism that motivates Amae is something that the US opposed where our individual rights and uniqueness are expressed. This word makes me think of Aegyo in Korea, where the same cutesy concept persists. As the article states, Amae is sometimes perceived by Americans as spoiled or brat-like. The existence as a word for this behavior accentuates the huge contrast in the way we perceive submissiveness. In the article the author also speaks about how men like girls with girlish voices, faces, and Amae. However in the US men like women to be somewhat independent/powerful. The US also values its individualistic culture where people, including women, can have power in all realms and express dominance rather than submissiveness. This is so cool!

About Giri

By Jenny Jimenez

In our Japanese class the book that we discuss is A Geek in Japan, which is a great read if you want to learn about Japanese culture in detail! One section of the book discussed Giri, which is roughly translated to an “obligation to take care about those who have given you something in life so that you are indebted to them.” Giri is a mindset in which the Japanese feel a duty to return gratitude and this is evident in relationships between teachers and students, men and women, friends, family members, business associates etc. I thought that this was an intriguing aspect because in American culture we do not have this mindset; in general, actions of kindness would simply be seen as someone being polite, whereas in Japan giri is an ideology that heavily influences Japan’s culture. Giri is something that makes the Japanese want to return favors in order to preserve harmony in relationships, which effectively creates a peaceful aura in society.

Since the ideology of giri emphasizes that there is a duty to return gratitude, gift exchanges are frequent during the year. Giri shows that the gifts that are exchanged should be no more nor less valuable than the relationship; I personally found this interesting because unlike American culture, Japan emphasizes and focuses on keeping positive relationships with your peers and this mindset is a pathway in keeping your relationships healthy.

One specific example that the book has is Valentine’s Day and how the Japanese celebrate it! Valentine’s Day is a western holiday that the Japanese adapted, in which giri also plays a factor. During this holiday, women are expected to give their male peers chocolate which can be categorized into two things: giri chocolate or true chocolate. Giri chocolate is given by women as a social duty, whereas true chocolate is given to a male that you like. Since women feel obligated to give chocolate on Valentine’s Day, giri shows that the males have an obligation to repay the favor, thus White Day was created! White Day is exactly a month later, in which the males that got chocolate on Valentine’s Day repay the favor and give women white chocolate! Personally, I think America should adapt giri, because it would create a more peaceful atmosphere in our society as well as White Day, because one can never have enough chocolate! o(≧▽≦)o

Face masks in Japan

By Rakiya Washington

While reading Geek in Japan, which is a book written by Hector Garcia, I have learned so many things about Japanese culture and their language. But one interesting piece that stood out for me were face masks worn in Japan. I have always seen Japanese, Chinese and Koreans wearing these and I always wondered what they were used for. I’ve learned that in Japan, face masks are worn commonly either to avoid contagion of a cold or to avoid pollen. This is why its use increases during spring. The pollen is called kafunsho. It is one of the greatest major threats in Japan. It comes from trees built after the destruction of World War II and trees imported from other places. Also, due to Global Warming, the presence of pollen has increased dramatically. I just hope that they find new ways to contain the pollen.

The concept of Chotto

By Dakharai Murray

Chotto, which translates into “a little, a minute, or a moment,” is a Japanese word that is used to avoid confrontational situations. It can be used to answer questions on your preference over specific items, as it states that you like it “a little bit” and it avoids hurting someone’s feelings if they have a different opinion. This is very different from American culture, as we tend to be more direct with our answers to these types of questions. Americans don’t usually regard how someone else feels about the same question and are quick to answer with “No,” “It’s gross,” “I don’t like it.”

In Japan, chotto is used in place of “no,” so it has a politer delivery in a conversation. Also, when the word chotto is used, Japanese people also accompany it by craning their neck to one side. Unless you’re accustomed to the concept of chotto, you would have to read in between the lines to discover the true meaning of the gesture. If you asked someone if they needed help with a task, they could say “Chotto.” To you it would translate to “I need your help for a little bit.” However, the person would be telling you that they don’t need your help, but not wanting to hurt your feelings, they are more indirect and subtle about it. If you ever travel to Japan and someone answers you with “Chotto,” they are telling you “No,” but indirectly.

