By Penelope Morris

On Saturday, February 11, Japanese Plus students went to the Hirshhorn Museum to view an exhibit on Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. For me personally, it was the second time I’d seen Kusama’s work, and it was an amazing experience to revisit.

Upon walking into the gallery, visitors are greeted with several panels of information about Kusama’s life – from her psychological condition, to her time in the United States, to her current global recognition. Then, you enter a room dominated by a gigantic yellow pumpkin covered in black polka dots – one of Kusama’s most well-known works. Visitors are allowed to walk around the pumpkin and observe the intricate work up close.

One of the most amazing parts of the exhibit for me were Kusama’s two mirror rooms. Although these chambers appear small from the outside, when you enter the space seems to go on forever, thanks to the mirrors covering all four walls plus the ceilings and floors. The first room is reminiscent of a psychedelic garden, with the floor covered in white-with-red-dots abstract cloth forms. The second room reminded me of a spacescape into which Kusama had again incorporated her signature polka dots – this time in the form of luminescent neon circles on spheres of varying sizes floating in an otherwise pitch-dark room.

Exiting the exhibit, I felt calm, despite the bright, busy nature of Kusama’s work. I found that her use of space and recurring patterns lulls the mind into a trance. It was a pleasure to experience the work of this amazing artist again.

Seeking a part-time Japanese teacher for our SY2023-24 Japanese Plus program

Globalize DC is currently seeing a dynamic, creative, and committed part-time Japanese language teacher for our Japanese Plus program next school year. This will be to teach year 2 of a two-year Japanese language sequence. We have a highly motivated group of teens from eight different DC public high schools who are currently in their first year of Japanese with us, and they will need a new teacher for their second year of the program.

Japanese Plus is our innovative free afterschool Japanese language, culture, and career exposure program for DC public high school students citywide. Review this page, the student blog, and the full www.japaneseplus.org website for more information about our Japanese Plus program.

We are now seeking a dynamic new part-time Japanese teacher to co-lead this program. Interested? Download the job announcement here:

We will fill the position as soon as we find the right candidate. Please share this announcement with anyone you think might have an interest.

Consider making a real difference in the lives of our DC students. Globalize DC’s programs are among the few opportunities available to them – at no cost – to pursue their avid interest in Japanese language and culture.

Any questions? Contact sally@globalizedc.org.

Visiting the Yayoi Kusama exhibit with Japanese+

By Thalia Garcia

On February 11th, 2023 I and the Japanese class went to the Hirshhorn Museum in DC to visit the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. We were all excited to see the wonderful artwork and go through the interactive art pieces. I think everyone was excited to go through the “one with eternity” floating ball pits. A lot of the students had “omg” reactions, the colors were vivid and were something out of the ordinary. Kusama’s artwork was amazing to look at but the background of her work and the deeper meaning of her work had a bigger impact and made you understand how she is as a person and how her work reflects that way. Going to see the exhibit with a group of people is a good experience but I would recommend going alone because you could take your time to read the captions of each art piece. The exhibit will last until July 16th 2023!

Our Japan in DC summer program is back – and we’re recruiting!

In March 2020 we were excitedly working to get ready for that summer’s JAPAN IN DC program. But then COVID struck and all in-person programming was cancelled – everywhere. What an incredible disappointment! If you know JAPAN IN DC, you know that it was created to be an in-person, experiential program for DC high school students. It wouldn’t be the same online. So we’ve waited out the pandemic, and with fingers still crossed, we finally are looking forward to the relaunch of JAPAN IN DC this summer 2023.

With generous support from the United States-Japan Foundation, we have funding in place. Now we’re looking for super interested DC public high school students and two Program Leaders to make this all happen.

