By Chetachukwu Obiwuma

During the Japanese Plus program, many opportunities are given to us to learn about or pursue our interest in Japanese culture outside of class. One of these opportunities was a haiku competition, sponsored by the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, that was meant to serve as a celebration of “Spring in the City.”

Here’s the announcement: https://goldentriangledc.com/initiative/golden-haiku/

The competition piqued my interest as writing is a hobby of mine. However, before I could even think about competing in the program, I first needed to learn more about haikus.

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry in which 17 syllables are organized in lines of 5-7-5. Haiku originates from the hokku which is the opening part of renga, another Japanese writing style that was delivered orally and typically had about 100 stanzas. 1 Haiku gained popularity in the Western Hemisphere as European authors began to translate Japanese works.

Many famous Japanese haiku writers like Issa, Basho and Buson have developed the writing style to become more distinct 1. With these popular artist, haiku became even more prolific in word choice and diction. The translation of their works have given us insight into the literary richness ingrained in this writing style. The subtle talks of nature or the ability to create ominous moods using five syllables only furthers the great impact that haiku has had on western literature.

For me, haikus are quite peculiar. As poetry is a way to express yourself, it seems that sometimes you can’t stop sharing and sometimes you have nothing to say at all. Through me trying to enter a haiku competition, I’ve found the use of the 17 syllable limitation to be quite freeing. It stops the problem of oversharing or having nothing to talk about at all. It gives you a set limit and does not make you want to drag on your feelings. The format of a haiku gives a form of freedom through its selected format.

This is a short haiku written by me.

Bringing Shivers
Shivers down my spine
Aching all time while your
Eyes send out shivers


1“Haiku (or Hokku).” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/haiku-or-hokku.

A New, New Year’s

By Asa Marshall

Anticipation had the best of me the whole week before this glorious event of sounds, tastes, smells, and sights all combined into this congregation of culture. The coldest winter air couldn’t stop me from attending, as if this moment alone would change everything forever. In a way it did. It opened my eyes and ears to a new world unfamiliar to mines that was special and intriguing. The food caught my eye right away through the crowds of people, many of whom I’ve never seen before, all together as a single heartbeat. A mass array of faces that showed pride in who they were. The beats the taiko drummers molded echoed through my body as crashing waves on a rock in the sea. It was all so beautiful. If I ever get the chance I would go again, forever wanting to be a part of something new, appreciating everything I learn.

This year the Japanese New Year’s Celebration in Washington hosted by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington D.C was held at the Marriott at Woodley Park on the 27th of January. It was a joy filled all day event from 11am to 3pm, and I enjoyed every bit of it. It is held in DC every year, but this was my first time attending. There was a lot to do and I was grateful for the tickets purchased for us by Japanese Plus. I brought my cousin along because he also wanted to experience Japanese culture. There were many stands full of snacks and toys and novelties to buy the moment you stepped in. It was also considerably cheap and well managed.

I’ve never seen so many Japanese people in the D.C area, and it was such a welcoming atmosphere. There were sections for activities, some of which you had to buy tickets for, and it was so fun to do calligraphy and play with kendamas. There was one part I would never forget and that was seeing the Shinto shrine set up to offer prayers for a good year to come. Though it wasn’t big, it was very beautiful, and recently learning about how to pray at the shrines in class was very exciting for me, knowing that I know how to do it properly.

My favorite part of the whole event was of course the food and it was so packed, and the lines were so long it made me anticipate the food even more. I had gyudon, which is a rice bowl with beef; taiyaki, a red bean paste filled fish shaped treat; takoyaki, a ball filled with octopus; nikuman, which was a pork bun; and a refreshing bottle of ramune to top it off. It was such a feast and I wanted to keep going back for more, but my wallet said no. It is such an amazing event and I hope to go again next year!

Swag blog

By Alexx Thompson

Last Sunday, a few people from the class and I attended the Japanese New Years Celebration hosted by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, DC (JCAW). There were numerous events, such as taiko performances, to countless food stalls and games. There was even a shrine to pray/wish at, and receive your omikuji (fortune slip)!

It was a very family oriented event, and there were mainly Japanese families attending. I was really overwhelmed to hear all the Japanese around me, it felt as if I’d gone to Japan almost. I could understand it mostly, but when I was waiting in line, a lady came up to me and asked me if I was waiting for the line, in Japanese of course, and I blanked out immediately and just kept stuttering. I was really embarrassed that my Japanese wasn’t as good as it was in class. I want to work harder to be able to respond more readily and engage in conversation easier. Coming to this event really helped me think about my future as a translator, and kind of scared me a little, as I thought that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but of course I want to continue, so I’ll try my best again next year.

The one time I did use my Japanese well, or responded easily, was when I was playing karuta with Kenny, Luis, Maria, and two girls who were at the celebration. One of the girls was only six, but spoke mostly Japanese to the girl who was teaching us how to play. I wanted to get pictures for the blog, so I asked the older girl if it was okay in English and she said sure. But then the little girl asked me what I was doing, so I asked if it was okay that I take her picture in Japanese, and she said yes. I was really proud of myself for being able to respond so readily. Although afterwards she asked what the picture was of, and I didn’t understand until the older one answered for me. I think I still have to learn and work on informal questions in that case then!

Overall, from the food, to the games, I really enjoyed karuta the most, even though it was the easy version. I played it multiple times because I really liked it and I won twice! The event was really eye opening for me and really helped put a perspective on things for me, and I want to come back again next year.


