The first time I walked into a Christian church

By Ana Nguyen

The first time I walked into a Christian church, I was 15 years old.

So, my family are Buddhists. Though I was raised with the statue of Buddha in my house, and my parents practiced Buddhist traditions and praying methods, it wasn’t strictly ingrained into me. Though churches here can have a welcoming atmosphere, no matter the area one is in, I felt really uncomfortable walking into that church. Religion wasn’t a huge thing in my upbringing, and I felt like I was trespassing on someone’s house.

From “A Geek in Japan,” I learned religion is entwined with the culture and daily life of people in Japan compared to the U.S. In Japan, one can be Christian and still go to a Shinto shrine to make a wish. Religion in the U.S. stays within the church or home mainly, and yes, people practice their religion in their daily lives, but it’s not widely done. That’s compared to Japan where saying “itadakimasu” before eating is a habit to say thank you for the food, but it also stems from a religious practice similar to giving grace. That separation of religion and school or work sort of creates a barrier. It’s amazing that religions like Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, or Shinto can cross over one another in Japan, while here it stays separate.

Flying Cards

By Ana Nguyen

March 11, 2017: The DC Inishie Karuta Club visited our class and we played a simpler version of karuta and a game called “Pick Up Priest.” Karuta is a card game in Japan that uses the “one hundred people” poems. In its simplest form, karuta is played by two players with cards laid out on either player’s side. A reciter reads a poem out loud and the players must grab the card with the poem on it first. That card is then removed. The person who is able to remove all the cards on their side wins. For our class we played in groups of four to five, with scattered cards in front of us; grabbing the card with the poem recited. Pick Up Priest however, is a game based on luck. Each player takes a turn picking a card, and each card will have a drawing that means: keep, take cards from person on the left, put your cards in the center, etc. The winner, like in karuta, is the person with the most cards in the end.

This was my first time seeing an example demonstration of karuta. I’ve heard of the game before but never understood the rules and just knew it requires reflexes and fast reading. Half of which, I didn’t have. The two players bowed to the reciter and then to each other. The first poem is read. No one moves yet. Then the second one is read, in a louder, quicker pace, then… ε=(ノ*^*)ノ三█ !!! The card, flew across the room. I think it hit the wall that was about 3 feet away.

I never knew how serious this sport can be taken. This game requires a lot of reflexes and speed. Which I didn’t have. I’m only a fast reader. I paired up with people with slow reflexes like me, hoping it’ll balance out the game. The reciter slowly read the poems for us, and scanning the hiragana…..failed. There were so many cards scattered around. I’m amazed by how the players before were able to find them within seconds of hearing the poem. Amazingly. I won! I was able to pick up 11 cards, with my slow reflexes. My only advantage was that I’m a book nerd who can read quickly. I enjoyed the whole event, and hope to play again.


Ana Nguyen

Wabi-sabi represents imperfection and incompletion.” It’s the idea or point of view, where things that are imperfect have an aesthetic value of melancholy and harmony but also wisdom. The American phrase for this is most likely, “nothing is perfect, nobody is perfect” which gives off a different message compared to wabi-sabi. It’s interesting how this philosophy or term is woven deeply into the culture. Wabi-sabi can be seen in a sand garden, art, stories or even in a person. Despite all of the phrases telling people here that everything isn’t perfect, our culture has many perfectionists and the imperfect things aren’t viewed positively all the time. A broken jar in Japan may be looked upon as wabi-sabi but in the U.S it’s seen as a useless.

Creating a mascot

Dakharai –

One of the first contests we had in Japanese Plus was the mascot competition. The class was divided into groups and we had to come up with a mascot design to represent the program. However, it had to display different virtues of a Japanese Plus student via a list we had made previously in class. Every group had their own contender in the battle for the best mascot. After a long debate to decide the winning mascot, which we accomplished by taking a vote, we all finally came to a consensus. Despite all the AMAZING creations that we formed from the creative juices of our minds, the winner was a totally KAWAII (very, very kawaii-desu), pink jelly holding two flags, made by Ana Nguyen.


Ana –

puni-puni-smallerInspired by the cute mascots from Japan, jello and the Pokémon ditto, punipuni was born. I wanted to make our mascot have a “kawaii” look, similar to the mascots of Japan but also simple so that it’s easy to remember and recognizable. While doodling on homework, I sketched several nameless forms along with a few cats and punipuni was born. Punipuni is holding the DC and the Japan flag in its hand representing Japanese Plus. It’s the only program in DC that offers Japanese to students and the mascot represents how we’re integrating more Japanese culture into DC students. The pink, formless blob represents how this program can take any shape because of the students in it.

Gift Exchange

Ana –

Everyone from the Shikoku University Kakehashi group was very nice and welcoming. As a person who has social anxiety, I was enjoying interacting with them and their presentations. It left a huge impact on me so I wanted to say/show how grateful I was. So we made these thank you note boxes with candy inside.

Daniel –

It was a bit tiring on my bones, but I did not regret it. I wanted to help make the gifts because I felt a need to show my gratefulness and give them the same happiness that was given to me. Both receiving and giving gifts left a huge smile on my face, and engraved good memories in my mind.




Nengajo Contest

By Ana Nguyen

The Japan Information & Culture Center (JICC) holds a nengajo contest near new years where the winner receives a new years goodie bag called a fukubukuro. It was the year of the rooster and everyone in our class made a nengajo. Everyone had a different design. One person drew a chick hatching, another person drew muscular roosters, one person drew a robotic rooster with aliens. Below are a few examples of what our class drew.







And me, Ana: