Japanese reflections on a visit with Hokusai

On Saturday, February 8th, our Japanese Plus group had a special day outside the classroom. First we went to the Freer Gallery of Art to visit the very special exhibit, “Hokusai: Mad About Painting.” We are so grateful (again) to good friend of the program, Robin Berrington, who was our extremely knowledgeable and interactive docent. Then we walked across the Mall and into Chinatown – we were only allowed to speak Japanese the whole time! Last stop was the National Portrait Gallery, where we stopped by a painting by Japanese American artist, Roger Shimomura. Then Eshita-sensei asked students to write about their day – again, in Japanese. A fun challenge!

Cyrus サイラス

今日クラスでフリアーサックラーにいきました。 フリアーサックラーはびじゅつかんです。ツアーをしました。北斎のえを見ました。きれいとおもった。ぼくのすきな北斎のえは「Storm Personified」です。らいじんとしんとうがすきですから、おもしろかった。

Aeris エリス

フリアーサックラーにいきました。ロビンさんは私達のガイドでした。ツアーはとてもおもしろかったです。北斎のえはかんぺきでした、たしかに北斎はよくがんばったとおもいました。びじゅつ学校に入っていますから、本当にたのしかった。ロビンさんはとてもじょうずなガイドでした。私の一ばん好きなえはおしょうがつの女シリーズでした。スタイルはじょうひんだとおもいました。もう一回見に行きたいです!:D

Theo シオ

フリアーでとあるひとのれきしをみました。ツアーのあいだにほくさいさんのえはかわって、もっとうつくしくなりました。あのさいごのえはわたしのいきをとりました。あのいろとかげがとってもすばらしかった。

ツアーもすばらしかった。そしてロビンさんはちしきがありすぎました。ロビンさんからいろいろならえました。そして、わたしはたぶんひとりでもっとべんきょうします。つまり、たのしかったです。もういちどいきたい。

Jonah ジョナ

ほくさいはほんとうにゆうめいです。私の一ばんすきなえはらいじんです。ロビンはいいガイドです。ぜんぶのほくさいのえは、かっこいいです。

Jazmin ジャズミン

ふじがすきです。

みずがいちばんすきです。

ほくさいのまんががすきです。でも今のまんがはわかりません。

Katie ケーティー

ほくさいはおもしろいです。Gazing into the Distanceがいちばんすきです。ふじと男の子があります。きれいでくろいです。

Lucca ルカ

大きいびじゅつかんにいきました。このびじゅつかんはオバマのえがあります。私は2018ねんにみました。すごいですよ。日本のえもあります。日系アメリカ人がかきました。すごいけど、かなしいです。

みんなは三十分ぐらい日本ごではなしてみました。今日はさむかったですから、たくさんの人はコートをきました。でもジョナくんはコートがありません。みんなはほんとうの木をみました。この木はすごく大きいです。びじゅつかんのえもぐこし大きいです。そして、きれいでうつくしいですよ。

みんなはほくさいのびじゅつかんにいきました。ほくさいは日本のゆうめいながかです。ほくさいのえはほんとうにすごいですよ。そしてとてもちがいます。

 

JCAW New Year’s Event

By Aeris Golden-Thompson

This year I attended the annual 2020 Japanese New Year Festival Celebration, hosted by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, DC. I attended this event last year as well, but this time was a little different, and a little more scary for me! This would be the first year I was going alone! I’m a very shy and nervous person by nature, and on top of that, going to an event where I’d only be speaking Japanese totally freaked me out!

I was running a little slow that morning, and after some makeup mishaps, I ended up getting a huge clump of mascara stuck under my eyelash that I just couldn’t get rid of without taking off my entire makeup look!  So my vision was slightly impaired, as a black dot obscured the top left corner of my vision (;___;). I think the nerves got to me in my makeup application process. So much so that I was frazzled after leaving the house, only to realize I was a few minutes too slow, and missed my bus! I ended up just walking the two miles to the metro station closest to me because another bus wouldn’t come in my neighborhood for another hour!

