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.

Hana Market

Ah! Look at all the food!
I glance at the small corner packed with curry, ramen, bread, and snacks.
Bowls, novelties, fresh produce, and pounds of rice.
Everything looks amazing!
Enticing and exciting.
I am greeted by the owner, “Good Morning”
Yes! An opportunity to practice speaking Japanese,
“Ohayo Gozaimasu!”
I am speechless, this small hole in the wall,
Packed with stuff I can’t find anywhere else.
I can’t stop reaching for more.
Filling my basket to the brim,
Later realizing
I didn’t bring enough money.
I buy what I can and promise to return for more,
Often it is a treat to visit.
          By Asa Marshall

Hana Market was such a nice place to be in. Although it was small, the market had many Japanese goodies that were hard to find in other stores, let alone DC. My first time there I was like a child in a candy store. I was really excited to be there, there were lots of snacks, sweets, and many more. I wanted to buy almost everything in that market but I didn’t really have much on me, so I bought whatever I could with what I had and even got some of my siblings some snacks. I loved how they don’t charge you for tax, so I didn’t have to worry about extra money to give or to give back. I also liked how their shop was really small and cute, so that I wouldn’t have to get lost or be too absorbed into everything. I wish I can come back to the market and try all the other food that was there and so that I can bring back some food for my family as well.
          By Katie Nguyen

You can experience Hana Market for yourself through our video here: https://youtu.be/dh7ZtpTG5yE

If you would also like to go to the Hana Market, then their address is 2000 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, and they are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Sackler Museum Visit

Asa Marshall

On Saturday December 15th, the class went on a trip to tour the modern Japanese art at the Sackler Museum. The artwork that got my attention was The Pond at Benten Shrine in Shiba. It was from the Showa Era made in 1929 by Kawase Hasui. I felt really drawn to this painting and I really loved how it looked. To me it seemed beautiful in the sense that it captured the beauty of nature and the elegance of traditional Japanese fashion, which I loved the most. For me, the colors had a very neutral tone which I loved and was perfectly accented by the dusty pinks of the flowers.

The trip overall was super fun and informative. It really helped me further visualize Japanese culture through their art history and progression. It was really exciting to see the different styles and imagine what the meanings were behind the strokes or color choice. I never went to the Sackler before and I know I want to go back really soon!


On Saturday, November 3rd, our Japanese Plus class was visited by Mr. Yuuki Shinomiya of Septeni Global (formerly of International Student Conferences), Mr. Hiroyuki Takai of Sumitomo Corporation of Americas and the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, DC, and Mrs. Aoi Takai.

By Asa Marshall

Today we had visitors in class. I was super excited because we heard about their arrival during our Wednesday class. I knew I was going to enjoy whoever came and I made sure to bring my camera to class that day.

Class went normally, and tension rose in me in anticipation for their arrival. When Eshita-sensei announced it was time for us to practice our self-introductions, I felt my heart drop. I knew I could introduce myself, but I felt more nervous that I would make a mistake when it was my turn. I practiced to myself and recited to Katie hoping I wouldn’t stumble over my words. Then when I thought I was super prepared, I saw them come through the door. Everything that I was going to say completely escaped my mind. My focus was on getting my camera out, so I could help Sally take pictures. I took deep breaths as Maria and then Lucca did their self-introductions and soon it was my turn. I stood up and I was frozen. I struggled to remember everything that I planned to say, but then I closed my eyes for a bit and focused. “Hajimemashite Asa desu…” I was able to give my introduction. I sighed a breath of relief when I sat down.

As each of our guests spoke I felt so encouraged to continue to study Japanese, because they all talked a bit about how knowing other languages can help you understand other’s cultures and the way they think. It inspired me, and I felt determination to study harder and continue to do my best, because I want to connect and understand others’ perspectives, especially if I get to visit people in different countries and gain a deeper understanding of myself in the process. As class came to an end, I was happy to be going home to eat, but I hoped they could continue to share their experiences with learning English. I hope they come again. They spoke so well and were fun to listen to and were my favorite out of the guests we had so far!

This picture I took was probably not the best quality, but I connected with it because when I took it, I thought of a student’s perspective and it seemed inspirational, and I felt it expressed the wonderful environment we are in; where we get to learn and discover new things.