Rugby tattoos and cultural conflict

By Lucca Bey

Lucca wrote this post after a classroom reading and discussion about the Sept 18, 2019 Washington Post article, Rugby World Cup stars will cover their tattoos at times to avoid offending Japanese hosts.

With the date of the Japan Bowl coming closer and closer, we’re really beginning to dive into the intricacies of Japanese history and culture, as well as their crossroads with cultures besides our own. One of the really interesting points of conflict we discussed as a class was actually about conflicting cultural aspects that were introduced in this article about the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which we analyzed as a class. Since Japan is hosting the Olympics in 2020, there’s going to be a mecca of cultures intersecting, but specifically the Samoan rugby players. But first allow me to provide some context.

In the American Samoa, tattoos (commonly referred to as Tataus within the Samoan language) serve as an extremely important cultural rite of passage. Tattoos date back to more than 200 years in Samoan culture, and are representative of the hardships, status, and a mark of pride that are only to be worn by Samoans.

However, Japan has a very complicated history and associations with tattoos, more specifically crime syndicate associations. In Japan, those who wear and proudly display tattoos are considered to be part of the Yakuza, going as far as to ban tattoos in the 1800’s. The real question I find myself asking is: To what extent does honoring one’s cultural traditions go too far? While Tattoos have an important cultural significance to the Samoans, that significance is seen in Japan for a very different reason.

This is what I find the most interesting about studying Japanese culture, a whole world of extra cultural interconnections happen, and you start to view things around you through a more global and educated view.  What do I personally think the correct course of action should be in this case? After a bit of reflection, I feel that it’s not my place to decide what’s objectively right or wrong. Cultural conflicts are always subjective, and it’s especially important to keep being open minded.

An Exciting Summer!

By Alexx Thompson

This summer I had a blast and worked with our super awesome director Sally Schwartz on a publication entitled Japan in DC. Throughout the summer we met up with people who had strong connections to Japan as well as went to places related to Japan. It was my first ever official job, and was a really helpful work experience. Getting to meet people who are so closely connected to Japan was a great experience, especially since I plan on having a Japan-related career in the future.

The work was pretty similar to our Japanese class, but now I had to interview them. The interviewing was a little nerve wracking at first, especially so since me and Tara were coming up with the questions! I was mainly in charge of photography, so I finally used my photography class knowledge and pulled out my Nikon D40 camera and snapped away! I got to meet people like Robin Berrington, who served as a cultural attache for the US government in Japan, and I even got to visit the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence for a fun summer barbecue!

Throughout my summer I managed to learn how to use the metro, as well as time management, and professionalism. Since all of the writing I did would be going into a book, Sally also helped me on improving my grammar and diction, and as I enjoy writing it was nice to get some critique on how certain images convey things, and also when to insert my own thoughts or hold them back! It was really fun and I’d love to do it again!

The Ambassador of Japan’s summer barbeque

The traditional tea house at the Ambassador’s residence

Back to Karuta

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

We are back to Japanese Plus year two school year! We are starting off with a game of Karuta, a game where a speaker sings Japanese poems and the players have to look for a card that matches what the speaker sings. It was my first time playing Karuta, and it helped me get back to reading hiragana as review. Hiragana is one of the three Japanese scripts for writing. I did not know how competitive Karuta is until I saw my teammates and the other players kept on snatching the Karuta cards within nanoseconds. I barely had enough time to read some of the Karuta cards myself.

Playing a game with my classmates made me feel happy that I got to see them again. I hope that this year all of us can grow and achieve things together. Hopefully, this year we would have the opportunity to go to Japan and make a lot of memories! I am also happy to see my teacher Eshita Sensei and my coordinator Sally Schwartz again.