Soon enough, I arrived at the festival, and found it was just like I remembered. I went over to what I thought was the ticket counter and handed them my ticket, but failed to say anything! What an embarrassment! After they tied the band around my wrist I mumbled out a quiet 「ありがとうございます。」、 And went into the festival!

At first, I noted that I couldn’t see very well, and put on my glasses to see better. It was just like I remembered! There’s a vendors row on the right when you walk in, filled with Japanese toys, snacks, and assortments of candy! On your left is the entrance to the games area, with karuta, a Japanese card game in which you have to listen to a speaker announce the first half of the poem and you have to find the card with the second half before your opponent, being the eye-catching attraction. In front of me was the shrine. It’s quite hard to miss, with the big red gates and all.

Now, I was waiting for my other classmates to arrive, hoping I didn’t have to explore the festival alone. My palms were sweating, and I ended up standing in a corner on my phone for a whopping total of: 20 minutes! I’m sure I stuck out like a sore thumb. The whole time my internal warning system was screaming at me to turn around and get out of there! I really felt like I might cry. The event is mainly for Japanese families, and everyone there seemed to know someone, even the people who weren’t Japanese came in a group of friends, and I felt so awkward for being alone.

Thankfully, Sato-san from the Japanese Embassy (who’s visited our class many times), came and talked with me, and that helped ease my nerves a lot! In the end, I gave in, and decided I’d enjoy the festival for myself, and take the chance to step out of my comfort zone. I made four goals for myself before I could leave the festival.

1st: I had to go buy food from the food stalls near the shrine.
2nd: I couldn’t leave the festival until at least an hour and a half passed.
3rd: I had to buy something from the vendors tables.
4th: I had to go get an omikuji (fortune slip; basically describes your luck and gives you advice to boost it) from the shrine.

I managed to complete all four!

First I went to get takoyaki, a fried ball of octopus topped with Japanese mayo and bonito (dried fish flakes), which by the way, was the best takoyaki I’ve Ever Had. Seriously, it was so good! All the tables were full, so I ended up sitting on the floor to eat it, next to a group of girls I didn’t know. This was hard for me, and I got really self conscious, thinking that people would judge me or stare at me for eating on the floor, but I focused on my food and kept going. Then I decided to get up and go get my fortune told!

I slowly walked into the shrine, and quietly waited in the short line to shake around the container. Once it was my turn, I shook the container too hard, and when I flipped it, two sticks dropped out! I could barely mumble out apologies as my brain was so frazzled and didn’t know which language to respond in! Thankfully, the girl handling the container was very understanding and handed me my fortune. Not to anyone’s surprise…. I received average luck. At this rate I might as well have received the worst luck ;o;! How many more times must I mess up at this festival, I thought exasperatedly, and moved to go buy something from the vendor’s table.

I ended up browsing the table for a while before selecting three Hello Kitty Marshmallow Chocolate Pies! I really liked that type of treat, as I’d had it before, and I also like Sanrio, so I was very excited to get them. Sanrio is a Japanese company that makes cute character merchandise! My favorite of the Sanrio character series is Little Twin Stars and My Melody!  I opened one of the packages to eat, hoping it was Hello Kitty shaped; however it was just a normal circle pie. No problem, because pie is pie after all! It still tasted great!

I went on to go stroll around the festival a little more, and then I noticed the time, and left to go home, feeling very proud and accomplished. I made a lot of mistakes, but it was a good learning experience, and showed me that I need to start practicing speaking more, and be more outgoing. I really started to have fun after I broke out of my shell a little despite making mistakes. I want to go again next year! Hopefully not alone, but if I am, that’s okay too! 😀

I also wanted to do this blog in Japanese to help improve my ability to talk about the events I go to, if you would like to continue and read below!

今年もJCAWの新春祭りに行きました!去年行くことがあるんですけど、今回は一人で行きました!すごく不安でした!ちょっと静かで内気な人ですから、日本語だけで話してることはとても怖いと思いました!間違えることを言いたくないから、よく何もを言いえませんでした。でも、頑張りました!

