Japan Is My Life

By Skyy Genies

So today, my blog is going to be about how everything Japanese has become a part of my daily routine. I have been taking Japanese for around 8 months now, and just from that, I have noticed a drastic change in the way I carry myself and the way I speak. How, you ask? Well, since learning the Japanese language, I haven’t gone one day without speaking Japanese. Yes, we only take the class two days out of the week, but whether it’s intentional or not, some Japanese slips out every day.

Additionally, in the way I carry myself, after reading the chapters about social life and communication in Geek in Japan, I unconsciously changed my behavior. Especially after actually being around Japanese people on multiple occasions through the Japanese Plus Program, I have been more accepting and open-minded of things I am new to. Also, I find myself trying to avoid confrontation and saying things blatantly. Although these things aren’t that far off from how I originally acted, I think more in a way of “How would this look in Japan?” and “Would I do this in Japan”. These thoughts cross my mind constantly and they push me to further indulge myself with what I love, which is Japan! I love how much learning the Japanese language and simply participating in the Japanese Plus Program has influenced my everyday life. One time I even stood up and said “Kiritsu” (stand up) in my History class, everyone looked at me crazy and I realized what I was doing. Just that one school tradition that is practiced in Japan stuck with me and has become a part of my daily routine, cool right?

When I joined the program, I expected to learn things about the Japanese culture, but I never thought that I would start to notice those characteristics within myself after a while.

A brief appreciation of classical Japanese art

By Jeff Jenkins

Konnichiwa minasan!

Today’s blog will be about my new favorite thing that I’ve come to love and appreciate about the Japanese culture. – that being the classical/old Japanese art, including the literature often written with it. A few days ago, I and a small group from my Japanese class visited the Utamaro exhibit at the Sackler Museum. We could gaze at his original artworks and see how art was portrayed during his time.

There’s something about the level of detail and delicacy put into each piece of work that you can’t find often in modern day art. Just by looking at some of the older Japanese murals you can truly see the amount of patience and integrity that the artist used to put into his work before displaying it to the public. Also, the different writing styles were unique in the sense that each character was written together to flow like a stream. Though it was difficult to make out what some of the characters meant, it was still cool to try and read some of them, which I did manage a few times.

The biggest thing that stood out to me was the craze for Japanese art back in the 1800’s, which ended up spreading across most of Europe, but mainly in France.  Like how people have a craze for Japanese anime which is still very popular until today, I just find it very interesting that things that come out of Japan usually have a massive impact on the outside world, whether it’s through art, technology or entertainment.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this short blog and sorry for not including any personal pictures (we couldn’t take any inside of the exhibit).

If you’re curious, here’s a link to the exhibition: http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/current/utamaro/default.php

Till next time! (Mata ne)

The Sackler Museum

By Chidera Obiwuma

It was an interesting and fun first experience of the Sackler Museum at the Smithsonian.

One of the most prominent artists was Japanese artist, Kitagawa Utamaro. It was interesting to me that a man could depict through his paintings what it was like to be a woman in the Edo period because, according to him, he knows women well. And indeed, he did; his painting depicted mostly the lives of Geishas and concubines within their residence. The paintings were truly beautiful and each has a unique story behind them. However, some of it did make me uncomfortable. For example, in the Geishas’ residence, seeing children running around. Also, of course life during the Edo period wasn’t all glamorous for all women. It was disheartening but also inspirational to see that Utamaro was bold enough to portray not only the good side of this time in history but also the bad side of it with the prostitution of girls and women. Many of them forced into the practice, catching diseases that led to their death, and even when they were freed, they didn’t know how to do anything else so they ended up right back in prostitution.

Geek In Japan – Chapter 5

By Skyy Genies

Something about the fifth chapter of Geek In Japan that interested me was the drastic contrast between the motivations and intentions of someone working in the United States when compared to that of someone working in Japan. According to Geek In Japan, in the United States “most people do things for their own benefit, eventually bringing prosperity to consumers and society. In Japan, on the other hand…the Japanese give their utmost in their work in order to serve consumers and society, in this way they automatically obtain benefits for the society and achieve their individual aims.” Additionally, the Japanese maintain respect for people above you at work regardless of how long you have known them or worked at that company.

