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

A New, New Year’s

By Asa Marshall

Anticipation had the best of me the whole week before this glorious event of sounds, tastes, smells, and sights all combined into this congregation of culture. The coldest winter air couldn’t stop me from attending, as if this moment alone would change everything forever. In a way it did. It opened my eyes and ears to a new world unfamiliar to mines that was special and intriguing. The food caught my eye right away through the crowds of people, many of whom I’ve never seen before, all together as a single heartbeat. A mass array of faces that showed pride in who they were. The beats the taiko drummers molded echoed through my body as crashing waves on a rock in the sea. It was all so beautiful. If I ever get the chance I would go again, forever wanting to be a part of something new, appreciating everything I learn.

This year the Japanese New Year’s Celebration in Washington hosted by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington D.C was held at the Marriott at Woodley Park on the 27th of January. It was a joy filled all day event from 11am to 3pm, and I enjoyed every bit of it. It is held in DC every year, but this was my first time attending. There was a lot to do and I was grateful for the tickets purchased for us by Japanese Plus. I brought my cousin along because he also wanted to experience Japanese culture. There were many stands full of snacks and toys and novelties to buy the moment you stepped in. It was also considerably cheap and well managed.

I’ve never seen so many Japanese people in the D.C area, and it was such a welcoming atmosphere. There were sections for activities, some of which you had to buy tickets for, and it was so fun to do calligraphy and play with kendamas. There was one part I would never forget and that was seeing the Shinto shrine set up to offer prayers for a good year to come. Though it wasn’t big, it was very beautiful, and recently learning about how to pray at the shrines in class was very exciting for me, knowing that I know how to do it properly.

My favorite part of the whole event was of course the food and it was so packed, and the lines were so long it made me anticipate the food even more. I had gyudon, which is a rice bowl with beef; taiyaki, a red bean paste filled fish shaped treat; takoyaki, a ball filled with octopus; nikuman, which was a pork bun; and a refreshing bottle of ramune to top it off. It was such a feast and I wanted to keep going back for more, but my wallet said no. It is such an amazing event and I hope to go again next year!

Adorning Hope

Photo: @zackowicz, courtesy National Cherry Blossom Festival

By Asa Marshall

Comforting assurance and pride
The freedoms promised to all
Men were created equal
Not dependent on race, religion, or status
Radiant are the pinks and stone whites as the sun crowns them
Hope and faith
Struggles of the past are reminders of why we should be grateful everyday
Symbols of peace
Anticipating the blessings the future brings

Sharing appreciation

Before winter break, we asked students to take time to express appreciation or recognize the accomplishments of one or two of their Japanese Plus classmates. The results:

Angel: Asa, thanks for always having a smile on your face. It’s really nice talking to you. You make the learning environment brighter.

Maria: I like how Angel tries hard and takes lead of our group. I also appreciate how both Carlos and Luis did the performance the other day alone.

Cyrus: I like hearing Alexx and Theo’s Japanese, because it sounds close to what I’ve heard in media.

Asa: I’m thankful for the encouragement of Lucca for helping me practice and also Che for being the person to help lighten the mood and make me laugh.

Chetachukwu: Carlos is a nice and funny person. It is really helpful and helps me grow educationally. Asa is a funny soul and I like her skirts.

Alexx: I’d like to thank Che for always being on point. She did a lot for our group and was really responsible. I’m glad I have her in my group. I’m also thankful for Gabe who always works really hard. He inspires me to push myself even harder.

Gabe: Jonah, keeping the class always positive and giving heartfelt thanks to visitors. Alexx, for helping a ton in my group, especially during the skit.

Jazmin: I would like to thank Theo and Elena for helping me a lot when learning my katakana. They always make me laugh, and I’m glad to have them in my group.

Katie: I’m really happy that Asa is here with me since she told me about this program and that she’s been with me this whole entire time, even if I am annoying to her. I’m also really happy that Jazmin is here since I can ask her about Japan since she has been there and that she is someone I know who can be there for me.

Jonah: Carlos is very optimistic and a good friend always willing to help. Kenny seems to always want to learn and never bummed and is fun.

Arjernae: I’m proud of Alayshia for being dedicated and not quitting even with people telling her to. I’m proud of Cyrus because he’s one of the few people I see and he acknowledges me when I come to class. Also he’s becoming more open and not as shy as he was in the beginning.

Theo: Jazmin is a very hard worker and I really respect her drive. Alexx has a strong grasp on the language and I find her very impressive in general.

What are you most proud of?

Before winter break, we asked our Japanese Plus students to reflect on their time in the program so far, and to share what they felt most proud of. Here are they answers:

Angel: I’m proud of the onigiri that I made and improving in katakana.

Maria: I am most proud of the self-introductions we have learned.

Cyrus: I guess just being able to talk to new people and not be a complete mess.

Asa: I’m most proud of me mastering katakana but mostly gaining more courage to speak out and meet new people.

Che: The fact that I memorized all my katakana. I know most of my combinations.

Alexx: I’m most proud of my speaking abilities in terms of public speaking. I’m not very good at speaking loud and clear, so I’ve been really happy with how far I’ve come.

Gabe: I went from knowing one Japanese word to being able to introduce myself and knowing katakana.

Jazmin: I’m most proud of my speaking skills, because I’ve improved a lot since the last time Eshita sensei taught me some phrases when I was in “Japan in DC.”

Katie: I’m really proud that we finished learning katakana and mastering it. I really thought it would take a long time to learn.

Jonah: Learning katakana and meeting with new people.

Arjernae: Learning basic Japanese is what I am most proud of (katakana, introduction, writing).

Theo: Probably the feeling of mastery over a different alphabetical system to the point that I recognize meaning relatively quickly.