Wabi-Sabi

Ana Nguyen

Wabi-sabi represents imperfection and incompletion.” It’s the idea or point of view, where things that are imperfect have an aesthetic value of melancholy and harmony but also wisdom. The American phrase for this is most likely, “nothing is perfect, nobody is perfect” which gives off a different message compared to wabi-sabi. It’s interesting how this philosophy or term is woven deeply into the culture. Wabi-sabi can be seen in a sand garden, art, stories or even in a person. Despite all of the phrases telling people here that everything isn’t perfect, our culture has many perfectionists and the imperfect things aren’t viewed positively all the time. A broken jar in Japan may be looked upon as wabi-sabi but in the U.S it’s seen as a useless.

Giri and presents

By Raven Bluford

The section in Geek in Japan about giri and presents is quite interesting to me because in some ways it is similar to what we do in the United States, but in some ways it is completely different. I found it quite intriguing that the gifts Japanese people give to people depends on the relationship of those two people, and that if you give a person a really good gift, but you just met them, they would be offended because they are obligated to get you a gift that is just as good. This is a little similar to the United States because almost everyone puts more effort and spends more on a gift for someone they are close to, as opposed to someone they just met.

Another thing that I found fascinating is that Japanese people give gifts to people for funerals, whereas in the United States it is seen as impolite to give gifts to someone who recently lost a loved one. Japanese people also give gifts on the first day of work to your boss or co-workers, while in the United States doing something like that is quite uncommon.

Soto-Uchi

By Chidera Obiwuma

All over the world we treat those we are closest to and not close to differently, but it was surprising to learn about the high value Japan places on this distinction in treatment. In Japan there is a difference in how the Japanese treat those close to them and those who are not close to them. The way the Japanese treat their family and circle of friends is known as uchi and the way they treat other people is known as soto. Due to this system it is very difficult, almost impossible, to become part of a group if you come last or don’t belong to that group. In uchi, it is necessary that all members agree on an issue, no matter how insignificant, and how to proceed. This is done to keep the harmony among the uchi. There are also different levels to uchi. The first level is family, followed by friends, then your company and lastly, your country.

Foreigners are the most soto that you can get. No matter how long you live in Japan, the Japanese will treat you as soto because they see you as a threat to their harmonious uchi. This is one of the reasons that Japan is a closed country, one of the most advanced countries with low immigration. However, it is highly important to know that being treated as soto doesn’t mean that they will disrespect. The Japanese will treat you kindly but there will still be a barrier between you and them.

Sakuramen review

By Talia Zitner

Sakuramen is perfect for anyone looking for authentic Japanese flavor with a local twist. Four o’clock on a Friday afternoon is a great time to stop by the small restaurant in Adams Morgan. It was practically empty when we arrived, and the service was friendly and efficient. There was a really fun playlist going in the background (that even the staff was jamming out to). I ordered the DC miso, which was with chashu, menma, green onion, cheese, naruto, and nori. The ramen noodles themselves were thick and curly (make sure you have lots of practice with chopsticks!) and the broth had a chicken stock and miso base. Overall the ramen was delicious, or “Oishī” in Japanese! Each bowl goes for around $12-13, which is the typical going rate for the DMV, and it’s definitely worth it.

Sakuramen is accessible by the Adams Morgan/National Zoo metro stop, and is just a short walk over the bridge. Grab some friends and some ramen and enjoy!

sakuraramen

Wabi-sabi

By Anastasia Wass

When I was a child, my mother had a Japanese clay cup. She and my father were the only ones who drank from it, as my siblings and I thought the cup was ugly. It wasn’t ugly, she explained many times. It was Wabi-sabi. It was beautiful because it was imperfect, the clay slightly dented and the glaze visibly dripping. These imperfections were where the true beauty of the piece lay. I had quite forgotten about this cup until I read about the concept of Wabi-sabi again, just a few weeks ago. The author described Wabi-sabi as a unique Japanese idea, a word that described the beauty in the everyday and the mundane, the imperfect. Only then did I recall the mug that still sat in my kitchen cabinet. And only the other day did I take out the mug to look at it again.

Now that I’m older, I feel as though I can better appreciate the Wabi-sabi of the mug. While the traditional American idea of beauty, flawless perfection and symmetry, differs greatly from what I see in the mug, I see a different kind of beauty. It’s the same beauty that is found in nature, in a flower or a sunset. Nature is imperfect, but beautiful nonetheless. If I extend the idea of nature as beautiful to the mug in my kitchen, I think I come to a better understanding of how Wabi-sabi is beautiful.