What are you most proud of?

Before winter break, we asked our Japanese Plus students to reflect on their time in the program so far, and to share what they felt most proud of. Here are they answers:

Angel: I’m proud of the onigiri that I made and improving in katakana.

Maria: I am most proud of the self-introductions we have learned.

Cyrus: I guess just being able to talk to new people and not be a complete mess.

Asa: I’m most proud of me mastering katakana but mostly gaining more courage to speak out and meet new people.

Che: The fact that I memorized all my katakana. I know most of my combinations.

Alexx: I’m most proud of my speaking abilities in terms of public speaking. I’m not very good at speaking loud and clear, so I’ve been really happy with how far I’ve come.

Gabe: I went from knowing one Japanese word to being able to introduce myself and knowing katakana.

Jazmin: I’m most proud of my speaking skills, because I’ve improved a lot since the last time Eshita sensei taught me some phrases when I was in “Japan in DC.”

Katie: I’m really proud that we finished learning katakana and mastering it. I really thought it would take a long time to learn.

Jonah: Learning katakana and meeting with new people.

Arjernae: Learning basic Japanese is what I am most proud of (katakana, introduction, writing).

Theo: Probably the feeling of mastery over a different alphabetical system to the point that I recognize meaning relatively quickly.

Hana Market

Ah! Look at all the food!
I glance at the small corner packed with curry, ramen, bread, and snacks.
Bowls, novelties, fresh produce, and pounds of rice.
Everything looks amazing!
Enticing and exciting.
I am greeted by the owner, “Good Morning”
Yes! An opportunity to practice speaking Japanese,
“Ohayo Gozaimasu!”
I am speechless, this small hole in the wall,
Packed with stuff I can’t find anywhere else.
I can’t stop reaching for more.
Filling my basket to the brim,
Later realizing
I didn’t bring enough money.
I buy what I can and promise to return for more,
Often it is a treat to visit.
          By Asa Marshall

Hana Market was such a nice place to be in. Although it was small, the market had many Japanese goodies that were hard to find in other stores, let alone DC. My first time there I was like a child in a candy store. I was really excited to be there, there were lots of snacks, sweets, and many more. I wanted to buy almost everything in that market but I didn’t really have much on me, so I bought whatever I could with what I had and even got some of my siblings some snacks. I loved how they don’t charge you for tax, so I didn’t have to worry about extra money to give or to give back. I also liked how their shop was really small and cute, so that I wouldn’t have to get lost or be too absorbed into everything. I wish I can come back to the market and try all the other food that was there and so that I can bring back some food for my family as well.
          By Katie Nguyen

You can experience Hana Market for yourself through our video here: https://youtu.be/dh7ZtpTG5yE

If you would also like to go to the Hana Market, then their address is 2000 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, and they are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Sackler Museum Art

By Katie Nguyen

My favorite art piece in the Sackler museum was a Diorama Map of Tokyo. I really like how it is in black and white and the way I can see everything in a bird’s eye view. This art piece was really big and detailed so you can go up close and see actual people and buildings. This was actually created by Ino Tadataka by taking pictures all around Tokyo, printing them out on a sheet, cutting them up, and assembling them into a single composition. If you come up close to the art piece, you can actually see where he cut up parts of Japan, and it is so amazing that he took up most of his time making such a wonderful art piece and how everything looked so natural.

Learning Katakana

By Arjernae Miller

When I first saw Japanese letters, I felt like a newborn baby with a crowd full of adult faces surrounding me blubbering nonsense. I knew absolutely nothing about the characters, I had nothing to compare it to, I was stuck seeing unknown symbols float off of the paper.

Unlike some of the other students in my class, I have never attempted to learn Japanese language nor have I taken Chinese. My reasoning behind mentioning Chinese is because in my class I tend to notice that some of my peers have better progress with the Japanese writing portion of the class due to the Chinese courses they have previously taken during their years in school.

I’d spend time in class writing the lettering over and over just to have a nearly terrible grade on the quiz. I literally laughed at my score the first time I saw it, because I never had a score so low before, due to the overachiever that is built into me. In fact, I didn’t think it was possible to have so many emotions in one sitting.

The next big test I had I scored a 100%.

I spent the previous night rewriting the lettering over and over nonstop. Then the next morning on my way to class I was literally on the train studying on my way to class.

The best way to learn katakana, in my opinion, is to take Senpai Chi’s advice and write it EVERYWHERE. Your teacher’s whiteboard will be your new best friend. Along with every piece of paper you find, even scrap paper, I surely became a big recycler of paper while learning Katakana. I struggled with memory a lot, so to refute this I used the method of studying every other day or every three days, a method I learned in my Psychology class which I found to be successful. Katakana filled the pages of my notebook, front and back.

Now to fully master Katakana I try writing words in my notebook. I write small words such as cake, bin, as well as my name. After that, I hope to move on to phrases and sentences. I find that the best way to learn something is to immerse it in your everyday life, that way it will become a norm in your everyday life. Like speaking English and singing a song.

