Japanese Pop Comes to CHEC

Kana Uemura Event-12

Ka-na performs.

On Wednesday, October 18, 2018 the students of Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) received a very special treat, courtesy of the Embassy of Japan. Ka-na (Kana Uemura), a New York City-based Japanese singer-songwriter, visited the school in recognition of the upcoming launch of CHEC’s new Japanese language program. The event was hosted by CHEC principal Maria Tukeva, and was attended by about 50 enthusiastic high school students, many of whom plan to enroll in one of the new Japanese classes scheduled to begin in January 2019.

The Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy, Mr Kazutoshi Aikawa, introduced Ka-na, and also used the occasion to present a blown-up check to Principal Tukeva, representing a salary assistance grant to CHEC from the Japan Foundation in support of its new Japanese language program. Mr. Aikawa presented a second check from the Japan Foundation to Sally Schwartz for continued support of Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program.

CHEC students were mesmerized and charmed by Ka-na’s musical performance – both vocals and guitar – held in the high school Library. In 2010, Ka-Na became a national star in Japan with her acoustic ballad, “Toire no Kamisama” or “Goddess of the Bathroom,” a heartfelt and moving song about her memories of her grandmother, which she sang during her afternoon performance. Her repertoire also included her new song, “Happiness,” other Japanese songs, and even a Michael Jackson cover.  At the conclusion of her singing, Ka-na warmly answered questions, took photos, and signed autographs with the students. It was a wonderful afternoon. The students can’t wait for Japanese classes to begin!

Columbia Heights Education Campus has hosted Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program since fall 2016. Last school year, with an initial grant from the Japan Foundation-Los Angeles, Globalize DC offered a single Japanese I course to CHEC students during the school day. The class quickly reached maximum capacity, and led to CHEC’s decision to build its own Japanese language program, the first of its kind in a DC public school. Globalize DC will continue to work with CHEC as a community partner to nurture and help build community support for a strong Japanese language program that will benefit our city’s young people.

We thank the Embassy of Japan for their ongoing encouragement and support.

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Our SY2018-19 Japanese Plus Program Launches!

We’re thrilled to announce that our SY2018-19 Japanese Plus afterschool program launched on Saturday, September 29. Since then, our new DCPS and DC public charter high school students have been meeting twice a week (Wednesdays 4:30-6:30 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am-12 pm) at Columbia Heights Education Campus to pursue their avid interest in Japanese language and culture.

Japanese Plus is a citywide afterschool Japanese language, culture, and career exposure program open at no cost to DC public school students. Globalize DC created this program to address the lack of Japanese language programs in DC public schools

Twenty (20) students were selected for this year’s program through a citywide application process. We have ended up with a great group – dynamic, dedicated, curious, friendly, and a lot of fun! They represent ten different high schools from both DCPS and the charter sector – Banneker, BASIS DC, Capital City, DC International, Ellington, McKinley, Phelps, Washington Latin, School Without Walls, and Wilson.

You can learn more about each of our Japanese Plus students here.

We also encourage you to follow our Student Blog to learn about the Japanese Plus experience through the eyes of our students.

Special thanks again to the United-States Japan Foundation and Japan Foundation-Los Angeles for their generous financial support of this year’s Japanese Plus program. We could not offer this life-changing opportunity without you.


By Maria Garcia

Today (October 13) was a great day. We learned so much. The best part was knowing that we would have some special guests arrive for our class today. We had three things to tackle today with our guests in class. The first being the blog post and the importance of students keeping records. We came to a conclusion that a photo album, video, quotes, and creativity were necessities that had to be done as soon as possible. We assigned two people to write a blog post for the day. Next, while our guests were looking around the school, we got through some last things.

When our guests arrived, they introduced themselves and then we had a chance at using our new knowledge. Cyrus mentioned that the refresher was “most definitely a great idea to go over the self introductions.” Our guests were fun and helped us pronounce and correctly write our words. The diplomats brought us all gifts! Sato san, Mayu, and Mizuya were all happy we were studying Japanese and encouraged us to continue.