By Maria Garcia

Blick, blick, blick….Ahhhh……so close! As we stood in a circle, laughter and friendships grew… Kendama is a Japanese hand eye coordination game that can be played by all age ranges. Ken means hand and tama means ball.

While other cultures have similar versions of kendama, the Japanese kendama is more complicated. By this I mean in Mexico and other Latin countries, we have a toy that goes by Balero. Both of these would be played. The object of these games is similar and the player must put the ball on the side or inside of the handle…

On Sunday January 27, 2019 some of the students from Japanese Plus (Inu) class decided to attend the JCAW Japanese New Year Celebration in Washington, DC. Many fun activities could be found at the event and the food well… that’s another story for another time (was amazing just being honest!).

To continue, we are all gathered in a circle with the kendama toy in our hands trying to go for different tasks that can be performed. My goal was to try to get on all the levels. Each level was different, where on one side the kendama was slightly bigger, on the other side it was slightly smaller, and on the very top was this knob for the tama to land on and stay. It was fun to watch all my friends try to get to the different levels as well. But as we concentrated on our task, all that could be heard was plip-plip-ploop-plip-plip-plip-ploop… then the pace picked up and some of the plips with some of the ploops were jumping over each other.

Our attention turned to a couple of skilled people, and as we watched, the game got interesting. It was intriguing to be a beginner at something and have someone skilled to show us what can be accomplished with time and patience. Just like in class, when we were at this event the learning did not stop just because it was a new day. Rather, because it was a new day, we were exposed to a new learning environment, one in which we were vulnerable from the second we stepped in and had to get moving to understand what was truly going on. So, as the plip-plip-ploop-plip-plip-plip-ploop went on, we continued to give each other advice on how to get through each level.

I was very proud of this because it was difficult to get on the hardest level! That’s all for now. Thank you for reading and make sure to comment about what you enjoyed from my day off and in the New Year Celebration here in Washington, DC.

Adorning Hope

Photo: @zackowicz, courtesy National Cherry Blossom Festival

By Asa Marshall

Comforting assurance and pride
The freedoms promised to all
Men were created equal
Not dependent on race, religion, or status
Radiant are the pinks and stone whites as the sun crowns them
Hope and faith
Struggles of the past are reminders of why we should be grateful everyday
Symbols of peace
Anticipating the blessings the future brings

Kemushi-chan (Loretta)

By Alexx Thompson

When I saw Sally had posted a Kemushi-Chan (Loretta) video in our Facebook group, I was beyond excited. She is one of my favorite YouTubers to watch for foreigners experiencing Japanese culture, and I’ve been watching her for years. I really like her drive and how motivated she is, and I can relate to her a lot. We both started learning Japanese when we were around high school, but she is obviously really good now. The entire video she did was her speaking in Japanese, minus a few sentences in English for an example. I was really blown away and she’s been one of the reasons I want to become a translator and I want to be able to speak as well as she does. Check it out for yourself:

The video Sally posted was about Loretta explaining how in Japan the voices the store workers use to welcome people is very interesting. It’s kind of a loud nasally sound and they say “irasshaimase!,” but then she goes on to say it’s not their real voice, and normally they don’t speak that nasally. She was really surprised at first when she saw and she wondered why they didn’t just speak normally. I thought it was extremely interesting and I really wanted to know how it developed into what it is today! She then compared it to America in that when we go to a store, usually store clerks have a “customer voice,” if you will, and I thought that maybe it really wasn’t that different after all. Especially since I’ve noticed that the worker voice is higher pitched while talking to customers, kind of like a robot, or a set of lines. So even though it is shocking at first, it’s still kind of similar!

Sharing appreciation

Before winter break, we asked students to take time to express appreciation or recognize the accomplishments of one or two of their Japanese Plus classmates. The results:

Angel: Asa, thanks for always having a smile on your face. It’s really nice talking to you. You make the learning environment brighter.

Maria: I like how Angel tries hard and takes lead of our group. I also appreciate how both Carlos and Luis did the performance the other day alone.

Cyrus: I like hearing Alexx and Theo’s Japanese, because it sounds close to what I’ve heard in media.

Asa: I’m thankful for the encouragement of Lucca for helping me practice and also Che for being the person to help lighten the mood and make me laugh.

Chetachukwu: Carlos is a nice and funny person. It is really helpful and helps me grow educationally. Asa is a funny soul and I like her skirts.

Alexx: I’d like to thank Che for always being on point. She did a lot for our group and was really responsible. I’m glad I have her in my group. I’m also thankful for Gabe who always works really hard. He inspires me to push myself even harder.

Gabe: Jonah, keeping the class always positive and giving heartfelt thanks to visitors. Alexx, for helping a ton in my group, especially during the skit.

Jazmin: I would like to thank Theo and Elena for helping me a lot when learning my katakana. They always make me laugh, and I’m glad to have them in my group.

Katie: I’m really happy that Asa is here with me since she told me about this program and that she’s been with me this whole entire time, even if I am annoying to her. I’m also really happy that Jazmin is here since I can ask her about Japan since she has been there and that she is someone I know who can be there for me.

Jonah: Carlos is very optimistic and a good friend always willing to help. Kenny seems to always want to learn and never bummed and is fun.

Arjernae: I’m proud of Alayshia for being dedicated and not quitting even with people telling her to. I’m proud of Cyrus because he’s one of the few people I see and he acknowledges me when I come to class. Also he’s becoming more open and not as shy as he was in the beginning.

Theo: Jazmin is a very hard worker and I really respect her drive. Alexx has a strong grasp on the language and I find her very impressive in general.