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

Japanese Plus student heading to Japan for university

Jonah Nguyen-Conyers with Eshita-sensei after sharing the good news!

Jonah Nguyen-Conyers, a senior at DC International, has taken advantage of just about every Japan opportunity that Globalize DC has been able to offer to DC students. He first joined our Japan in DC summer program in 2017. He was a participant in our Blue Star of Life program at the Kennedy Center the following fall, and was included in our February 2018 KAKEHASHI trip to Tokyo and Gifu. He then took the very serious step of applying to our Japanese Plus afterschool program in fall 2018 as a Level 1 Japanese language student. He is currently in our Level 2 class. Jonah is a unique, joyful, and intellectually curious personality, and has been a great member of our Japan-focused community.

So it was with great excitement that we learned the wonderful news that Jonah has been accepted into Temple University, Japan Campus, to start in September 2019. We believe that pursuing his language and culture studies at a Japanese university will open doors to future career and life opportunities that have been percolating in Jonah’s imagination over the last few years with us. We are so excited for Jonah’s accomplishment. This will be the first student from Japanese Plus to make the big choice to pursue his undergraduate education in Japan. A former Japan in DC student, also from DCI, is now in her first year at TUJ.

We asked Jonah to reflect on his Japan journey, and to consider the impact that Globalize DC’s Japan programs have had on his life and future goals. Enjoy!

Ted Adams, Eshita-sensei, Jonah, and Sally at the Blue Star of Life program

Jonah’s Reflection

I think people should invest in Japanese Plus because this is just an awesome opportunity for students like myself to find motivation and a passion for their own success. Japanese Plus was able to guide me in ways that no other programs or organizations have, making sure their students experience enriching and impactful opportunities. All the things we did in the class allowed me to be more focused and passionate about my love and interest for Japan, with echoing effects that transcended the classroom and into my daily life. I really am happy I was given the opportunity to be a part of this program.

I was motivated to sign up for Japan in DC in 2017, because I had some kind of interest in anime, and the summer program was quite close to my house, and I got paid (through the DC Summer Youth Employment Program) to go. After the experience in Japan in DC, I really felt invested in the Japanese culture, and wished to learn more. So the Japanese Plus language class really was the best opportunity for me and my interests. I am beyond happy with my choice to join the afterschool Japanese language program.

The most significant aspects of Japanese Plus for me were the extensive access to very enriching opportunities that revolved around Japanese language and culture, along with great influence on the opportunities available after high school that related to college, giving me a lot of foresight of what opportunities for higher education in Japan could be for me and the other students in the class. This class allowed me to look into my future from a Japanese language student perspective and see a future I never knew I desired.

Japan in DC, Japanese Plus, and the KAKEHASHI trip to Japan were the foundations I needed to understand the way I wished my life would go in. These opportunities that I never thought I would have really just allowed me to see a future that I can work hard and be passionate about. I really just loved the whole journey that I’ve taken to get to where I am now. Without these opportunities I honestly think I would be less passionate and dedicated to my future.

I decided to apply to Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ), as the process of getting the information from my friend and website and other means were quite efficient and fit my life during the time of applying. I was hoping to apply to other Japanese universities (and still might), but this was one of the schools I was able to apply to through the Common Application, for which I was given a lot of guidance through my school, as it is a nationwide application service. So applying to TUJ at the time was a great choice when considering my own circumstances and the other things in my life.

In the future I wish to go to college, and learn the Japanese language to the extent and fluency of a native speaker, and be able to share and communicate with Japanese people, hoping to understand their lives and culture, something I will be learning forever. I hope to go to college, get a Japanese language degree, be an English teacher or art teacher, and just have the experience of being a part of this vastly different country. After teaching I don’t know what I might do, but I would love to reach back to my Chinese and Vietnamese passions and get more invested in those parts of my identity, maybe through the Peace Corps. As long as I am learning at all points in my life, I will be happy, and that’s what this future can provide for me.

Jarid’s super inspiring visit

By Lucca Bey

This week during Japanese Plus we actually had a very special visitor come all the way from George Washington University to talk about their experience with learning Japanese. What’s more, our visitor, Jarid, more or less started their journey into Japanese language the same way that we did (with Globalize DC and the TOMODACHI program), which I have to admit was super inspiring. As senior year seems to be approaching faster and faster every day, the more stories such as Jarid’s seem to strike a chord with me.

The fact that something as small as a Japanese class can end up guiding my career and shaping my life isn’t something that I took seriously as a possible reality until this year. Talking to Jarid and asking her questions really gave insight into the reality of studying in Japanese class in postsecondary education. While Japanese is something that’s more personal to her that she wants to pursue, she’s also studying Biology and Education, and hopes to go to Japan in order to make language accessible, as well as to understand different education concepts around the world to learn how people learn. She announced to the class that she’s going to be applying to the JET ALT Program to pursue this goal.