朝に、化粧して時は、むずかしかったね。とても不安になっていたから、マスカラは目に落ちちゃった! 顔に見てるなら見えないけど、私の視覚はちょっと悪かった。大きい黒い点があった!でも、祭りに行きました。

祭りでたくさん面白いことがありました!ゲームとか、おもちゃとか、いろんなお菓子がありました!最初に食べ物ストールに行きました。たこ焼きを買って、すぐに食べました!とても美味しかったです。そして、神社に入りました。おみくじはまあまあでした。(;___;)多分たくさん間違えることをしちゃったから。それで、お菓子は買いに行きました。テーブルでハローキティのマシュマロパイがありました!サンリオのことが好きなので、三個買いました。ハローキティの形ではないけど美味しかったよ!嬉しかったです。そして、祭りから帰りました。一人で行ったから初めにちょっと不安でしたけど来年も行きたいです!あけましておめでとうございます!今年もよろしくお願いします!

DC Multilingual Fair

By Asa Marshall

On Saturday, January 25th from 10am to 3pm, Japanese Plus had a booth at the 2020 Multilingual Education Fair of DC at Roosevelt High School, held by the DC Language Immersion Project that featured 150+ exhibitors, 18+ languages and career connections.

At our booth we were spreading the word of our program and getting contact information for those interested in applying for the next school year as well as those interested in pre-ordering the new Japan in DC book I was happy to be featured in. I was not that excited to work the booth at first, because it was my birthday and it wasn’t the ideal situation to be doing community service activities but I don’t regret it. I had the first shift from 9am to 11am and me and Katie helped Sally set up and work the booth.

It was cool walking around seeing all of the programs in DC I never heard of! I enjoyed the JICC (Japan Information and Culture Center) booth the most, because they visited our class many times and everyone was so nice and I felt accomplished when I could answer their mini quiz! I entered a goodie bag giveaway and actually won! I was also very interested in the many other languages and travel programs, and one I never thought was offered in DC was German.

There were so many great programs that students hardly hear about, so the fair was a great way to allow the public to get language and career connections. DCPS languages are very restricted to focusing on romance languages, such as French and Spanish, but it would be more helpful for programs such as ours and those of other languages to be more open, because students have far more interests than what school offers! If you get the chance, you should definitely consider attending next year!

Mind Over Matter: Ikigai

By Theo Greiff

Ikigai is a way of life originating from Japan built around finding and pursuing your purpose. Upon hearing this, I was incredibly interested as the idea of purpose is one very close to my mind. I’ve struggled with the idea of purpose for a while because my interests are so varied that I can never seem to find one thing I really want to do. Additionally, I’ve never subscribed to the idea of a preordained purpose so the solution I came to was this: we have no purpose in life except those we give ourselves.

With this in mind, I view Ikigai as a self-help guide to finding your self-appointed purpose. It is divided into four primary parts: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you are paid for. Where these four meet is your Ikigai. For example, if the world needs better food distribution and you love cooking but are skilled at management, maybe your Ikigai could revolve around food drives. The philosophy of Ikigai allows people to help the world at large while pursuing their own, personal happiness.

However, the effects of Ikigai are not solely immaterial and practicing ikigai has been directly linked to a variety of very real health benefits. Within the body, the mindset of Ikigai balances out neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and there is a negative correlation between Ikigai and anxiety. As a result, Ikigai is frequently cited as a potential cause for the longevity of Japanese people about which multiple texts have been written.

Responsibilities: A Complaint

By Theo Greiff

Japanese Plus has, for me, been one of the most enjoyable activities I have had over the past year and, importantly, was one that I pursued almost entirely on my own. That being said it remains a commitment and, no matter how much I may enjoy it, work is work. As such, I have decided to devote this blog to an unnecessarily meta discussion on the process and personal difficulty of writing a blog.

I should preface that my time management is, and has always been, abysmal. In school I consistently defer assignments to the last possible day and i do the same with my chores. I have an intense dislike of doing things I don’t want to do and I believe my consistent failure to manage this issue is the aspect of myself most in need of change. As such, it should be of no surprise that I am currently quite behind in my blog writing and as such am forced to rely upon the work of meta humor before you.

