Che’s Reflection on Our Kakehashi Visits

By Chetachukwu Obiwuma

The Kakehashi visits in Japanese class were very insightful and caused a complete paradigm shift in my view of Japanese students. The idea proliferated by popular media dramatizes the true life of Japanese students. To understand the lives of Japanese students, you must first know if they live in rural or urban Japan. Rural high schools are more isolated and tightknit, but there was an eagerness we witnessed that did not necessarily apply to the urban group. Especially one of the girls, she was very adamant about us visiting Okinawa. They really were curious about the differences between us as students and asked a lot of questions about our daily lives at school. When explaining their daily lives, there were many more stark differences than what you would normally see in an anime.

In anime, you see a lot of kids in their uniforms, and of course, the women are hypersexualized while the men are made to look suspiciously grown up. This was not the case for the urban or rural students. While the girl from Okinawa did have some similarities to Sailor Moon, her uniform was not as depicted in anime. Also, some of the urban kids were in college and had no uniform policy. Another thing that I was surprised to see was that the rhetoric between students was not as formal as shown on anime.

Also, animes dramatize participants in clubs or bukatsu. For example, the anime Haikyuu makes volleyball seem so intense. Even looking at the anime Free, swimmers are shown as intense grown ups rather than teens. It is starkly different in real life. The level of intensity and dedication to sports differentiates between everyone. During one of the Kakehashi visits, there was one girl who said she played three sports, and there was another who played none at all. It was wonderfully enlightening to see the variation of club activity, with one person even giving us a martial arts display.

The conversations that we had with the students were not what I expected. We quickly bonded and talked about many things that happened in our daily lives. Although there were some language barriers, we tried to talk in Japanese and they also practiced their English. The importance of Kakehashi visits are not only to travel and make new friends, but to also dismantle assumptions made about a culture based on media portrayal.

Maria’s Final Reflection

By Maria Garcia

Have you ever tried something new? And afterwards you took away something very meaningful from it. Well, I tried something new this year. It has given me nostalgic vibes, those of two, maybe three years ago, which have propelled me to do better (as a friend once told me). Taking this class has enabled me to plan around my school work to make my hopes and dreams one step closer to reality. What I’m trying to say is that this class is not like a traditional classroom. We learn, eat, laugh, talk, and move around. And you might be thinking, “yeah . . . so what? All teachers have to make the class interesting.” But the truth of the matter is that we’ve lost Gabe, AJ, Luis, and a couple more. And all for different reasons, such as the stress of traveling to class, grades dropping in school, and the unwillingness to catch up to the class, just to name a few. Our class was made up of about 20 students but now we have a core of about 13 who show up every day ready to learn.

Change has been the biggest factor to us, which is why the word 春 (haru) is meaningful to me. I learned that haru meant “warm” from a TV show, and “spring” from Japanese students that came to visit us. The word makes me think of this class, since we used to be a larger class but now we are a smaller class. It has taught me to appreciate those around me and to take it day by day. I have been able to learn more about myself and my study habits. If we are told of a test, I am more likely to study than if no test were to exist. Without a reason to study, I lose interest, and to stay focused and keep up with work, I had to make tests for myself. Of course, doing so meant that I would know the answers, which led me to making many tests. This helped in one of two ways — first being to randomize the topics on each quiz, and secondly to keep up with my language. Since the kids from my class don’t go to my school, I had to find other alternatives, such as the flashcards I made in the beginning of the school year. They came in handy, and so I have been able to keep up with the language.

Asa’s Final Reflection

By Asa Marshall

My point of view on the ways you treat people made me more mindful. Learning and understanding the different ways people function in society in Japan compared to the US is quite different. I noticed the ways Japanese value respect on almost another level, and they seldom confront or try to purposefully antagonize others. This is also possibly due to their society being so homogeneous compared to ours. In their society I think a big factor in the ways they treat others and think is due to everyone having the same or similar points of view, and there being one constant role of tradition between most of the people, which establishes the way people act and approach life and others for many generations.

