Dakharai’s Sakura Matsuri

By Dakharai Murray

WOW…talk about an amazing day! The Sakura Matsuri was one of the most entertaining events I’ve ever attended in my life. There was Anime, Anime, Karuta, FOOD, and more Anime! However, before I get to that stuff, let’s take a step back and see what was going on at our tent for Japanese Plus (clearly the best tent at the festival, I mean that’s obvious).

At our tent for the festival, we had all sorts of events for pedestrians to observe or partake in. Despite our primary focus of entertaining the masses of younger children that attended the festival, we primarily attracted citizens of the high school age, which was surprising, considering the fact that we had coloring sheets, puzzles, and a picture song. Many people came by our tent, wanting to learn more about our program, so we informed them. They left our tent with not only knowledge about our program, but with a Puni Puni sticker and the desire to join our program. However, most of the people who wanted to join Japanese Plus were past their senior year in high school, which sucked.

After my shift at the booth ended, I went to explore the festival area. A group of friends and myself attended a concert by Japanese bands, and people…went…CRAZY!!!! I wish I was that popular. Anyway, after the concert I saw this sword and I had to have the sword, but it was fake. Unfortunately, I looked in my wallet and saw that I wasn’t financially prepared for the festival. Not wanting to leave the festival without an amazing sword, I sprinted to an ATM and got money. Now I have an amazing sword that sits in a corner of my room. Later on we got some food and checked out all the Anime booths. I blew all my money on souvenirs in about 30 minutes and I got a free Naruto mask. All in all, that was an amazing day and I can’t wait for the next festival.

Karuta and Pick-Up Priest (PUP)

By Dakharai Murray

Saturday we learned how to play an INTENSE card game, called Karuta. Karuta is a traditional Japanese card game revolving around a theme using poem clue cards and the answer (e.g., a picture) on separate cards. In the game, there are two players who play against each other and a third person who reads off Japanese poems. The players have to listen to the poem and SLAP the corresponding card into oblivion. Onlookers have a slight chance of being pelted by cards, but it’s worth it, as the game is very interesting and competitive. A winner is declared when one person has no cards left on their side. The game is very fast paced, requires mastery of Hiragana, and can only be won with lightning fast reflexes.

After watching the professionals go head to head, the class was split into groups for our own mini Karuta competition. Our Karuta reader read different Japanese poem cards and we all had to slap the life out of the correct card to claim it. I won the game within my group and received a box of oishii (delicious) Green Tea Kit-Kats.

Following the Karuta game, the Priest made his return when we played a game of Pick-Up Priest. In PUP, a deck of cards with different pictures of Japanese cultural figures [The Priest (my “favorite” card), Semimaru, A Lady, Tengu, Gentleman, Gentlemen on special mats, and Ladies on special mats] are placed in five decks, arranged in a circle. Each card has a special ability, (except for the regular Gentlemen), such as the Priest who makes the person who drew him put all their cards into the pot, which is in the middle of the card circle. Other cards, such as the Lady, allow you to take all the cards from the pot, and if some had crazy card stacks, but lost it all, IT’S PAY DAY!

PUP is a very fun game and entirely based on luck. Due to my nickname, Priest, my luck is a little on the bad side. However, PUP is a game that anyone will enjoy and play for hours on end.

The concept of Chotto

By Dakharai Murray

Chotto, which translates into “a little, a minute, or a moment,” is a Japanese word that is used to avoid confrontational situations. It can be used to answer questions on your preference over specific items, as it states that you like it “a little bit” and it avoids hurting someone’s feelings if they have a different opinion. This is very different from American culture, as we tend to be more direct with our answers to these types of questions. Americans don’t usually regard how someone else feels about the same question and are quick to answer with “No,” “It’s gross,” “I don’t like it.”

In Japan, chotto is used in place of “no,” so it has a politer delivery in a conversation. Also, when the word chotto is used, Japanese people also accompany it by craning their neck to one side. Unless you’re accustomed to the concept of chotto, you would have to read in between the lines to discover the true meaning of the gesture. If you asked someone if they needed help with a task, they could say “Chotto.” To you it would translate to “I need your help for a little bit.” However, the person would be telling you that they don’t need your help, but not wanting to hurt your feelings, they are more indirect and subtle about it. If you ever travel to Japan and someone answers you with “Chotto,” they are telling you “No,” but indirectly.

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.

The Shikoku Kakehashi visit

By Dakharai Murray


Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding and requires precision and patience to accurately create each paper craft to produce the desired result. Certain origami, such as the origami crane, have a symbolic relationship within Japanese culture and represent something positive, such as good luck and peace. A yakko-san is a samurai’s manservant who performed different tasks for their samurai master. At the origami station, we were taught how to make origami cranes & yakko-sans. I found that both crafts had many steps and would be hard to memorize and complete without instructions, especially the crane. Overall, origami is a very unique art style that is interesting and entertaining for its participants, and the many different crafts can keep you occupied for a long time.


Karate is a system of unarmed combat, using the hands and feet to deliver and block attacks, but it’s widely practiced as a sport, worldwide. Karate students are ranked by belt colors, with white being the beginner level and black being the master level. During the Kakehashi visit one of the students hosted the station and she taught us a basic pattern of moves from one of the beginner belts. She also demonstrated how to properly deliver a front kick. I found the demonstration to be informative and interesting because it requires more speed, agility, flexibility, and quick reflexes to become a successful karate student.