These work practices in themselves perfectly exhibit the way society works in both of these countries. In the US, most people worry about making themselves successful and living good, whereas in Japan, most people worry about how they can improve their community and society. The work ethic is also very different. Here in the US work is usually only done for money, if someone is working overtime they are sure to receive overtime payment. Their motivation for doing that work is bettering their financial status. However in Japan, the motivation of their hard work is simply bettering those around them; they don’t expect to be paid if they work overtime.

In terms of the interactions between the different levels of the company, I think there is also a big difference between Japan and the United States. Here in the US, it may be seen as normal for a long-time employee to casually speak to the head of their department or even the president. That is different from Japan where regardless of how long you’ve been there, you are expected to uphold a high level of respect. I think these differences are really cool, I really want to experience what society is like when everyone is working to better each other rather than only worrying about themselves.

Creating a Keiretsu

By Rakiya Washington

When reading chapter 5 in the wonderful Geek in Japan, provided by the Japanese Plus Program, the most interesting topic that I learned about was pertaining to how the Japanese create a keiretsu in business. I thought this was interesting because it reminded me of other partnerships that had similar obligations, such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. They seemed related to me because in the passage, the keiretsu was an alliance that was responsible for the economic success of other businesses and similarly, the League of Nations and United Nations were created in order to create equal opportunity for success for each country involved. Another similarity that I noticed was how the United States was involved in both. In Japan, the United States’s role was to aid the MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) control the entire Japanese industry and similarly, the United States played a leading role in the United Nations.

I am glad I was able to learn about something like this and without this program, I would not have been as knowledgeable on topics like this. I enjoy learning new things about Japanese culture and their daily lives.

My Tidal Basin Experience

Rakiya Washington

Outside of being in the classroom for the two scheduled days of the week, we have organized and participated in various outings around the city. One of the most memorable experiences for me was when we visited the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. Although we did not see as many cherry blossoms as we expected due to the weather changes, we did not cease to explore farther in the area. We walked to various other nearby memorials and monuments, such as the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. I was extremely excited although to see the memorials, since I had never seen them before; but also because it was disappointing to see how many lives were lost during such violent events. Visiting these memorials, not only expanded my knowledge of wars in general, but it allowed me to understand how important the lives of others are and to be grateful for everything and everyone you have because they could be taken from you at anytime. I am glad I am in a program that allows me to explore and learn about such things. I could not have been happier with the experience.

Japan Bowl 2017

By Jeffrey Jenkins

Hello everyone, it’s Jeff here and today’s blog will be a little short but it was sure worth the wait. So, now to the actual story.

On April 6, 2017, my Japanese class was invited by the Japan America Society of Washington D.C. to attend the Japan Bowl 2017, which is a competition between schools across the country who come to compete in tournaments testing Japanese language, culture, and history knowledge.

During the first two hours of the event six or seven universities gave us presentations about what they can offer for foreigners interested in attending university in Japan for their four years of colleges or just a semester. The majority of the universities were starting programs specifically aimed at foreigners, which for me or anyone who’s about to graduate is very good, especially since these universities offer scholarships that pay for your full four years of college, so that’s potentially free colleges! – and who’s going to say no to that?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the actual tournament because of school, but I was able to attend the pre-competition program that took place that same day.  The pre-competition of the Japan Bowl that I was able to stay for was the opening ceremony, which had two performances – one from a shamisen* player and another from a Japanese boy band from New York, but the shamisen (しゃみせん) was the best part about the entire opening ceremony. The boy band was meh; nothing can top the shamisen, in my opinion.

Well that just about sums up this blog, I hope everyone enjoyed the short read and if you’re learning Japanese and interested in attending the Japan Bowl, you should try and participate next year! For more information regarding the Japan Bowl, please feel free to click this link!: http://www.japanbowl.org/

またね!

* A shamisen is a traditional Japanese guitar, for those wondering.