In the US, our country is very vibrant and loud, and there are people from all around the world who don’t always share similar ideas or views of life. I feel that compared to Japan, people are less considerate of people and at times this can be an issue, though both societies can have flaws just alike. I learned that it is important and also good character to always prefer peace and take into consideration the feelings of the other person in any situation.

In my life, this class highly influenced me, and I had a changed mindset about how I treat others and the ways I approach others. It helped me make new friends and build stronger bonds with others.  Manners and the way you treat others plays a significant role in Japanese society and is valued more than in America at times. There are patterns I observe within our own country that reflect the individualistic mindset of Americans which sometimes makes it difficult to be mindful of your conduct and how others should be treated and appreciated. Respect should be valued and should be shown to all people respectively. Learning about the ways Japanese people interact and the mindset they value, such as embracing imperfections, which is known as wabi sabi, and working together for a common goal, has influenced me greatly in the aspects of how I approach others and myself. I learned to value people and the flaws of life and learn to work with them to become better.

Theo’s Final Reflection

By Theo Greiff

Perhaps the greatest shift in my thinking that occurred while taking this class was the realization that there are others who share my passions to the same extent that I do. I have been looking to take Japanese since my 7th grade year and, throughout the process of pitching the language to my school, somewhere along the line I decided that Japanese was simply not a language many people in DC were interested in. This view was then further enforced last summer when I went to Concordia Language Villages for two weeks for a Japanese immersion program. While there, though I met many people from all across the nation, I never met any other Washingtonians, which served to support my misconception that my passions were not shared by those around me. It was with this mindset that I started Japanese Plus.

However, throughout the year as I met more and more people through the Japanese Plus program, I realized my previous views were wrong. The first challenge to this view came from my classmates themselves, who represented clear evidence that my passions were shared and, as the year went on, even more challenges began to pop up. Throughout the year, many visitors came to our class both from the US and Japan and provided further challenges. In particular, I remember Simon who is a simple middle school teacher that I would expect to have no relation to Japan, and yet he knew the language fluently. These challenges continued to demonstrate themselves throughout the year, but I believe the moment that truly changed my views was when I went to the Sakura Matsuri and witnessed just how many people felt connected to Japan. As I walked around the festival, I saw so many people in cosplay or anime T-shirts or other expressions of their passions and, while manning our booth, I saw even more people write down or draw out precisely what connected them with Japan. This experience, coupled with the many other experiences I had through this program, showed me that my passions were shared by far more than I had thought and that I may have more in common with a random passerby than I may initially believe.

Cyrus’s Final Reflection

By Cyrus Johnson

Through Japanese Plus, I learned that I should be a little more open to things. I experienced things I probably wouldn’t have if I were to stay in my comfort zone. Starting even with the application, I had trouble thinking about what to write for the essays. Before then, I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted to talk about, because in school I would just pick topics just to fit the rubric and get a passing grade. After that was the interview. I tend to stay quiet in most situations, especially when around new people. Since the interview was a group interview, I sat through most of it without talking, but towards the end I had to say something. It was kind of unsettling, but I spoke and apparently it was good enough to get into the class.

Then came the actual class. Like I said before, I don’t really talk around new people. But as the class went, I made some pretty good friends. And then came the worst part: the blog writing. Like I said, I didn’t really think about things to write, so picking something “easy” to write about, I wrote about not liking writing blogs. I think it was bad, but Ms. Sally liked it so I guess it was alright… And then, more recently, we went out for lunch at a Japanese restaurant. Normally, I’d be just fine with cereal, and I don’t really eat meat. At the restaurant, I tried the chicken yakisoba, and it was really good! After all of that, and after learning a lot more about Japan, I think I’d be ready for my trip to Japan this summer.