About the JAPAN IN DC Program:  Over six weeks (June 26-August 4), students will move around the city to explore and experience a wide variety of people, places, organizations, businesses, government agencies, and cultural institutions in DC with connections to Japan. This is a really fun program – and life-transforming. Students will document their experiences through writing, photography, and other creative expression. This free program will be offered in partnership with the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (MBSYEP), which allows registered students to earn summer pay for participation. Any students even considering applying for JAPAN IN DC should be sure to register with MBSYEP before the February 28 deadline.

To Apply for JAPAN IN DC: Globalize DC will select students for JAPAN IN DC through a citywide application process.  The program is open to DC public high school students (DCPS or charter). Click below for more program details and to submit an application. We plan to accept up to twenty (20) students.

Please help share this information with interested students and parents, as well as teachers, partners, and others who can help us spread the word to DC high school students throughout all 8 wards of the city. You can use the link to our JAPAN IN DC webpage, which will be updated with new information as it develops.

And here’s a downloadable 2023 JAPAN IN DC STUDENT FLYER.


We are currently recruiting two Co-Teachers to lead this summer’s JAPAN IN DC Program. Ideal candidates would be secondary teachers, international education professionals, JET alumni, graduate students, or others with relevant experience. This is a fun program, for students and adult leaders, with significant movement across the city. High energy, dedication to high school student learning, and knowledge of DC geography a must.

Anyone with questions can email sally@globalizedc.org. Thanks for helping us spread the word about this great (paid) summer opportunity for DC teens.

Feeling nervous . . . and then

By Zitlaly Hernandez

You know when you feel nervous when entering a new school year, or entering a restaurant where you feel pressured and overwhelmed by the menu? If you do, that’s how I felt when I entered the Z-Burger and saw the Japanese students ordering and talking with their friends. If you don’t, I don’t know another way to explain it…sorry. When I entered the Z-Burger I was so nervous not from the fact that there were Japanese students in my presence, but from the idea that I would forget every conversation starter that I practiced with D’Amonie on the way there. Not only did I forget, but I felt bad when I didn’t know how to start a conversation with them. 

I know they were able to tell how nervous I was. But I had nothing to worry about in the end, because they were really friendly, not only that but they were understanding. When I was eating lunch Ayana, one of the first people I met, was open to talking to me in English to help me out. We laughed mostly because she could tell that I was nervous, but she was nice about it. 

When we arrived at the church, I was less tense and started to get more comfortable. It’s not that I wasn’t comfortable, it was just that my anxiety was getting to me so I didn’t really feel good. But again, when on the way to the church, I had a chance to calm myself down. During our visit at the church, we learned more about Japan and the United States relationship after the atomic bombing. When we were walking and observing the hallways, where the art of kids who were victims of the atomic bombing was displayed, we had a chance to converse with each other on what we thought about the art. In addition, we talked about how complex it is to answer a question from being outside of the situation. For example, we were asked, “How do you think Japan and the United States come to have a good relationship, especially since the United States was the one who ordered the atomic bomb to be sent?” My group, which consisted of 4 Japanese students and 3 Globalize DC students, we all agreed that it was a difficult question to answer. 

During the end of our visitation, my group and I were told to try to converse in Japanese to help us (1) get to know each other, and (2) to help us (Globalize DC students) with our Japanese. At first I started to get anxious again and started stuttering. Though I was anxious, the fact that Koua, Tomoya and the rest of our group were willing to share their likes and dislikes. Me and Tomoya bonded the most since he was the person closest, especially since we both like Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande.

In the end, I found myself finding it funny how I was so anxious about meeting them, but in the end I found myself upset at the fact that we had limited time together and how that time was coming to an end. 

We all waved goodbye and went our separate ways, but not before promising to each other that we’ll keep in touch. All in all, it was an experience that I will never forget! 

Meeting Japanese Exchange Students

By Aitana Camponovo

On February 5th, Japanese Plus students received the amazing opportunity to get to know a group of Japanese exchange students who came to DC for an afternoon. It was especially exciting because of the exchange of cultures and languages that took place that day, where everyone tried their best to understand each other despite each other’s major differences.  

