By Arjernae Miller

On Wednesday night, November 28, I had the pleasure of being able to sit and listen to Ms. Shanti Shoji who talked about her connections with Japanese culture and the Japan Information and Culture Center (Embassy of Japan). She mentioned that she grew up around a lot of Japanese culture in Portland, Oregon; it felt like Japan was next door. She spoke really good Japanese, even after saying she was “rusty” at it. I wish there were more Japanese culture throughout DC, like it was where she grew up. Even with all of the valuable information she gave us revolving around her connections and programs, there were a few tips that I felt spoke to the class as a whole most.

“Follow your heart and keep knocking on doors” to me means I have a chance to accomplish opportunities that come my way. Always find chances and never give up, especially when you knew from the start that you could do what you put your mind to.

Another useful phrase that Ms. Shanti said in her speech was to “take risk.” Which in other terms means to jump at any and all things coming your way. Not to be afraid of doing things you really want and know you can do.

It’s amazing what words can do and how people don’t realize how words can impact a person’s life. Her words are quotes that I feel can change someone’s day in just a few seconds. I was glad that she left her information for us to contact her for opportunities in DC related to Japan. That way we can celebrate the culture more than we do now.

Skit Preparation

By Theo Greiff

On December 12th, our class will be holding an open house to display the Japanese we’ve learned in the last month. During this open house, each group will perform a skit in which they must demonstrate all the Japanese they have been taught. Preparations have, of course, already begun.

As of now, my group and I have started on our script, been given feedback, applied said feedback, and are beginning memorization. The process has been amusing to me as, though we have learned a good amount, most of what we know is phrases which limits what we can do. To fix this, small amounts of English are allowed and Eshita-sensei has offered to provide us certain words. Overall, being someone with some experience in other languages, I am pleasantly surprised at how quickly the class has moved on to such a large assignment and am eager to see how it turns out.



Learning how to walk in Japanese

By Chetachukwu Obiwuma

This past class, we met a wonderful woman named Shanti Shoji. Shanti was there to talk to us about her non-profit, Kizuna Across Cultures, which she co-founded based on her interest in Japanese in her younger years. Kizuna Across Cultures is a program that connects Japanese classes with American classes in order to facilitate cross cultural interactions and support language learning. The program lasts for six months and the bridges built create more ingenuity on understanding Japanese language. For more on the organization, please refer to this URL:

I was not really interested starting out, but as Shanti gave us background of how she got into the organization, I was astounded. There were so many references to Japanese resources which still exist today, that we can use in our pursuits within the Japanese language. She mentioned the JET program, which is an exchange program where English speakers can teach English in Japanese schools for a year; the JICC, the cultural center for the Japanese Embassy in the U.S.; and her gap year in college to intern with another Japanese organization. The instances she gave us to show her journey in the Japanese language showed us the level to aspire for in our own individual pursuits of mastery in Japanese.

Meeting with Shanti is something that I feel like was very important for people studying Japanese, because it gives something to look forward to. All the opportunities that came for Shanti that were associated with her abilities in the Japanese language give hope to some people who don’t feel that pursuing language studies is solid enough for a career. Even if it has nothing to do with language careers, Shanti stands to serve as a way of telling people to become more serious about things like your communal environment.

Shanti talked about growing up in a community that had a significant Japanese population and how it became entrenched in her before she even started studying Japanese. She sets a precedent about language studies that more students need to be aware of. How can your studies serve as a potential bridge in the community? This does not require that you be the pillar of engagement in your community but that as an individual, you become more aware of the impact you can have in community. Become a more uniting force through the Japanese language. Take what you have learned out into the world and link more people together in order to promote unifying diversity. Let our differences make us allies and not enemies. Join with your two hands and fortify it so that it never breaks apart. Be like Shanti and learn to be an impactful individual through cultural immersion studies, such as the Japanese Plus program.

Finding the right way with katakana

By Angel Njoku

There are people who are able to understand a language easier than others, while others need to put in the extra work to be able to understand it. I think that I’m in the middle, because I can understand it but it’s harder to memorize. In the beginning, katakana was very hard for me, because I didn’t really have a good study system. It was hard to keep track with katakana since we were moving quickly with it. I personally felt that in the beginning, I was stronger in speaking, like saying my introduction and family members, instead of learning katakana. I tried using the traditional flashcard method to study, but it really didn’t help me, because I would put the cards back in the order of the way that we learned them.