Kenny’s Final Reflection

By Kenny Nguyen

Being in Japanese Plus has given me more exposure, not only to the culture of Japan but also the way I thought of Japan as a country. Prior to being in the program, my reason for interest in Japan was mainly through the lens of anime. I had this idea that Japan was a happy country and the food was amazing, just like seen through anime. But throughout the program we learned about honne and tattemae which in my idea essentially meant characteristics of Japanese people. Tattemae meant to hide your true feelings about someone in order to cause them no inconvenience, and honne meant that when you’re drinking you are able to let your true feelings out and express your thoughts to the person, because you are drunk.

This idea of interaction between people at first was startling. Because being in America, where people always express their own feelings and intentions, differed from the interaction between Japanese people as they wish to withhold their own emotions in order to prevent any negative emotions among their fellow companions. This also affected how they interacted in group work. If someone was to stray behind and not put as much effort into the project as the other member, the person behind would be obliged to start lifting their own workload because of the way Japan standards are that they don’t inconvenience their fellow work members. Whereas in the U.S., people who stray behind in work projects tend to continue to let other people carry the work as they are too lazy to put up as much effort. This really gave me the idea that Japan, culturally, has put up standards that their citizens tend to follow. These standards are so rooted in their culture, from centuries and centuries of being respectable in the eyes of society, that nowadays people still uphold these moral standards.

Through this program I have seen how Japan is a major country that is intertwined with their cultural influences that affects their everyday lives. This changed the way I thought of the world and the idea of traveling. Not every country is like America and its people, and this makes me want to learn more about the world and the different countries and how everyone interacts with each other.

Katie’s Final Reflection

By Katie Nguyen

Food etiquette in Japan has greatly influenced my life as it has made me more respectful when eating at the table. Things like coughing or sneezing, sticking your chopsticks into rice, passing food, etc. is rude to do at the table. Coughing or sneezing is understandable, you wouldn’t want somebody accidentally spreading germs onto your food when coughing or sneezing, and is considered bad manners. Instead you should step out to do so or just hold it in till you are by yourself or if you were finished.

Sticking your chopsticks into rice is extremely rude as it is practiced in funerals. When I learned about this, I was reminded to never do this. However, my sibling has done it once, but it was slanted, however my dad got really mad at him for doing so. Passing food seems harmless, right? WRONG. Passing food was also practiced during funerals but instead of using food, they used bones.

Furthermore, in Japan, they also use different styles when eating like saying “itadakimasu,” meaning “I greatly received” (food), before you start eating as a way to show respect for the cooks who made your food.  After finishing, they say “gochisousama deshita,” meaning “thank you for the feast.” Finishing and clearing your food is also considered to be good style. If there is food that you don’t like, then you should tell your server to remove them in advance.

For drinking, you shouldn’t start drinking unless everybody has their drink and the glasses are raised for a cheer, “kampai!” When drinking alcohol, you should let others pour your drink or vice versa, because it is customary to serve each other. Some restaurants allow you to be drunk as long you don’t bother other customers; however, in high end restaurants, it is considered bad manners. If you don’t drink alcohol, then you can refuse to drink and ask for other non-alcoholic beverages instead. All of this made me aware of what to do when eating and gave me some future references if I ever wanted to go to Japan, like when I ever go drinking or eating with friends or co-workers.

Jonah’s Final Reflection

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

With Japanese Plus there have been so many opportunities that came my way and it really showed that many people want to aid me in my journey in being the best global citizen I can be. These opportunities that were given to me really aided in my outlook on life, and allowed me to see a future for myself that falls within my interests. Back when I was in Japan in DC, I was not initially interested in Japanese culture and globalization in general, as I am now, but that has changed for the best and has opened one door after another, while all at the same time really pulling me into the entirety of Japan and its culture.