This being said, I am starting to view these blogs as a microcosm for my time management as a whole. Even if I have trouble with the stuff I don’t like, I should be able to do the assignments I choose to do which is, if nothing else, a start. Though I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, it seems appropriate to make one now dedicated to improving my ability to do the things I don’t want in order to do the things I do.

J.LIVE 2019!

By Alexx Thompson

Recently, I’ve attended the J.LIVE event for the second time! J.LIVE is an annual speaking competition for university students studying Japanese. This event is held annually at the GW campus. The competition is comprised of three levels – Level I, II, and III. Three students compete against each other in each tier.

I arrived in time for the second level, and I was really excited to watch the presentations. Since I’d gone the year before, I had a general idea of what to expect when I came, and I was grateful to find the setup was still the same. During the presentations, students usually have a slideshow prepared, and explain their topic all in Japanese. Then afterwards, they open up questions from the audience, and then the judges in Japanese as well.

There was one presentation that caught my eye however. Usually most projects I’ve seen while attending are experiences with Japan, or something relating to a research project. It’s a bit harder for me to grasp the concept of what they’re explaining since I’m usually not familiar with the Japanese terms, but one presentation was different!

A girl named Yiman Wang stepped up, and instantly my mind clicked in recognition as her title popped up, paired with the image of a gacha card from an idol game. Her presentation was called “Virtual Idol, Sena-kun.” I leaned forward in my seat, and watched as she explained that Izumi Sena, a virtual idol from the game Ensemble Stars (Enstars), was her inspiration. She displayed pictures of her making friends and even cosplaying as ways the game has helped her branch out and have fun in life. All because of one virtual idol.

I don’t know much about Enstars, as I don’t play it, but I have friends who like it a lot! I could also understand more of the vocabulary she used, as it’s something I’m very familiar with, as I’ve played idol games similar to it, like Love Live and Idolmaster (both which focus more so on girl idols). It was really nice to hear, and I also found myself agreeing with her presentation points, as in what makes us happy in life. What drives us to be great? Even something like loving a virtual idol can help us all get through the day! I could relate, as I find using fictional characters as encouragement is a great way to push through, and find happiness in the things you do in life!

Recently in my struggles in school, I was losing motivation, didn’t really feel like coming as it stressed me out too much. But I had started reading a new novel and found myself daydreaming scenarios of the characters urging me on, helping me find the strength to keep going when I felt like it wasn’t worth it anymore. I experienced a life-changing turnaround. I frequently showed up to school early and started becoming motivated to finish my assignments despite having none before! I know the idea seems rather silly, to rely on fictional characters for support, but it can help in more ways than you can really imagine.

After the presentations, the rest I could understand the basic idea, but not any specific details. We went to go browse the expo booths, in which there were various Japan related companies and colleges! I even saw Kinokuniya there to sell books and manga! They even had a copy of Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer), which is one of my favorite mangas that recently spiked in popularity, having sales that outsold One Piece which has been the long standing #1 for years! I really wanted to buy a copy, but unfortunately, by the time I’d circled back around, all the copies were gone! さすが鬼滅の刃ですね!

I got to see a lot of familiar faces, and some people had even recognized me from seeing me at various Japan events, which I was quite surprised to know they’d recognized me! At the end of the competition, and all the winners were announced, they introduced the new J.LIVE competition, now open for high school students! I really hope I can participate in it!!

My Ikigai

By Cyrus Johnson

We recently learned about Ikigai in class. Ikigai is the purpose of living, and is broken down into what you love, what the world needs, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for, ikigai being the intersection of all four. A lot of people believe that finding your ikigai and following it can let you live with more direction and for longer. When we started learning about it, we were given a packet to read with a diagram of the four parts of ikigai intersecting, and we were gonna go around and share what we put in each part.

I don’t know what the world needs, or what I’m good at, but I’ve been told I was good at picking things up and putting things together. I’m not too sure what that meant, but it would explain why I can learn Japanese easily. I like to play games and draw, so I put those in the “what you love” section, and for the “what you can be paid for” section, I put making games and selling my work.

