Bryson’s Photo: Hope for the Future through Students

I took this photo of Chidera Obiwuma and Ui Onomi during the Blue Star of Life event at the Kennedy Center on October 31st. They were the MCs of the presentation, and worked together fantastically.

To me, this photo represents hope for the United States and Japan. Here, we see two students of these two nations – who had never met previously – working towards stronger bonds between their home countries. Each of them used the knowledge that they gained from their studies at school so they could cooperate effectively. As an attendee of the Blue Star of Life event, I could clearly see how their compiled energy and understanding of each other contributed to the success of the program.

As an American student who is studying Japanese, Chidera and Ui’s cooperation embodies my hope for Japan and the United States. I want to see the bonds between these two countries grow as I age, and I would love to contribute to that increase. I worked behind the scenes for this program, planning the activities with a Japanese university student named Matsuki Koh, and it was excellent practice for the future I plan to have with Japanese environmentalists. Every student shone at the Blue Star of Life, and I look forward to future opportunities for collaboration with Japanese citizens, be it through Globalize D.C. or opportunities later in life.

Bryson Torgovitsky

Rakiya’s Photo

In this picture, Skyy Genies and Chidera Onyeka are presenting a short skit. The short skit focuses on invitations, as well as the months and days in Japanese. This photo symbolizes our hard work as Japanese students who dedicate our time and efforts into learning and making progress through this program. Although performing skits is not my favorite thing to do, I continue to be appreciative because they aid me to become better with speaking Japanese.

Rakiya Washington

Raven’s Photo

Cha Cha Slide

This picture shows our Japanese Plus group teaching a popular American line dance to a group of Japanese exchange students that were with the Kakehashi program. My favorite part of the Japanese Plus Program is that we are able to utilize the Japanese learned in class with native speakers that are closer to our age. But more than that, our work with the Kakehashi program has raised our cultural awareness and understanding of Japan.

Raven Bluford

Charity’s Photo

This is a photo of Shiori – one of the visiting students from Okinawa – and me at the end of the Kakehashi visit on Nov. 4. We were both pretty nervous at first, but we bonded through our interests and ended up having a lot of fun while learning about each other’s home country. I chose this photo because it shows the connections we create at Japanese Plus by enjoying the similarities and appreciating the differences. I look forward to getting to know more people in the future.

Charity Chukwu

Chi’s Photo

In this image, the class is singing “Otanjobi Omedeto” which means “Happy Birthday” to Bryson, whose birthday was on the first day of Japanese Plus year 2. This image displays our unity and love for each other. Togetherness is a prevalent aspect of Japanese Plus that I value.

Chi Onyeka

Skyy’s Photo

This picture perfectly depicts the intimate and fun environment in which we learn new things about Japan from culture to language, and exchange ideas about current events facing our own country and Japan. Japanese language can be hard sometimes, but with the diversity of our skills and knowledge, we help and support each other to get past our obstacles.

Skyy Genies

Jeff’s Photo

At Embassy of Japan

This picture shows me and my colleagues with university students from Japan, who participated in the Blue Star of Life Ceremony alongside us. The event commemorated the 163rd Anniversary of the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity. This picture was taken after our visit to the Japanese Embassy and our discussion of global concerns. From the discussion, I was able to better understand how important our relationship is and why it should be preserved. This is something I would have never known, if it wasn’t for Japanese Plus and the copious opportunities that it provides!

Jeff Jenkins

An engaging exchange

By Chi Onyeka

You would think in my experience, after a trip to Japan, I’d be less anxious meeting my Japanese peers. That was not the case at all. I was still the same anxious bubble that was popped after a while.

The class started off normal with a lesson from the lovely Eshita-sensei, then Sally got a call. I could see the students making their way to the science classroom we would later meet in and then came the anxiety. Luckily we had a days-of-the-month song which relieved the anxiety a little when we sang its catchy tune twice. Going into the science room, aw man. Lots of butterflies.

We got the opportunity to sit in the front and enjoy the presentations from the Japanese high school students from Okinawa. We learned about their high school (which made me jealous in comparison to my school), the Okinawa culture, pop culture and more. We had discussions in both Japanese and English. Both conversations were steady going, until we had to ask for assurance from our peers. I believe my anxiety was lifted when we played concentration with numerous topics to choose from. Once I realized through this game that no one is subject to perfection, it was a lot easier for me to communicate. Sadly, this game came after the conversations, which would have been less awkward had it not been for my anxiety.