During Japan in DC I was able to meet many amazing people who had connections to Japan, who were able to share its greatness, always pulling me into the next group discussion, the next outing, and much more. Me showing my interest in Japan during the program, I was able to continue my exploration of Japan and its culture, like the Blue Star of Life event, going to Japan, and then being admitted to this amazing Japanese language class. With this language class I have seen so many doors open for me and it really instilled the idea of people wanting to make opportunities for me and aid me in my future. Through this class I have been able to have so many opportunities to speak with Japanese people and have native people share what Japan really is, I have also been able to speak with colleges that want to provide further educational opportunities for my language learning, and bring the world together.

In all, this program shared the importance of globalization, and the ways the world is connected, and my place within it.

Alexx’s Final Reflection

By Alexx Thompson

I think throughout the year, I’ve changed a lot. In the beginning, I came in with prior knowledge, and unreasonably expected everyone to be on the same level. Thinking that way skews your judgment and holds you back from being able to actually judge people correctly. I used to be a bit harsher back then, not understanding why some people messed up on certain things, or why they didn’t grasp it as quickly. Then as I spent more and more time working alongside my friends and classmates, I began to really open my eyes.

Not everyone is going to be on the same level as you, whether that be lower or higher.

And that’s a good thing.

You can use these experiences to help yourself grow as well as helping other people grow. It’s easier to empathize with people knowing this. I know in the beginning a lot of things weren’t exactly easy for me, and it only became better with practice. So whenever I offered help I tried to explain it more, and practiced alongside everyone else.

You can’t help someone if you don’t try to put yourself in their shoes. Even if you try, it’ll just be extremely difficult. I was really glad to humble myself and get my mind out of the high pedestal I’d placed myself on. Everything is about practice and what resources are available to you. A fact of life is that everyone isn’t going to have those same resources.

Growing alongside everyone really helped me see that. We’ve all improved and worked our hardest. I’ve seen our classmates work really hard to achieve their goals and I was really inspired. It pushed me to work even harder than before. I really enjoyed playing study games and doing review with everyone. Especially the skits. It was really cool to see how everyone came up with new ideas and really were able to use their Japanese.

It was also fun playing karuta to learn Katakana and Hiragana. It was a nice and fun way to review with everyone, and we always had loads of fun. Once I let down my judgmental barriers about my class, I was able to open up easier and have more fun. Life isn’t black and white or this or that. It’s a fun scale of diverse people, and that’s what our class is. You can’t always like a person 100%, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically dislike them forever for one little thing. Embrace differences and look at yourself first. What can you fix about yourself.

From the bottom of my heart this class will definitely change the way you view the world, and yourself. I’m really honored to be a part of this Globalize DC class, and hope to continue with everyone to learn more!

Jazmin’s Final Reflection

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

One major thing I have learned in Japanese Plus is the importance of language learning. Before I came to Japanese Plus, my hobby was self-learning languages, but I didn’t learn much about the cultural implications within a language. What I mean by cultural implications is that there’s more to language other than grammar, sentence structure, etc. That is just the surface of the language, but there is also more to learn by asking why do you say this? Or why do you say that instead of this?

I’ve learned that there can be so many ways to say thank you in Japanese depending on how formal you are. I’ve experienced that too within my household and my family. There are certain things that I can’t say to my mother because I’m formal to her. There are different forms of saying “you” in Spanish, but I wouldn’t say the casual form to her. Learning some of the cultural implications in the Japanese language has made me appreciate more of the cultural aspect of Japan.

The cultural implications have also made me learn from my experience when I went to Japan in February of 2018. I went to Japan with the KAKEHASHI Project and fortunately I stayed with a wonderful host family – although back then my Japanese was so limited I could barely say thank you, somewhat formally. I would say “arigato gozaimasu.” It wasn’t until Japanese Plus, that I could say thank you really formal. You would say, “Domo arigato gozaimasu.” Although the addition was just “domo,” it was such a significant snippet that was added to the formality of the phrase to the extent it changes the casual to more formal. I remember my host dad saying my Japanese was good, but for me I still felt kind of guilty I didn’t know much Japanese.