Japanese in my life

By Chetachukwu Obiwuma

There are small things here and there that are truly needed when learning a language. One of them is immersion. There needs to be a healthy amount of the language included in your life. One of the ways I do that is through anime. Of course, there are differences when it comes to anime and Japanese in real life, but when you recognize a phrase that a character used or read a sign in katakana, there is a sense of pride. It’s not very large but it makes learning more worth it. To see it being applied in your reality, and for you to understand it, shows great progress and allows for you to feel more motivated to learn more.


By Lucca Bey

Since the beginning of the 2018 Japanese Plus program, we’ve not only been learning about the Japanese language, but we’ve been learning about the coinciding culture. This is how we came across the Iceberg metaphor. Above the iceberg’s waterline would be aspects of a certain subject, or in this case culture, that are readily visible, and can be seen from basic observation. However, icebergs are much deeper than they initially appear. Aspects of the Japanese culture that cannot simply be seen from observation are labeled ‘below the surface’ information – one of the many overlapping sections of the spoken Japanese language and the ‘below the surface’ Japanese culture.

When we learned about Chotto, the Japanese word that’s directly translated as ‘a little,’ I was surprised and interested at the context in how it was used. Chotto, as I learned, is the super polite Japanese way of denying someone something. One example that Eshita Sensei told us about was, if you were asking if there were any movie tickets left in their theater, and there were not, a ticket booth worker would still say, ‘Chotto,’ despite it not making too much sense in translation.

Simply learning about this word gave me a great introduction and general insight into the culture and value placed on respect in Japan. Typically in America, we would say no, straight out, but finding out how commonplace that Chotto is in Japan really opened my eyes to how much value people place on manners and offering people what they want in Japan. All in all, I’m getting more and more excited to learn about the interconnectedness between the Japanese culture and language, and Chotto was a great introduction to this!

Sackler Visit

By Elena Encarnacion

Last class, we went down to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in order to view different kinds of Japanese art. It was nice learning about the history and the different changes in trends for Japanese art. My favorite art piece is called “Snow in Shinobazu Park” by Oda Kazuma. I love the art pieces that contain nature the most. I was attracted to the picture due to its lack of color and the scene it was depicting. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the picture does contain color. The bushes beneath the main tree have a slight green color to them beneath the snow (this is easier to see in person). This slight use of color while everything else was black and white made me like the art piece a lot more. Although the piece gives a slightly gloomy vibe, I think it’s beautiful.

Sackler Museum Visit

Asa Marshall

On Saturday December 15th, the class went on a trip to tour the modern Japanese art at the Sackler Museum. The artwork that got my attention was The Pond at Benten Shrine in Shiba. It was from the Showa Era made in 1929 by Kawase Hasui. I felt really drawn to this painting and I really loved how it looked. To me it seemed beautiful in the sense that it captured the beauty of nature and the elegance of traditional Japanese fashion, which I loved the most. For me, the colors had a very neutral tone which I loved and was perfectly accented by the dusty pinks of the flowers.

The trip overall was super fun and informative. It really helped me further visualize Japanese culture through their art history and progression. It was really exciting to see the different styles and imagine what the meanings were behind the strokes or color choice. I never went to the Sackler before and I know I want to go back really soon!

Open House Skits

By Elena Encarnacion

On December 12th, Japanese Plus hosted an Open House. The Open House was meant to help us share our Japanese progress with our friends and family.

One of the most notable parts was when my classmates and I put on skits in Japanese. Although I had memorized all of my lines, the experience was super nerve-wracking. We were going to be performing in front of native Japanese speakers (we had only performed in front of Eshita-sensei and one another previously). My group was third to go. As every group went, we felt the pressure building up. The foreign exchange student scenario . . . the My Hero Academia scene. I was nervous and wondered if our skit would be enjoyed as much as theirs were. I ended up messing up on one of my lines, but overall the experience was fun. The two representatives from Okayama University seemed impressed with us, especially because we all make time after school to study their language.

Another important part of the night was when we were given information by the Okayama University representatives. They opened up a world of opportunities to us when they told us about studying in a Japanese university. They highlighted a program they created for international students, including those from the US, called the DISCOVERY Program for Global Learners. Although it’s not something I plan on doing, it was still nice to learn about the different options available to me. Here’s further information for those who may be interested: https://www.okayama-u.ac.jp/eng/prospective_students/PA_DISCOVERY_Program.html

Our Japanese Plus teacher, Yoko Eshita, with visiting Okayama President, Hirofumi Makino, and Vice President for Global Engagement Strategy, Atsufumi Yokoi.

The concept of Giri

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

The concept of Giri is very interesting, because it contributes to how Japan wants to preserve as much social harmony as it can. According to Giri, the closest translation is obligation or social duty. If a person gives you a present, then you eventually become indebted to that person or owe them somehow. The balance of Giri has become unbalanced and the relationship will once again become balanced once you give a gift of equal value to the person who gave you a present in the first place. Initially, it was kind of strange to me that on Valentine’s Day girls gave boys milk or dark chocolate. In addition, there are two kinds of chocolates. There is “giri” and “true” chocolate. The “giri” chocolate is when women give men chocolate whom they’re close to due to social obligation. While the “true” chocolate is when women give men chocolate to whom they actually love. Another thing I thought was interesting is “according to one study, the same amount of money is spent on presents in Japan as Americans invest in justice.” This is interesting how gift giving is crucial in Japanese society today and how gift giving can be a cultural aspect.