One of my favorite parts of the exchange was meeting Yui and Tomoya. While I was so nervous I could feel my heart in my ears and my hands shook as I tried not to drop my cheeseburger, out of the spur of the moment I decided to pick a seat in the first booth I found. This seat would later become the best decision I had ever made, because though I did not know it at the moment, my day was about to completely change its course. 

They told me they both came from the same school in Hiroshima and happened to be the same age as me. I asked them how long they had been studying English: four years. They asked me: three years. We talked about each other’s interests: why do I like Japan? I have always wanted to study abroad there, I told them, and then I asked what they thought about my hometown, Washington DC. They said they loved it and began to tell me about all of the things they had done so far, where they were planning to go next, and when they would leave. I learned Yui is great at calligraphy, her grandmother is a teacher for “sadou,” Japanese traditional tea ceremony, she is on the volleyball team, while Tomoya plays baseball, and his friends call him “Bacchi” for short. I learned there are two different types of “okonomiyaki”; one from Osaka and Hiroshima, though the Hiroshima one is obviously better. Most of all, I learned, after talking with these two for hours, that regardless of one’s language and culture, people will always be people. We still make the same jokes, laugh at the same things, and share similar views of life despite our homes being hundreds and thousands of miles apart. 

The only sour part of my day was having to say goodbye. The three of us promised we would see each other again soon, whether it be in America again or in their country, Japan. We took our final photos together and made sure we had each other’s contacts saved. Though it was short, I know I will never forget this day and the people it brought me close to. 

Kakehashi in DC

By Margarita Munoz Salazar

Yesterday February 5th, Globalize DC was able to meet with 18 high school students from Hiroshima, Japan, thanks to Kakehashi.  We were notified of the meeting around 3 weeks before the set date, so the whole class started studying more than ever. We had a sheet of paper with questions we wanted to ask them and basic Japanese phrases to use. I was so scared of messing up my Japanese that I would stay up revising lines like なんさいですか (How old are you?) and なんねんせいですか (What grade are you in?). Ms. Sally told us a few days before that the Japanese students would probably be shy and that we would have to initiate conversation, but that was the farthest thing from the truth. 

When we arrived at Z-burger in Tenleytown, we got to finally meet the students by having lunch with them.  I was able to sit down with こうあさん (Koa) and こはなさん (Kohana), along with D’Amonie. At first I was really nervous that I forgot a lot of my Japanese and I was only able to say what my name was. But that was not a problem because both Koa and Kohana were so nice that we were able to ask each other questions in both English and Japanese. It was so fun to ask them about what they like, what shows they watch and what type of music they listen to (K-pop). It was nice to see what things we have in common even though we live so far away. 

When we were on the bus to the church, where we would continue the rest of the activity, I sat next to あやなさん (Ayana). She was probably the most social person I talked to and was so easy to talk to. Getting to know how excited she was to be here and talk to me in Japanese was very exciting. When we finally got to the church I was more confident in my Japanese. I also got to sit with こはなさん (Kohana), まいかさん (Maika), まやさん (Maya), ちひろさん (Chihiro) and かえらさん (Kaera). There we were all able to talk about our family, what we like, and I was able to learn some Japanese ‘slang’ that I would never learn in a classroom.  Unfortunately, it was soon time to say goodbye. Although most of us were able to exchange Instagrams and take many pictures together, we still didn’t want to end the conversations. But I am confident enough to say that I have made new ともだち (friends). 

This whole experience motivated me to get even better at Japanese. Being able to communicate with native speakers my age was probably my favorite thing that I have ever done in this program. I will always remember this moment and smile with joy. I hope to one day be able to meet my friends again whether it be D.C. or in Japan.