We learned to count all the way up to 9,999! – which was quick and exciting. Then we reviewed some vowels and added new vowels such ka, ke, ki, ku, and ko. Each character is different and hard to write, because simple strokes can change the meaning of the word. Nevertheless, we took our time as the embassy visitors and some old friends came around to help us. Kenny mentioned his favorite part was to learn the numbers, getting to meet the diplomats, and being able to eat the gift which was a yummy treat.

After all the new information, as a group everyone said “Arigato” to the diplomats for all the help. Then, our old friends made a speech that motivated everyone to continue on their journey with the Japanese language. They told us it may be hard but not to give up and to use our resources. Finally, before ending class, we all went outside with our gifts and took a photo. Everyone said “Ja nae,” and went off on their own paths. After a quick survey, most would agree that today was a lot to learn but very interesting, turning the tables from our so far traditional classroom. Carlos, Kenny, and some others thought that the gifts were yummy and very kind gifts.

Visitors from the Japanese Embassy

By Elena Encarnacion

A day or two before class, we were told that we would have some “special guests” in our Facebook group. I was really curious as to the kind of guests we would have and the type of people they would be. When I found out that they were from the Japanese Embassy, I was excited, yet a little nervous. When Eshita-sensei said that we would have to individually introduce ourselves to our guests, I felt a lot more nervous. I was worried about messing up. However, after I introduced myself, the guests clapped and it calmed me down.

After all of the introductions, our guests sat in the back of the classroom and observed our class. They occasionally walked around and looked at our notebooks as we practiced writing Katakana. They praised and even helped us out if we asked for extra help with pronunciation or penmanship.

The guests from the Japanese Embassy finished off their visit by presenting us with Japanese sweets and cute little buttons that we could pin to our backpacks or shirts. Although I was originally anxious about what having them in our classroom would be like, in the end I was happy. Not only were they kind and helpful, but they also answered our questions and told us about some of the study abroad programs that were sponsored by the Japanese government. I hope our next visitors are as nice as they were.

Meeting Simon

By Kenny Nguyen

It was our third week of class and Sally, one of the program directors, brought in someone she recently met near her high school. His name was Simon. He told us about how in middle school he got into Japan because of JUMP comic books, and in middle school started to learn the basics of Japanese in order to be able to read and speak Japanese. He was a really fun guy and brought a positive atmosphere to the classroom. Simon was really helpful, and he helped me write katakana since it was my first time learning it and I was struggling.

After having our Japanese lesson of the day, Sai-sensei, the name Simon told us to call him by, told us a little bit more about his connection to Japan. He talked about how he started to learn Japanese in middle school but when high school hit, he started to stop trying to learn the language. Then in college he started to re-learn that language, since he had the opportunity to teach in Japan. Having Sai-sensei talk about his past really connected with me. He told us that if we were going to learn the language then we have to get more invested and not just learn it because of anime or anything simple. Back in middle school I used to love anime, and I tried learning Japanese because of it, but once high school hit and I didn’t have the time for anime anymore, I started to lose interest in trying to learn Japanese.

But then over the summer when I was traveling in Asia, I realized just how amazing and beautiful the culture was, which reignited my determination to learn Japanese. Having Sai-sensei in the classroom will really be amazing since he is able to connect with us since he experienced the same things we did. But also it’s always nice to have an extra hand around, especially when you’re learning a new language. So having Sai-sensei around will help me be able to better write my katakana and have someone to talk to in Japanese so he can critique it. So I look forward to our next class together and hope you continue helping out our class so we all can become better at Japanese!

Doozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!   

Our First Visitor

By Alexx Thompson

We had our first guest speaker! I was really curious as to what he’d be like. At first I thought he might’ve been a student, but no! He’s a teacher. He introduced himself as Simon and told us to call him Si! In class we learned honorifics recently, so I think it’s polite to call him Si-san. Or maybe Si-sensei, since he is also going to be helping us with Japanese!

He told us that he started studying Japanese in middle school and I was really moved. I also connected with that due to the fact I started studying Japanese in middle school too! Sometimes I would hear him talking to Eshita-sensei and I thought, wow! This guy is really good! I want to be as good as him. When he started telling us about how he got a job through a company in Japan, I was really interested. He said the program made sure that the businesses that employees worked at had to pay them and make sure they had living accommodations. I want to ask him how he found that company!

