Wabi sabi

By Maria Garcia

Hello. If you’re reading this, thank you for your time! Many thanks to Ms. Sally, Eshita Sensei, and our volunteers who have all helped inspire and push us (youth) to a new level. Since we began our mission back in late September I’ve learned so much! My favorite topics have most definitely been honne and tatamae, Valentine’s Day, Japan’s geography, family members, Katakana, and learning to introduce myself in Japanese! How cool is that!

Last class we learned a new concept of everyday objects; Wabi sabi. Wabi sabi is a concept of valuing the imperfections in an object. It was a new concept for me and a little confusing. I couldn’t understand the part where imperfection was desired. But then I realized something. In a society of uniformity. small imperfections exist. They exist because we are human and have emotions which enable us to be different from one another. Wabi sabi opened my eyes to not only look at an object as an object, but to look at an object and think about the maker’s mindset, whether or not the maker made other objects, such as a mug which is not necessarily circular because it has a dent. The mug would be considered aesthetically appealing, because it’s not like the others and stands out.

Wabi sabi is not a concept that Japanese people have to think twice about because it is second nature to them. I would like to continue implementing wabi sabi in my life since it helps to think of life through a new lens.

Chinese and Japanese

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

For as long as I can remember, learning Chinese has been a great love of mine. My involvement with Mandarin and Chinese culture has afforded me opportunities to explore more of the world. My Mandarin Chinese language journey helped me discover the enjoyment of learning a foreign language and the appreciation of the benefits of being able to converse in a language shared by 1.3 billion people. When I was first introduced to Chinese in the 1st grade, it was extremely difficult in the early years. Despite the initial hardship of learning such a complicated language, I was motivated to continue my studies out of a sincere desire to connect with people from the other side of the world in their own language!

The years devoted to learning Chinese really helped me find my love for languages and cultures, and would ultimately lead me to embrace the Japanese language and culture. As I have grown up with the skills to learn difficult languages, I find that my Japanese class has been easier than my Chinese classes. Each and every time I go to Japanese class, I am excited and ready to learn, knowing that I am building the language skills needed to connect to a whole nation of people who speak Japanese.

Although Japanese and Chinese are completely unique languages, there are some important similarities between the two that make studying a completely new language like Japanese a lot more manageable. Both languages rely on the memorizations of many characters, a skill that I have developed from my background in Chinese. The use of Kanji characters or Chinese characters would give me a head start, and provide me the opportunity to bridge my previous language knowledge with a new language that I embrace with eagerness. What I’ve learned about these Kanji characters are that they are written the same and have the same meaning most of the time, however are spoken differently to fit alongside the other alphabet pronunciation. I was intimidated with the nearly hundred characters that I would have to remember. It seemed intimidating as I knew that English only has twenty-six letters and, therefore, estimated it would be four times harder than English. Chinese gave me the ability to memorize characters and that skill really helped me in more ways than I had not anticipated.

My Japanese Plus class is taught in a different manner than what I am used to. The classroom environment seems more friendly and less pressure-filled than my Chinese classes. At Yu Ying and DCI, the Chinese language is taught in an immersion model where they exclusively speak only Chinese. Because my Japanese class is not conducted in an immersion model, my Japanese class environment is allowing the students to learn in a more stress-free manner as the teacher makes sure that studies are not so intensive and uses both English and Japanese in classroom instruction. Learning Japanese this way makes it more accessible and allows the students to build up their foundational language basics so that we can progress together as a class.

Honne and Tatemae

By Kenny Nguyen

Honne and tatemae are Japanese behavior. Honne is the true feelings you have and wish to express but tatemae is the obligation to withhold your opinion in order to seem respectful. An example of this is in a Japanese work place, when you are at work you would want to be as respectful as possible and withhold any negative comments about a co-worker or boss. This is tatemae, when you do have a problem, but can’t express it since you are trying to hold social obligations. A way that the Japanese would then express their true opinions is whenever there is a nomikai (party), and coworkers would go to an izakaya (Japanese traditional bar). These occasions are where you are able to let loose and talk about all the troubles you’ve had at work or at home, honne. This is also because of the beer and drinking, which lets them let loose.

I find the honne and tatemae concept very different from American society. In America we can say and express whatever we want and not care about what others think, or how they would feel. Whereas the Japanese are withholding their true feelings in order to maintain social obligations. At an American workplace or school, we would complain if there is anything that upsets us. For example, at my school, whenever there is a project and someone isn’t really doing work, we would complain and criticize him or her, while the Japanese would have concealed this truth and would have just tried encouraging them to pick up the pace of their work.

Before joining this program, I never thought that such a concept would exist. I always thought that people would just express whatever they want in order to have people understand them. But now I know just how different America can be from not only Japan but from other countries as well. I look forward to learning more about the different aspects of the Japanese culture and just how different we are compared to them. Jyaa nee!