Teaching the Cha Cha Slide was definitely fun for me. I have a bit of an extroverted side of me that loves to dance, so when we were dancing with the Japanese students, I was finally the normal Chi that talks too much with anyone. So seeing all 33 of the students (Japanese and American) dance to one of my favorite dances at parties enabled me to finally express myself.

Meeting with the Japanese students at Z-Burger was a less formal exchange to me. I was able to converse with some more students over a bunch of fries and a massive hamburger. We were more able to talk about our personal lives, not anything deep, but things like how many pets would they get or do they have. I like the Z-Burger exchange a lot because now since my brain thought “Ha! What’s an anxiety?” it was a lot easier for me to socialize, not only on the way to Z-Burger but at Z-Burger as well.

This Kakehashi exchange was another memory I will store forever in my memories of Japanese Plus, because it enhanced my global engagement not only with people from the other side of the world, but these people were my peers so it was a lot easier to converse with them.

Prepping for the Blue Star of Life

By Bryson Torgovitsky

On November 5th, the day before the Blue Star of Life event at the Kennedy Center, I attended a meeting with the Japanese students who would be working with our DC group at the event. Before the meeting, I had been in contact with Matsuki Koh, a student at the Kwansei Gakuin University School of Economics, about the details of the event. We had been emailing in English, but I planned to speak in Japanese when I met him and the other university students in person. At the start of the meeting, a brief introduction session was held. The Japanese students introduced themselves in English, and I followed suit out of nervousness.

As the day progressed, our discussion became more detailed but we continued speaking English. It became apparent to me that this was difficult for some of the students, and I felt guilty for my need for English conversation. I told the students that I could follow their conversation if they spoke in Japanese, but I would not be able to respond in kind. They kindly asked if I was sure, and agreed when I assured them that I was. At that point, the conversation was about the number of people in each student discussion group. I was able to follow them through my lessons from Japanese Plus, but I was still provided summaries at the ends of key lines of dialogue by the Japanese students. I tried to assure them that I had understood fine on my own, but they were insistent so I relented. I could tell that it was difficult to summarize a Japanese conversation in English, but I admired the language skills of the university students as they did just that.

I hope to outgrow the training wheels by continuing studying on my own time and in Japanese Plus, but I am thankful to our university partners for their politeness during our planning phase. I think that we managed to conduct our plans perfectly at the Kennedy Center and our programs at the Embassy of Japan afterwards!

The Blue Star of Life Exchange

By Jeff Jenkins

The Blue Star of Life Ceremony was an extremely educational experience in both my career and knowledge of the U.S-Japan relationship.

After, the formal portion of the event at the Kennedy Center (in which I gave a major speech), I could talk with the university students about their careers and what they wish to pursue after college and their responses were very insightful. Especially Masa-san’s, because his major is in international relations, which is the same major that I wish to go into for college. During our discussion, I realized that we all had the same dream and that was to make the world a fair and equal place for all, not just in Japan and America, but the entire world. Our bond has the potential to not only benefit both countries, but the entire globe. If we’re able to continue similar practices such as the Blue Star Ceremony, where the youth from both countries can sit down and exchange ideas, it’d be a major step in the right direction to strengthening our bond. Throughout the two group discussions I could hear a lot of interesting ideas on how we could as a group find ways to make our societies better, either economically or socially, even more so because times are changing, and new innovations are being made that could lead to more problems for society.

For example, my group’s topic was about “Technology.” We talked about how robots (AI) could coexist and benefit mankind, especially since robots are starting to become the future of the world. We discovered that it’d be nearly impossible for robots to coexist with humans, especially in workplaces, because robots would kick a lot of people out of their jobs and that would create other global problems, due to the amount of people that would be poor. And this required us to think of various laws and regulations that would prevent such things from happening, such as creating new laws that governments would have to follow to balance out the rapid increase in technology and find a middle ground between robots and humans.

We also discussed how technology could benefit educational systems around the world and provide a fair and free opportunity to gain education. For example, Taku-san explained to us an invention called “MOOC.” It’s an invention that allows people to listen in on college lectures for FREE and it’s available anywhere and for anyone to use. However, people must have access to the materials such as laptops and Wifi, which could also be provided for free, especially for less developed countries around the world that don’t get the proper attention needed. Together we can provide the support needed to give everyone a fair chance at an educated and fair life.

Overall, this event helped me better understand the role that I play in the U.S Japan relationship as the upcoming youth, who’ll one day make big decisions that could potentially affect the world forever.