I really liked him and thought he was a really fun guy! I hope he comes back more. I think he was amazing as our first guest speaker and I’d like him to come again. I really liked listening to his story. I was also surprised that he came back. Living in Japan is my dream but when he said he didn’t know if he wanted to be there until he retired really made me think. Maybe I should rethink my goals and don’t rush towards my goal, because maybe I’ll end up becoming unhappy later on.

Having a guest speaker really made me think that class was finally getting into swing. It made me feel like I’m diving into the real world. I really look forward to what he’ll help us with! His Japanese skill makes me really want to practice with him. He told us in order to stay passionate about learning Japanese we had to find something we were passionate about other than things like manga and anime. The first thought that came to mind was history, and then later fashion. But I love history and think it’s super interesting. I sometimes devote hours to researching random facts about history that I won’t even use for anything, I just think they’re really cool to read about.

I really like having guest speakers come in because I think it’s super interesting. I love hearing about other people’s stories! I’m really excited to see who comes in next so I can learn from them as well. There’s lots of joy, for me, finding out new things and opportunities. I’m looking forward to the next guest and the fun experiences to come soon! Like we learned in class, I’ll say see you later for now. Jyaa ne!

A Wild Ride

By Lucca Bey

The start of Japanese Plus has been a wild but truly exciting ride. When I had first signed up for the program, I genuinely wasn’t expecting to learn what I have so far, even in just the last few weeks. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my peers, as well as Japanese cultural concepts and viewpoints that I wouldn’t typically know or learn outside of this environment. One great example that I can think of was how oddly specific many concepts of the language were. General knowledge that almost everyone knows is that ‘Konnichiwa’ typically means hello. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this wasn’t the case. Apparently, there’s no general way to say hello, and most greetings are based on the time of day, i.e, Konnichiwa is a greeting used in the afternoon, Konbanwa in the evening, etc. These seemingly insignificant bits of knowledge have genuinely prompted some interesting dialogue within my head lately.

Learning things like this is what makes learning about cultures other than your own interesting. Realizing and comparing these gaps between our American linguistic view and the Japanese cultural view is honestly a key to becoming an internationally minded person. The classroom in general is an extremely welcoming environment. That said, everyone there is there because they want to learn about said nuances and differences between cultures. It enlivens the atmosphere and energy of the classroom, knowing that everyone you know isn’t there out of obligation, but in willingness to learn. In this way, participation in this class is so much more different than I initially expected.

We learn about and implement aspects of Japanese culture in an engaging way in class. We follow the practice of arriving to class on “Japanese time,” which we’ve learned involves being  at class at least five minutes ahead of time, with materials prepared and ready to learn. Every class begins and ends with “Gourei,” which is the practice of one student leading the rest of the class with standing, bowing, greeting the teacher, and sitting down to mark the start and end of class. Getting to participate in these cultural experiences, personally, makes me even more excited to learn more and do more. The perspective, learning opportunities, and environmental opportunities that we gain and experience through Japanese Plus is definitely something that I’m looking forward to seeing more of.

Getting Started

By Chetachukwu Obiwuma

My first ever Japanese class was not like what I thought it would be. I wasn’t hoping for magic or the surge of knowledge about the Japanese language to hit me, but I’m not a people person. I do have a close knit group of people that I love to talk to but this is a class full of people from other schools in DC. I thought that I was only going to talk to the people from Banneker and that would be it.

However, from when I first got into the class to the end, the atmosphere was so welcoming. We sat in groups of four and two of the people at my table were not from Banneker. It’s never really been easy for me to interact with people, but Japanese class has a vibe that facilitates natural interactions. Through the use of interactive activities during the language portion and discussion during the cultural proportion, I was able to easily talk to students at my table and in the class. The need for interaction, especially in language classes, I feel is largely overlooked. Conversations are more likely to be remembered more than a worksheet. Drilling can work with some children but not everyone learns the same, and to include interactions to facilitate learning allows for a much more open classroom.

The atmosphere of the Japanese class is something that I really do like and pushes me to strive for success in my Japanese language studies. I hope that through my interactions in Japanese class, I am able to learn more about the Japanese language and culture. I also hope that I am able to gain a wider global perspective through this class.