Japanese Pop Comes to CHEC

Kana Uemura Event-12

Ka-na performs.

On Wednesday, October 18, 2018 the students of Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) received a very special treat, courtesy of the Embassy of Japan. Ka-na (Kana Uemura), a New York City-based Japanese singer-songwriter, visited the school in recognition of the upcoming launch of CHEC’s new Japanese language program. The event was hosted by CHEC principal Maria Tukeva, and was attended by about 50 enthusiastic high school students, many of whom plan to enroll in one of the new Japanese classes scheduled to begin in January 2019.

The Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy, Mr Kazutoshi Aikawa, introduced Ka-na, and also used the occasion to present a blown-up check to Principal Tukeva, representing a salary assistance grant to CHEC from the Japan Foundation in support of its new Japanese language program. Mr. Aikawa presented a second check from the Japan Foundation to Sally Schwartz for continued support of Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program.

CHEC students were mesmerized and charmed by Ka-na’s musical performance – both vocals and guitar – held in the high school Library. In 2010, Ka-Na became a national star in Japan with her acoustic ballad, “Toire no Kamisama” or “Goddess of the Bathroom,” a heartfelt and moving song about her memories of her grandmother, which she sang during her afternoon performance. Her repertoire also included her new song, “Happiness,” other Japanese songs, and even a Michael Jackson cover.  At the conclusion of her singing, Ka-na warmly answered questions, took photos, and signed autographs with the students. It was a wonderful afternoon. The students can’t wait for Japanese classes to begin!

Columbia Heights Education Campus has hosted Globalize DC’s afterschool Japanese Plus program since fall 2016. Last school year, with an initial grant from the Japan Foundation-Los Angeles, Globalize DC offered a single Japanese I course to CHEC students during the school day. The class quickly reached maximum capacity, and led to CHEC’s decision to build its own Japanese language program, the first of its kind in a DC public school. Globalize DC will continue to work with CHEC as a community partner to nurture and help build community support for a strong Japanese language program that will benefit our city’s young people.

We thank the Embassy of Japan for their ongoing encouragement and support.

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A Visit from Mr. Tobias

Occasional writing from the Japanese I class at Columbia Heights Education Campus.

By Tim B

To help our class gain some perspective, Takahashi-sensei asked one of the staff members in the school to give a presentation to our class about his experiences with Japan. The staff member that came was Mr. Tobias, and he walked in dressed with a headband and a shirt that was gifted to him by his host family. Mr. Tobias is the technology coordinator for the school, and it is his job to organize the laptops and IPads in the building. He told us that he lived in Japan for a year while he was on a religious mission to teach English. Also, he recounted various stories about how daily life is different in Japan than in the United States. Later on, he ended his speech with how the experiences really shaped his life and his goals.

Mr. Tobias’ speech on Friday highlighted some really interesting things about Japan to me. One of the things that he told us about Japan was the advanced technology and cleanliness in the culture. He mentioned that department store bathrooms have stalls with water jets and blow dryers. He also mentioned that he felt safe enough in Japan to walk around late at night. Furthermore, one part of Japan that he loved specifically was that the technology there sometimes hadn’t even been released in America. Another important part was the respect that Japanese people show each other. The Japanese culture that Mr. Tobias described got me really interested and motivated in going to Japan someday.

Mr. Tobias’ presentation had a really positive impact on me. His presentation motivated me to travel and connect to people. Someone asked him, “Did you ever feel discriminated against in Japan for how you look?” He replied with a lesson, and said that “What people can see about you is only the tip of the iceberg; you have so much more about yourself that people will only ever know if they talk to you.” It really stuck with me, and I could relate since I am the only one that looks like me in my school. According to him, his experience with Japan working with people is the reason why he does what he does today. The time he spent working on learning a language and getting to know very different people shaped him and really had an impact on him. In conclusion, I hope that I can study hard and learn Japanese so that I can meet new people and find my passion just like Mr. Tobias.