君の名は (Your Name)

By Bryson Torgovitsky

About one week ago, I went to the E Street Cinema in downtown D.C. and saw the hit animated film 君の名は (Your Name) with two friends. I learned about Your Name through its interesting history with my personal favorite, Gojira. When a live-action drama bearing the title Your Name hit Japanese theaters as a live-action drama, it was the November of 1954, only a short time after Gojira’s premiere which earned over $14 million (in terms of today’s Japanese Yen to USD conversion) at the Japanese box office. It was blown out of the water by the original Your Name, which amassed a staggering $29.6 million (again, with current conversion rates) in Japan’s box office. Although the drama and the animated films have different plots, a strange coincidence occurred between the Your Name of the past and the contemporary Your Name.

The most recent Godzilla film from the studio responsible from the original film’s producers, Toho Studios, Shin Gojira, premiered in Japan last year on October 11th Unlike its own predecessor, Your Name’s animated film premiered just over one month before its kaiju rival. The head-start for income is irrelevant when the total earnings of Your Name are compared to Shin Gojira: $281 million and $76 million in worldwide sales. The new incarnation of Your Name has also become Japan’s new highest grossing animated film of all time by surpassing the famous Miyazaki film Spirited Away’s $275 million international earnings.

Personally, I still prefer Toho Studios’ Godzilla films over any of the films titled Your Name, although I must admit that the newest Your Name has become my favorite stand-alone animated film. I would highly recommend it, and Shin Gojira, to anyone interested in films of any variety, but especially to those interested in Japanese films.

Ramen-Ya

By Skyy Genies

On April 1, 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to go to a Ramen Restaurant in Adams Morgan, Washington,DC. First off, I just want to say it was SO AMAZING!

According to Cookinglight, ramen is “a Japanese noodle soup dish, with Chinese-style wheat or egg noodles served in a very rich broth along with cooked sliced pork, fresh scallions, and a maybe slightly-more-than-soft-boiled egg.” It is a very popular dish in Japan. How did this unbelievable event arise you ask? It was just another day in the Japanese Plus Program. During this meeting, our class was extremely busy preparing for our booth at the Sakura Matsuri (Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival). Out of nowhere, Ms. Schwartz announced that as a reward for our hard work and dedication to our booth, she would treat us to Ramen. I was so excited!!! I had never had traditional ramen that was actually prepared in a restaurant. I could not wait.

At the end of the class, we waited enthusiastically to leave. It was a long walk, but once we arrived and ate, it was definitely worth it! Since I wasn’t able to eat meat during the time of our visit to the restaurant, I chose a vegetarian ramen bowl that contained corn, seaweed, carrots, mushrooms, and a few other vegetables. Some of my classmates chose the Korean inspired ramen dishes with kimchi, eggs, and beef bulgogi. The aromatic scent of juicy steak made me have a negative expectation of what my ramen would taste like. But boy was I wrong. It was amazing! After having ramen on that day, I will forever look forward to my next bowl of ramen. I am so thankful to Ms. Schwartz and the other coordinators that made this amazing trip possible.

The Sakura Matsuri Experience

By Jenny Jimenez

On April 8, 2017, our Japanese class participated in the annual Sakura Matsuri, a Japanese street festival here in Washington D.C. We had our booth and we shared aspects of our classroom, as well as educating children (and some adults too) about Japanese culture. We each took shifts throughout the day, and after my shift was done I was eager to go explore the festival.

Bryson, Chi, Dakharai and I went around the festival and learned about Japan, like food, culture, and music. Bryson and I were so excited to see the anime booth because we both enjoy watching anime! We went to all types of booths, some for anime, others relating to food, but most of them were about Japanese culture. Personally, my favorite booth was the anime one because we got to see the collector’s items of our favorite anime, and I also enjoyed the clothing that was being sold. In my opinion, Japanese clothing is very unique; a lot of the fashion could be categorized as cute, so when there was the opportunity to wear a kimono, I took it! Earlier this year I discussed kimonos and yukatas in a previous blog post,  but wearing a kimono during the festival was so much fun! The booth that was arranging this allowed people to wear the kimono for a little bit and walk around.