Having people like this, coming from the same city, program, same schools even for some of us, who come in and show us that the sort of career that we dream about is indeed achievable, is really awe-inspiring for us, making our goals seems even closer than before!

Tale of the Crane

By Katie Nguyen

The Tale of The Crane is a story about how a man saves a crane that was about to be killed. Soon after, a beautiful young woman comes to the man’s house for a night’s lodging. She later marries him and reveals that she was the crane who the man had saved. So she then promises him a long and prosperous life and returns to being a crane and flies away. This story illustrates how doing good deeds will be later rewarded. This handscroll was made in the Edo period in the early 17th century and was created by ink, color, gold, and silver on paper.

The reason why I decided to choose this artwork from our visit to the Freer was because it reminded me of a vocaloid song, originally by Rin Kagamine & Len Kagamine, called “Seasonal Feathers” sung by Youtubers Lyrratic and SirHamnet. The song is based on The Tale of The Crane, however, the ending is different. In the song, after the man saves the crane and gives her a place to stay, the crane falls in love with the man and was scared that the man would not love her and abandon her because she was a crane. During the summer, the man grows ill while working in the fields, but does not have enough money to buy medicine and cannot earn any more because of his illness. The crane decides to weave cloth to sell, however, she uses her own feathers to make the cloth. The two eventually died later, the crane from overworking and the man from his illness, and it is revealed that the man knew that she was a crane all along, but had still loved her for who she was.

Check out the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0dvRMnmN2w

A Walk Around the Tidal Basin

By Alexx Thompson

Have you ever been to the Tidal Basin in Washington DC? It’s an amazing place with strong ties to Japan! How, you might ask? Well you’re about to find out!

This time, we all met up at the Freer Sackler Gallery of Asian Art, where we headed in to enjoy their Japan collection. In the collection we all stared in awe at gorgeous paintings and pottery alike, and took in the beauty of it all. After the museum, we left off towards the Tidal Basin.

At first, I thought we were only going to view the cherry blossoms, and the stone pagoda, and the stone lantern, however there was a little bit of a twist. Once we arrived, Sally and Eshita-sensei explained the rules of the game. For the entire time touring the Tidal Basin, we could only speak in Japanese. Soo… NO ENGLISH!!! Everyone instantly became nervous, none of us thought we’d be able to speak for that long. In my case, it was as if all my Japanese had flown right out of my head! A few of us even joked about doing sign language so that we could at least try and pass the challenge.

Then, it started, and we set off. The start was a little shaky but I found myself making good conversation. I joked about eating sakura tree ramen, as someone had asked me what I was eating, as I hadn’t the faintest idea what to even say/talk about! The time flew by honestly, and we were able to convey what we were trying to say, as well as sharing new vocabulary through miming! We arrived at the stone lantern and still, not allowed to speak English, we learned about the history, and snapped a pic with it! Then we kept going on, joking around in Japanese and also playing music for unknown reasons. But the music was all really good! Soon after, we arrived at the stone pagoda, and we learned about the different levels and what element each represented. Having to translate it all into Japanese was cool, as we found we already knew most of the words and their kanji!

By the time we’d circled back around and realized we were back where we started, we couldn’t believe it! It was almost as if it’d only been thirty minutes! We all looked at each other in amazement and were really proud of ourselves! We’d managed to have fluid conversations together for an entire two hours! All in Japanese! It was really encouraging to see how far we’d come and we were all super excited! We can’t wait to do it again!

Girls Playing Kickball

By Asa Marshall

The artwork I saw at the Freer Gallery was “Girls Playing Kickball,” which portrayed a scene from the Tale of Genji, which is a great work of literature written by Murasaki Shikibu in 1008. This piece visualized the scene when the courtier, Kashiwagi, is playing kickball and he sees the Third Princess behind bamboo blinds, but in this painting the gender roles are reversed with a man watching a group of girls playing the game.

This piece was made by Kawamata Tsuneyuki in the 18th century, which is considered the Edo period of Japan. The story behind this work interested me partly because I love the Tale of Genji. The fact that the gender roles were reversed in this revisited version of artwork was interesting because I wondered why the artist made this alteration. To me it gave an impactful presence, because oftentimes women are spotted by men, but seeing the women active and engaging in sport activities, while the man being more hidden and reserved, is very different to other artworks where women would be portrayed as the more subtle character. It was a great contrast to what ideals would be considered more traditional and I like the simplicity of the artwork.