Remembering 3-11

By Katie:

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami began on March 11, 2011 with almost 22,000 deaths. I believe that to preserve the event and to honor what had happened, we should have a moment of silence and learn what happened on March 11, just like on September 11 when the twin towers had fallen. We should also be more supportive and caring to the victims of the earthquake/tsunami. I was thinking that we can integrate at least learning a bit of Japanese to honor the Japanese victims and I feel that others should be aware of what happened. It is really heartbreaking to see that Japanese victims are still recovering from an event nine years ago. Even after watching 10 mins of the film that Eshita-sensei and Sally showed us, I was pretty shocked by the impact of the tsunami and was disappointed in myself for not being aware of the effect the tsunami had on residents.

By Jazmin:

The Great East Japan Earthquake was a tragedy. I can’t imagine the loss of those lives who were swept from the tsunami in Northern Japan. An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0, gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. In order to remember this tragic event, I think by more people being aware and or learning about this tragic event is one way to honor what happened there. There are others who don’t know anything about the 3/11 Great Earthquake. Another way we can remember this event is to visit areas that were affected by the tsunami, and help those in need. There are still people who haven’t fully recovered from the Earthquake. We can visit people in those areas and we can hear their stories. It’s one way we can connect with them, and can resonate with them one way or another. When I watched a clip while the tsunami was happening online, I saw people running to higher grounds. Those who ran faster were missed by the tsunami by mere seconds. The tsunami ran about 6 miles inland, and caused an accident at the Fukushima Nuclear power plant as well. It’s sad and heartbreaking that over 18,000 people died. I hope in the future, there are ways we can avoid this tragic event from repeating itself and doing things differently to prevent it from happening again.

By Theo:

I’ve been thinking about the events of March 11, 2011 for a while now and how I, as both a student and an American can honor the loss of so many people. I confess, I still haven’t found a satisfying conclusion, but for now I am content in submitting my philosophical ramblings for a wider audience.

I believe it’s honestly rather hard to sympathize with someone an ocean away, and harder still to empathize with them. Understanding can come easy; loss is, after all, something everyone experiences multiple times throughout their life and that shared experience breeds a shared understanding. Empathy, however, requires one to take the extra step and to share the same feelings as another person. Of course, emotion being so nuanced it is impossible to truly understand and to truly feel the depths to which an individual experiences loss and as such, we only feel empathy in a broad sense. In my experience, this vague form of empathy is present even among close relations, be they family or friends, and thus it should come as no surprise that our already incomplete empathy is spread thinner and thinner as it looks further and further away. The result is that, at least on a personal level, I cannot empathize with the many Japanese people who lost both possessions and relations at a truly meaningful level. Instead I’m left thinking “I’m sorry” or “that’s so sad.” The issue I have with these thoughts are that they exist to placate my own desire to empathize for fear that a lack of empathy would make me a bad person. Personally, after a great deal of thought, I don’t believe true empathy is necessary, nor is it a reasonable request for Americans in general to hold any deeper emotions than those on the surface when discussing Japan.

What I do think is necessary is understanding, recognition, and respect. Even if you cannot feel what the many people who lost their loved ones feel, it is important to realize where that feeling stems from and to respect the depth and enormity of such feelings. For an American, I believe this attempt is one of the best things one can do for those who know loss from a world away.

By Aeris:

Natural disasters are a very real and very scary threat in our lives. Some of us may be safe from them, and others see so many it’s as if they’ve survived a war. In class, we watched a short documentary showing the horrific tragedy that was the earthquake followed by a tsunami in Tohoku, Japan on March 11th, 2011. The class fell into a petrified hush as we watched people try to rescue people from the waves only to be pulled in themselves. From people describing how they watched their friends and loved ones be swept away in front of their eyes, to others recounting their narrow escapes from death. I think I was honestly near tears… I don’t even think I had noticed the subtitles and could honestly hear the pain in their voices which greatly upset me. Unlike in many situations, there’s always a way you could learn from the past, but having to write about this felt very weird, I feel like this is not my place to speak about it, it’s not my trauma to unpack. Many people only had moments notice before they were able to get away, and even those who did get away to evacuation zones also got swept away. Over 18,000 people died in the tsunami, and the rest came back to towns that were completely washed away. Many towns still look like they did after the tsunami today. I know there are also still many relief efforts going on and it reminded me of a story I heard from a JET participant, who spent their days off volunteering to help clean up in some of the affected towns. I would like to help with those efforts when I go to Japan.

By Jonah:

There are too many emotions running rampant after any catastrophe. All are appropriate for you to experience. There are pains and aches that will plague anyone after a loss this large, which are appropriate feelings. Time can only heal, and it always will take time. There will be better days and there will be more time to heal, there will be more opportunity to recover from this loss. Be sure to make the most out of each moment and live to the fullest, each moment should count.

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!

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!!

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!

 

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!

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