Overall, it was a spectacular day and I hope we get more opportunities to go to festivals like this as a class. It was a great opportunity to learn about other programs in our area as well as having a chance to be a weeaboo for a little bit!

Dakharai’s Sakura Matsuri

By Dakharai Murray

WOW…talk about an amazing day! The Sakura Matsuri was one of the most entertaining events I’ve ever attended in my life. There was Anime, Anime, Karuta, FOOD, and more Anime! However, before I get to that stuff, let’s take a step back and see what was going on at our tent for Japanese Plus (clearly the best tent at the festival, I mean that’s obvious).

At our tent for the festival, we had all sorts of events for pedestrians to observe or partake in. Despite our primary focus of entertaining the masses of younger children that attended the festival, we primarily attracted citizens of the high school age, which was surprising, considering the fact that we had coloring sheets, puzzles, and a picture song. Many people came by our tent, wanting to learn more about our program, so we informed them. They left our tent with not only knowledge about our program, but with a Puni Puni sticker and the desire to join our program. However, most of the people who wanted to join Japanese Plus were past their senior year in high school, which sucked.

After my shift at the booth ended, I went to explore the festival area. A group of friends and myself attended a concert by Japanese bands, and people…went…CRAZY!!!! I wish I was that popular. Anyway, after the concert I saw this sword and I had to have the sword, but it was fake. Unfortunately, I looked in my wallet and saw that I wasn’t financially prepared for the festival. Not wanting to leave the festival without an amazing sword, I sprinted to an ATM and got money. Now I have an amazing sword that sits in a corner of my room. Later on we got some food and checked out all the Anime booths. I blew all my money on souvenirs in about 30 minutes and I got a free Naruto mask. All in all, that was an amazing day and I can’t wait for the next festival.

Performers at the Sakura Matsuri

By Raven Bluford

My shift for our booth at the Cherry Blossom Festival was from 4-6 p.m. and I had arrived at about 10, so we had a lot of time to explore the festival until our shift. A few of us spent a lot of time at the JPOP stage, where there were various Japanese performers performing throughout the day. The performances ranged from bands to dancing groups to fashion shows. My favorite performances were by a J-Rock group called Kanadete sourou and a J-Pop group called Jr. Exile. I’d never heard of Kanadete sourou and I’m not a big fan of rock, but I really enjoyed the songs they were singing considering the female vocalist had a really amazing voice and she was really energized. Another thing I liked about them was that the speakers were really loud, so you could really feel the vibrations from the drums and guitar. I knew Jr. Exile because two days prior we had watched them perform at the Japan Bowl, so I was really excited to see them because I was amazed by their performance at the Japan Bowl. I think their performance at the Cherry Blossom Festival was better than the Japan Bowl because the audience was louder and more pumped, which made the performance more exciting. I really liked Jr. Exile because they’re really good dancers and very good singers. I especially liked the dancing because they were in-sync and they did a few stunts as well. This was a really great experience because it has influenced me to explore more about them and their music.

Chi’s Sakura Matsuri

By Chi Onyeka

Cherry blossoms are trees that bloom once a year that were gifted to the U.S from Japan in 1910 as a symbol of friendship between the two countries. They (sadly) all died at first, because it was unknown how to take care of them, but later in 1912, more trees were gifted to the United States and were better taken care of. Now, in DC, we annually celebrate the blooming of the cherry blossoms in spring from their peaks until after the time their petals gracefully fall. There is another festival in DC dedicated to serve the same purpose, except organizations and different programs involved with Japanese culture get to gain awareness and if an organization gets lucky, someone might become a donor. There’s also other booths that are just for fun and music from J-Pop bands as well as traditional Japanese dances. This festival is called the Sakura Matsuri, which I had the pleasure to attend this year with Globalize DC.