After we all shared what we put on the diagram, Sally asked us what we would reflect on positively when we’re older, and we all shared. I said that I’d probably remember the people I did things with more than the thing I did, and that they would make up for the things I didn’t like in that activity. At my school, since we don’t meet any new students past 6th grade, we make really close friends with our classmates, and more often than not we end up going to school more because we want to see our friends than because we need to, or at least I do. We wouldn’t be able to meet other people without looking for a new thing to do outside of school, so I hadn’t met many new people until I started this class.

What I met, at the MET!

By Alexx Thompson

Outside of our lovely Japanese Plus class, I went on a field trip to New York with my school! I go to an arts training school, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which prepares us to work as an artist in the professional field, and there are various arts training departments you can audition into. I’m in the Visual Arts major/department, which means I learn a variety of art skills such as painting, sculpture, animation, drawing, and printmaking. Our first trip of the year was to the Frick Collection, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET).

Unfortunately, the moment I arrived in New York I had fallen ill, and could no longer keep up the enthusiasm I’d had prior to boarding. With great reluctance, I had to let my friend join a different group so I could leave the group to go get medication, and thus missed a great deal of the first museum. Luckily I was able to rush through it, although not to the extent I would’ve liked.

Still unwell, I made my way over to the MET, and had lunch, that was ridiculously overpriced, and overwhelmingly bland. However as I was ill, I didn’t really have any care for what kind of food it was. With new energy and my illness finally subsided, I’d returned to my earlier plan. The MET had an Asian art gallery, and I was determined to see the Japanese collection. I was beyond delighted to find a MET guide in Japanese, and used that to guide me. Not only that, I was more than happy that I could actually understand it enough to use it to get there!

Now that I was in the hallway leading to the exhibit, my excitement heightened as I admired modern Japanese pottery on display, noting the beautiful craftsmanship and effort put into it. My mother, who was accompanying me as a chaperone, was perplexed at the sight of one pot, exclaiming that it didn’t look as neat as the others. I thought about this for a moment before remembering the concept of wabi sabi—something I’d learned about in Japanese class—and explained to her that it was likely the artist’s intention for it to be that way. Or rather, nature’s intention if you will.

We finally headed into the exhibit and I was interested in the Chinese and Korean exhibits; however the exhibit for the Korean gallery was small, but still very nice. I also had recently become fascinated with the Chinese exhibits since at the time I’d started to read a fictional history/fantasy Chinese novel, and could now visualize what kinds of things the author drew on to create that novel.

As I exited the Chinese exhibit, I noticed two glass doors and atop them was a title reading: Sackler Wing Gallery! Now where have I heard that name before… None other than the Freer-Sackler Gallery of Asian Art! Thus I knew I’d found the Japanese exhibit and pulled open those doors to reveal a glistening beautiful glass statue of a deer. I gasped in awe and quietly made my way around each art piece, carefully examining each one, as well as the writing on pieces to see what I could decipher.

In many places there were very meticulously put together traditional rooms depicting historical architecture and interior design, or small enclaves displaying cooking pans and pots on tatami mats. My personal favorite however, was a large rock. To be more accurate, a fountain disguised as a large black stone. This is the Water Stone, created by Isamu Noguchi. Upon looking at the stone, I first thought it to only be rather shiny, but then I noticed the faint sound of water and realized that there was in fact, water flowing seamlessly over top the stone! It was very calming, and since the exhibit itself was quite silent, I simply sat there and enjoying sitting by it for a while.

Finally, I left the exhibit after looking around at all the pieces, and wandered around the museum until it was time for us to depart. Please do take time to visit the MET though, if you’re interested in Asian art, as their selection is gorgeous!

