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.

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.

Visiting TOKIYA JAPAN

By Asa Marshall

On Saturday, September 28th, 2019, I visited TOKIYA JAPAN. It is a little shop next door to Hana Market, which is a small Japanese market. TOKIYA JAPAN is a kimono shop located at 2002 17th St NW, Washington DC. I visited a couple times before, because it is a very quaint shop and it’s very cozy and welcoming. This shop actually is a place where you can buy pottery and jewelry made with traditional Japanese methods and designs, as well as trying on and buying kimono. I often visit this little shop every time I go to Hana Market, because it’s really interesting and everything is so beautiful. This time however, I noticed that all around the shop there are pieces of historic information about the pieces, and also how to properly wear yukata (kimono worn in summer).

I was really captivated by all the trinkets and art pieces in the shop and I think it would make a nice trip for the class, because we did recently discuss an article about the foreigners wearing a kimono incorrectly. I’m sure it would make a cool learning experience and it might be very fun because I’m sure many in the class would want to try on kimono!

 

Asa’s Final Reflection

By Asa Marshall

My point of view on the ways you treat people made me more mindful. Learning and understanding the different ways people function in society in Japan compared to the US is quite different. I noticed the ways Japanese value respect on almost another level, and they seldom confront or try to purposefully antagonize others. This is also possibly due to their society being so homogeneous compared to ours. In their society I think a big factor in the ways they treat others and think is due to everyone having the same or similar points of view, and there being one constant role of tradition between most of the people, which establishes the way people act and approach life and others for many generations.

In the US, our country is very vibrant and loud, and there are people from all around the world who don’t always share similar ideas or views of life. I feel that compared to Japan, people are less considerate of people and at times this can be an issue, though both societies can have flaws just alike. I learned that it is important and also good character to always prefer peace and take into consideration the feelings of the other person in any situation.

In my life, this class highly influenced me, and I had a changed mindset about how I treat others and the ways I approach others. It helped me make new friends and build stronger bonds with others.  Manners and the way you treat others plays a significant role in Japanese society and is valued more than in America at times. There are patterns I observe within our own country that reflect the individualistic mindset of Americans which sometimes makes it difficult to be mindful of your conduct and how others should be treated and appreciated. Respect should be valued and should be shown to all people respectively. Learning about the ways Japanese people interact and the mindset they value, such as embracing imperfections, which is known as wabi sabi, and working together for a common goal, has influenced me greatly in the aspects of how I approach others and myself. I learned to value people and the flaws of life and learn to work with them to become better.

Reflections of the Sakura Matsuri

By Asa Marshall

On Saturday, April 13th, I woke up super early anticipating the events of the day. It was the long awaited Cherry Blossom Street Festival in Washington D.C. I rushed over with Katie to 7th Street on this hot and hazy day. The festival didn’t start yet and after alerting the others to our arrival, we decided to explore and find our way around before it got crowded.

I was amazed at how big the festival would be and it was my first time after years of wanting to go. I was excited to eat and buy cool stuff, but I was also excited to help out at our booth we had at the festival. I worked two double shifts and it felt like they would never end, but it was shocking to see the crowds pour in. So many different faces, people from all around the world. The rush of trying to get people over to our booth was almost overwhelming, but after a few tries I was more motivated and confident to go up to people and tell them about our program. Also, seeing the many people that volunteered to participate in our video and quilt project made me really happy to see what passions others had for Japan.

It was an amazing day and I am already super pumped to go again. Hopefully the next time I go, I will be a lot more prepared for facing the crowds! I learned a lot about my own self confidence and the motivations of others and I wouldn’t ever regret that experience.

Cherry Blossom Opening Festival – Mochi

By Asa Marshall

On the 23rd of March, some of my classmates and I attended the National Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony. It was held at the Warner Theater at 513 13th St NW, Washington DC. My favorite part was Yusaku Mochizuki or “Mochi.” He is a professional Japanese diabolo juggler and he previously competed on “America’s Got Talent.” His act was very exciting as he told the story, history and transition of the jugglers and the acts with Japanese roots. He utilized fantastic visual arts and graphics which made the performance almost hypnotic. I remember watching his act on TV and I loved and applauded his skill. Seeing his performance in person was an exciting experience and it was beautiful. Before the show I was very excited when I heard he would be performing live. The intricate designs and the music were thrilling. I was breathtaken as he threw the diabolo in the air and caught it with the ease of breathing. He also incorporated tap dance and he had multiple outfit changes as he showed the progression of his skill through the years.

I had so much fun at the event and I could hardly sleep afterwards. The entire program was beautiful and I was grateful for the opportunity to attend for free and I appreciated the sponsorship from the Japanese Embassy to allow us to attend because it was a very exciting cultural experience that I would have even paid to attend.

Wa-Shokuiku

By Asa Marshall

During our time in class we were invited to partner with Wa-Shokuiku, which was an online program under the organization, Table for Two, which is a non-profit organization that works to tackle world food imbalances and world hunger. The Wa-Shokuiku program was being tested for usage on teaching students about Japanese food and food culture. The program’s goal is to educate students about Japanese cuisine, healthy eating, and Japanese food practices.

This program was really fun to be a part of, and we even had an onigiri (rice ball) workshop in class! We participated in this for about a few months at the beginning of the year. When we were told about the Wa-Shokuiku program, I was most ecstatic about it. I love food and I am very fond of the Japanese cuisine and I was a consistent user of the program. At times it was used for homework, but in my free time, I loved watching the videos and doing the different activities. I actually learned that I had a more extensive knowledge of Japanese cuisine than I knew, and I felt smart and well engaged in the program.

When time came for the testing program to end, I was quick to volunteer to participate in the video conference with Jazmin, Alexx, and Eshita sensei, along with the program’s project leader, Sheri Lupoli, to discuss how we felt about the program.  We were asked a series of questions about the program and how efficient and enjoyable it was, and ways they could improve it or implement it into the curriculum. For the most part, we all took turns discussing the various questions and giving our opinions, but out of all of us, I talked the most and I even surprised myself at the level of passion I had for the program and about everything I had learned or implemented into my life.

For example, I elaborated on the ways I used what I learned at home, and I was even more passionate about cooking and Japanese food etiquette. I often spoke on how the program would be very beneficial for furthering cultural teaching in class, and supplemented the curriculum very well. When questions were asked, I was quick to give an answer, even though when I first volunteered to participate, I was quite nervous. That experience was one of many that made me more self-confident and enhanced my speaking skills.

Many in my class knew I had a passion about food and anyone who knows me can say the same, and I enjoyed that program more than anything. I really hope we all gave good feedback in order to make it better! When the time comes, I will be ready to be a part of the program again!

If you want to learn more about their program you can check out these links!

https://www.wa-shokuiku.org/

http://usa.tablefor2.org/home