I used the websites that Maria gave me, which actually helped me a lot. I feel like those websites helped me out a lot because you were able to customize what you need to work on and it gives it to you in random order, so it wouldn’t be in the original order. I feel like the best way to find your learning skills is to use the process of elimination, which means try different study techniques until you find one that you believe is suitable for you. Once I used the websites, I felt more confident in katakana, especially with the ones that I know that I didn’t properly study at all. The websites that I used will be linked below, and I encourage anyone to use these websites, especially if you like the Japanese language.

Man-Woman Relations in Japan

By Elena Encarnacion

In class, we like to learn about the culture as much as the language. We often turn to A Geek in Japan by Héctor García for cultural comparisons. A section that I really enjoyed reading about is called “Man-Woman Relations in Japan.”

I was not surprised when reading the part that talked about the past and the different family roles that men and women had. However, I was a little surprised when reading about “omiai” marriages. An omiai marriage is an arranged marriage. Although people are no longer forced to marry others, people’s parents often get involved when a person is looking for someone to marry. I found this quite strange since in the States, parents don’t normally set their children up with the purpose of marriage. Parents normally have less involvement in who their in-laws are.

I was also surprised by the “Men-Women Separation” part. Apparently, Japanese people tend to separate by gender in the workplace. For example, the women will go out for lunch together, and the men will go out for lunch together separately. This was interesting to me because it’s not something that I’ve heard of here in the U.S. People just tend to spend time with whoever they want, despite gender.

Reading about the Man-Woman Relations in Japan was really enlightening. I hope to continue learning about the interesting ways that our cultures differ.

Group Scoring Grid

By Cyrus Johnson

To be honest, when I was told I was enrolling in a “challenging Japanese class,” I somehow didn’t expect a grade. So I enrolled thinking it wouldn’t be anything too serious. Then, after I was accepted into the class, we were told that we were expected to write blogs. This, believe it or not, worried me greatly. I never liked talking about myself or my experiences, or even writing essays. I kinda figured I’d lay low and see what I could pick up after a while. It worked, somewhat, until we were given the Group Scoring Grid.

On the Group Scoring Grid, it shows us our minimum and maximum for an aspect of the class, such as attendance, homework, our katakana, and, of course, how many blogs we write. According to the Grid, we are each supposed to have done at least two blog posts by December 12th. I, attempting to avoid my least favorite part, have done none at that point. The Grid also says that we could get extra credit by writing more than two, but I won’t bother writing a third. I already have enough homework from school!

Samurai Cooking! . . . Makes Me Hungry

By Alexx Thompson

On November 11th J-LIVE was held at George Washington University, and my classmates and I went to go see it. I stayed the entire time and the competition was really interesting. It’s a Japanese speaking presentation contest between college students. I studied outside of our class, but even still I couldn’t understand a lot of what was said. I only really understood the general idea of it. But nonetheless, I was still really interested and I hope to one day be able to speak as well as the contestants.

After the competition ended and the results were announced, they had a small movie showing. The movie was called A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story. It was a really interesting movie mainly revolving around the story of a samurai (Yasunobu) who was the son of a kitchen samurai (similar to what we’d call a cook or a chef), and his wife. His wife, Haru, was a really good cook and she was asked to marry him so he can become a better cook.

I was really interested, because the movie displayed the  gender roles in that era of Japan. Haru was considered undesirable, because she’d been married before and divorced and I found that interesting. I also found the succession of family roles intriguing, because in the movie Yasunobu has to succeed his father as kitchen samurai. Not a major spoiler but another character, Sayo, is the daughter of a dojo owner. But unlike Haru, whoever marries her will succeed her father, since she’s the only daughter and therefore she doesn’t have to move into her husband’s house.

Overall I found the movie really interesting and I even showed it to my family over Thanksgiving break. I really liked Haru’s character and how Yasunobu changed over the course of the movie. It really showed how much Japan values food and cooking. And how much they pay attention to detail when preparing the food. If you have the chance, please watch A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story.