I arrived at the festival around 7-8:30 in the morning with Ms. Sally and met two other students there. From there we set up and discussed about how we were going to address the wind issue since our tent activities were primarily paper-based whether it be coloring sheets or papers providing more information about the Japanese Plus program. We ultimately decided that we would use water bottles to set on top of the papers. Though it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, it was helpful even though at some times during the day the wind was so strong it knocked the bottles over and papers ended up flying anyway. Once we finished setting up the tent, we began to explore the festival before people were let in. Since 10:00 (when people started to enter the festival) until 2:00 (when my shift ended) I was primarily tasked to draw people to the tent, take a picture of people with puni puni, explain the meaning behind puni puni’s name and to provide more insight to people about our program. I’ve seen many interesting people in doing so, and the hardest part was coping with rejection, because a lot of people were blunt and said “No” off the bat, then others (the majority) said things like “I’ll come back later” or “Not right now” which was easier to accept.

Before the Sakura Matsuri, we spent a lot of time in class deciding what we were going to do for the children that happen to encounter our booth. My group had the idea of teaching participants five different types of sushi then playing a matching game and those who remembered the most types of sushi got a booklet with pictures of the sushi, the name in romanji, as well as the name in hiragana/katakana. When it came time to run the booth during the festival 90% of children were drawn to the coloring section and most people who came to participate in our activity were adults interested in our program. Many people were excited to receive the booklets, but I didn’t give out all that I made. When I finished running the sushi activity, my shift ended so it was time to go explore.

So, the first thing I did once I was free was to go see what music they were playing and it was really interesting how it wasn’t just traditional songs or J-Pop. There was dancing and we even played and interactive game with the host (It was pretty much “If You’re Happy and You Know It” in Japanese). Then I roamed around a little bit to see what other activities they had with friends. There were so many things that I wanted to buy I didn’t have the money for them because I made the horrible decision to blow $9 on ramune, leaving me with $2 left :(. There was also a Karuta booth. I had never played karuta before so I was rendered clueless throughout the whole thing asking things like “wait, what?” or “what do I do now?” pretty often. I beat two other people playing (surprisingly) and was up against a girl who spoke Japanese and read hiragana like lightning. I was kind of intimidated, but I was still optimistic. If you wanted to know, I got 2/10 cards and she got the rest. It was still surprising to me that I got similar to 2nd place, having never played Karuta before. It was fun. We also ventured to other booths where they had really cool things like optical illusions through mirrors and coloring! Excuse me, I really like coloring. I got a Ponyo mask and boy am I happy to have it! We also saw anime booths that had merchandise for one of my favorite animes but once again, I only had $2 so I sadly walked away from the anime booths.

It was high time to leave around 6:00 so on they way home I discussed the best encounters with people I made with my transit buddy. We talked about how useful the experience was in terms of exposure to Japanese culture as there were SO many activities to do regarding Japanese culture. We both loved it, both our time in the booth, and our time roaming elsewhere in the festival. If I had the opportunity next year, I would definitely clear my schedule to come again. As well as bring a lot more money next time.

The Meaning of Cherry Blossoms

By Shawma Brown

I never really cared for cherry blossoms, they were just trees I walked past everyday on my way to school. I always thought they were lovely, but I didn’t care for them because I had no idea what they symbolized. It was until I saw a film, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, that made me care for Cherry Blossoms and what they stand for.

The film showed what cherry blossom trees meant to the Japanese. The tsunami that happen in Japan on March 11, 2011 was very devastating. Many people died, went missing, were injured, and lost their homes. After the tsunami happened the Japanese were crushed. It was the cherry blossoms that gave them hope. A cherry blossom lasts for a short period of time then falls off the tree. I think cherry blossoms symbolize that life is beautiful but short. Ever since I knew what cherry blossoms symbolize I haven’t taken them for granted. I always stop when I see a cherry blossom tree and admire their beauty.