Kakehashi x Globalize DC

By Chamiya Carnathan

On February 5th, 2023, Globalize DC met with Kakehashi, a program where students of Hiroshima Global Academy and Akifuchi High School visited Washington D.C. from February 1 to 8, 2023. On February 5th, I met new friends that I hope to see again. The Kakehashi program traveled to all parts of DC, visited a lot of museums, and visited high schoolers in Virginia. We didn’t know that we would have the opportunity to meet with Japanese students until three weeks ago. At that point, I knew that I had to study more in order to practice my language skills. I thought that I was so prepared to meet them with three sheets of practice questions. I was so wrong.

The day started with Globalize DC meeting up with Kakehashi at Z burger at Tenleytown, Washington DC. After we ordered our meals, me and Penelope Morris paired up to interact with two Kakehashi students. I was extremely nervous and I constantly went over what to say in my head. I began with はじめましてシャマイヤです (Hello, my name is Chamiya). They told us their names and at their point, I met りょうごさん (Ryogo) and としさん (Toshi). We conversed in both English and Japanese (mainly English) and I asked りょうごさん (Ryogo) “Purple”ってにほんごでなんですか”. It’s むらさき. I continued to meet new people throughout the trip such as れいなさん (Reina), こうあさん (Koa), かえらさん (Kaera), and many more. Everyone was super nice and I loved hearing the reasons for why they are studying English.  

I thought I was prepared to talk in Japanese but I messed up words and I forgot how to say certain phrases. But once I was talking to my new friends, I realized that it was okay to mess up. They helped me with saying what I wanted to say. We helped each other out as としさん (Toshi) and りょうごさん (Ryogo) taught me and Penelope on how to use “まじ” which is basically the Japanese version of “very,” “really,” and “so.” We taught them some American slang and games like the finger game called “sticks.” Even though I messed up my Japanese, this exchange has made me want to continue learning Japanese. I sometimes had doubts on whether I should continue to learn Japanese but meeting them has made me rekindle my love for learning the language. 

This experience will forever be one of my favorite memories. I learned so much about Japanese culture from interacting with Japanese students for one day than I ever will from the internet. As we became new friends, we exchanged Instagram handles so that we could keep in touch. I will forever cherish this moment and I hope to meet my new friends in the future again. 

Visiting DC’s Japanese New Year Festival

By Penelope Morris

Last Saturday, Japanese Plus students went to the Japanese New Year celebration at the Metro Center Marriott to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit. At first, I was a little nervous about the festival because I knew there would be lots of people speaking Japanese and my language abilities aren’t yet at the level where I can make conversation easily. However, once we arrived at the venue, the festive spirit dispelled my anxiety and I began to explore the activities: there were lots of different things to do, like calligraphy, Japanese card games, and mochi-making.

One aspect of the festival that stood out to me was the food. Attendees had access to a wide variety of delicious Japanese food, like takoyaki (spheres of octopus), Ramune (a Japanese soda), yaki udon (noodles), and onigiri (filled balls of rice). My personal favorite was dango, which are rice flour dumplings served on a skewer and coated in a mixture of soy sauce and sugar. They were a perfect snack as we explored the festival and immersed ourselves in Japanese culture. The celebration was a great opportunity to learn more about how Japanese people celebrate New Year, and to practice the Japanese we’ve been learning in class!


By Jennifer Pineda

Happy Lunar New Year! January 29, Globalize DC attended the Marriott Hotel near the Metro Center that was holding a celebration for the Lunar New Year. An activity that my classmates and I enjoyed was the Hiragana card game, called Karuta.

To play the game one person reads a sentence off of a card and says the hiragana character. After the character is said, the rest of the players have to quickly pick out what character they said amongst the rest of the cards; whoever is first to get it and correct wins the card. The person with the most cards at the end of the game wins. When playing the game the cards had different images for each character. An example was some character was a train, another character was a cat to help you memorize them. I really enjoyed the game. It helped me practice my hiragana and made it fun to learn.

Although it was different from the way I learned hiragana, I definitely would recommend playing the game to learn and memorize hiragana.