By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

George Washington University held the annual J-Live event which other Japanese Plus classmates and I attended. J-Live is a Japanese language competition for college students, where contestants would make their own presentation on a topic of choice and then share it to an audience all in Japanese. There are also categories for contestants as not all are at the same Japanese proficiency level. This event allowed me to talk and listen to so many people in Japanese and in English, allowing me to be more aware of what opportunities lie ahead if I keep on learning Japanese. Even though there were only a very few things I could understand with the one and a half months of Japanese under my belt, I still had a blast!

This event ingrained hope into the language that I already loved and set more goals that I wish to reach. I have never attended an event like this before, and it was really an eye-opening experience being able to see the connections being made and the fruits of those who are studying Japanese for a while. J-Live allowed me to see a new barrier broken with the wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities present at this event, and really allowed me to know what Japanese can do to connect people and be the bridge to create a more united world.

High School Diplomats

By Theo Greiff

On Thursday, November 8th, my parents came up to me and told me to check the Facebook group as Sally had just posted talking about a summer program involving Japan that they thought I might be interested in. I can’t say I thought much of it. After all, I had multiple other programs that I had had my eyes on for a long time, and though it was sure to be interesting, I didn’t think I could fit it into my schedule. On Wednesday, November 14th, representatives actually visited, and I realized I probably should have looked into this program more.

High School Diplomats U.S is a 10-day program at Princeton University which brings American and Japanese Sophomores and Juniors together for cultural exchange and language studies. It can also be followed by a second program, High School Diplomats Japan, in which students who have taken HSD U.S can apply for a full scholarship to go to Japan the following summer. We were visited by Celine Zapolski, the director of HSD, and two alumnae, Olivia and Ava, who shared their experiences, and it was, in fact, the experiences that truly caught my eye. Though hearing Celine discuss all the information above was interesting, it was when I heard about the relationships formed between American and Japanese students that I began seriously considering the program.

Olivia and Ava described the many friendships they had formed, the challenges and barriers they faced, and the personal impact that resulted from the program. Though they mentioned many things, I thought the most profound to be when they talked about their Japanese roommates who they had managed to relate to and connect with despite the massive linguistic and cultural wall that separated them. I personally believe that language is something meant for use, it exists to expand understanding and range of thought, not just through study, but through interactions with others. From what I heard during this visit, High School Diplomats is a program that can help me achieve such interactions and, as a result, it has become a program that I am very seriously considering doing during the summer.


By Katie Nguyen

Onigiri Action is a program to help needy kids in Africa get free healthy meals by taking pictures of yourself with the onigiri (rice balls) you made and posting them online with the hashtag #OnigiriAction. This was created by a non-profit organization, called Table for Two, that speaks about the issues of hunger and obesity through a “meal sharing” program. Table for Two partners with many organizations such as JCCI NY, Zojirushi America Corporation, Tokyo Central Marukai, MUFG, BentOn, and many more. If you want to read more about this, go to their website to learn all about it.

During the presentation about Onigiri Action, I was really excited to make onigiri and I bet everybody else was too. At first, when Mayumi Uejima-Carr, the Table for Two director, and the instructor she brought in showed up, I was really nervous since they had come early and most people didn’t arrive yet. Mayumi Uejima-Carr brought in her two kids and they were really cute and fun to be with.

Once they had finished their presentation, we learned how to make onigiri. It looked easy, but it wasn’t. I put too much rice and made a really big onigiri. We had to decorate our onigiri and make it look nice. Everybody had cool and pretty designs. A person made Jack Skellington from The Night Before Christmas, while somebody else made Sailor Moon. It was really fun and was a nice bonding moment with my classmates. It was also really delicious. There were ingredients like tuna with mayo, ketchup, edamame beans, spices, carrots, rice, seaweed, and bear molds to make your rice the shape of a bear. Afterwards we took pictures of everybody’s onigiri and had group pictures. There were also big onigiri cutouts made of cardboard that we could put out heads in so when others wore it they looked cute in the photo.

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