 

Applying Japanese to my life

By Asa Marshall

On Wednesday, November 15th, 2019, my AP Language teacher, Ms. Berke, gave us a prompt from the Pulitzer Center’s contest for an under-reported news story. We were free to choose any topic, write a letter to a Congressperson that discusses our opinions on an issue, and propose ways to fix it as well as why it is important to us and our community. I was really excited to do this assignment and even though I wasn’t eligible to enter the contest, because my news source of choice was not permitted, I immediately thought of ways I could use what we discussed in Japanese class, where we always read very interesting articles and discuss topics that could be connected to the rest of the world. I recognized one of the sites our teacher allowed us to use for the assignment, which was The Atlantic, and I found a publication titled, Scenes From the Aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis in Japan, by Alan Taylor, which was a collection of images from the disaster that happened around October 8th-15th, 2019. It caught my attention, because we recently discussed the article, Climate Change Could Turn the Tokyo Olympics Into a Disaster, by Eric Margolis from Slate, that discussed the growing concerns surrounding climate change, the effects it had in Japan, and new worries of how it would affect the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. I decided to use the photos to write my letter to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

A part of my letter stated that, “While this publication had no opinions presented, it can offer some insight to both culture and the environment which could greatly influence us in America by bringing up these topics of the worsening climate, while also reflecting on the differences in cultures and ideals that would be beneficial to adopt into our own society.” My main idea was to make comparisons to the damages of the earthquake and typhoon in Tohoku on March 11th, 2011, Typhoon Ida of 1958, and World War II, but also the unity of the rebuilding process. It is important to improve the environment and rethink pulling from the Paris Agreement, but it is just as significant to analyze the morals of Japanese society, which would greatly better America if we were to adopt a similar mindset of working for the community to reach common goals.

I was very passionate about my letter and I hoped to get a good grade because so far, my teacher was very impressed by how much I knew about the topic. She explained to me that being in Japanese Plus is an excellent way to become a better global citizen. From what she saw, many students had trouble fully grasping their topics, because they didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge. This made me feel very proud of my work, but also made me wonder if I wanted to explore more into political sciences and consider becoming a diplomat or ambassador after college.

I’ve always found it exciting to learn about other countries and the issues, commonalities, and differences we all share. For example, an organization I have been a participant in was LINKS Inc., which is a group of African-American women who meet with students in order to discuss international trends and is devoted to education and advocacy and volunteering in African-American communities. I’ve been a part of this program since 6th grade and on this past Tuesday, I met the Haitian Ambassador, His Excellency, Hervé Denis. This was one of the many experiences that made me really wonder if this was something I wanted to work on later in life. Being in both Japanese Plus as well as LINKS and taking part in the mini U.N for a couple years, while also writing the letter for the Pulitzer Center assignment, really inspired me to use my interests in history and culture to help me get a better idea at what I want to be when I grow up. I found these connections very intriguing and it is likely going to be an enlightening experience I will always remember.

Cleanliness

By Katie Nguyen

In Steve John Powell and Angeles Marin Cabello’s article on cleanliness, called “What Japan can teach us about Cleanliness,” the authors talk about how Japan keeps their streets and buildings clean and it surprises me how this is their everyday norm. In Japanese schools, kids are required to clean their classrooms and empty out the trash to keep it pristine as they have no janitors to do the job. They even leave their shoes in lockers and change into trainers to avoid picking up dirt as they come into the school. Also, on Japanese streets, there are no trash bins, yet people don’t litter.

The awesome seven-minute Shinkansen train-cleaning ritual video, provided in the article, shows how workers are able to clean and check at least 400,000 passenger seats in 7 minutes. You have to watch!

Japanese football players’ supporters in the World Cup football tournament, in Brazil and Russia, even stayed to help pick up trash from the stadium.

In addition, these are some other things Japanese do to maintain a clean place: bringing portable ashtrays, wearing surgical masks to avoid spreading germs, ritual purification in shrines, and many more. Compared to the US, American schools have janitors to clean classrooms and students are able to walk in without having to change shoes. Furthermore, you can see trash on the streets and sidewalks, even though there are trash bins almost everywhere in the US. In my opinion, America should really step up their game and start picking up trash to keep our streets clean so that maybe someday people too can question how we keep our streets clean like in Japan.

Here’s a link to the original article so you can read it yourself: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20191006-what-japan-can-teach-us-about-cleanliness