My Time at the Sakura Matsuri

By Elena Encarnacion

On April 13th, I had the pleasure of attending the Sakura Matsuri with the rest of my classmates. I was excited since I’d never been to the festival and had no idea what to expect. My shift began at noon, so I got to the booth around two minutes prior to that. Things were relatively easy once Sally explained what exactly was going on. I started off by running the “Learn to write your name in Katakana” part of the booth. It was simple and fun, but I occasionally had to check with Eshita sensei when I was unsure about whether or not a name had a long vowel.

As the day progressed and less people came to that side, I eventually moved over to the side where people were working on the quilt. We decided to create a quilt and have everyone draw something on a square using the prompt “Japan in my ❤️”. Watching people create these was my favorite part of the booth because everyone seemed so passionate about it. There were people that sat drawing for over 45 minutes! This activity became so popular that we eventually had to use both of the side tables for the quilt activity. It was nice to see everyone pour their love/appreciation for Japan into beautiful art pieces. Even little kids participated!

Once my first shift ended at 2PM, I met up with a friend who was also at the festival. We walked down to get some food (we had chicken on a stick, funnel cake, and I had a manga lemonade). The food area of the market was packed and most places had a long line. The food was delicious, but having to be on our feet for a while made us tired. We walked back to the Globalize DC booth and ate while chatting.

Once it hit 4PM, I was ready for my last shift. This shift was a lot more tame compared to my first one. We had less people coming, so I actually sat down for a while. As people came over and listened to what Japanese programs we offered, I was surprised at how many people were interested, but knew students that didn’t fit the age group. It’d be nice if there was also a program for younger students to learn Japanese. At the end of my shift, we started packing everything up as well as stacking up the tables and chairs. Since we were done, this was our time to relax and talk with some of our classmates about how our days went. Everyone seemed to enjoy their time at the festival, myself included. I look forward to attending it again some day 🌸.

Sackler Visit

By Elena Encarnacion

Last class, we went down to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in order to view different kinds of Japanese art. It was nice learning about the history and the different changes in trends for Japanese art. My favorite art piece is called “Snow in Shinobazu Park” by Oda Kazuma. I love the art pieces that contain nature the most. I was attracted to the picture due to its lack of color and the scene it was depicting. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the picture does contain color. The bushes beneath the main tree have a slight green color to them beneath the snow (this is easier to see in person). This slight use of color while everything else was black and white made me like the art piece a lot more. Although the piece gives a slightly gloomy vibe, I think it’s beautiful.

Open House Skits

By Elena Encarnacion

On December 12th, Japanese Plus hosted an Open House. The Open House was meant to help us share our Japanese progress with our friends and family.

One of the most notable parts was when my classmates and I put on skits in Japanese. Although I had memorized all of my lines, the experience was super nerve-wracking. We were going to be performing in front of native Japanese speakers (we had only performed in front of Eshita-sensei and one another previously). My group was third to go. As every group went, we felt the pressure building up. The foreign exchange student scenario . . . the My Hero Academia scene. I was nervous and wondered if our skit would be enjoyed as much as theirs were. I ended up messing up on one of my lines, but overall the experience was fun. The two representatives from Okayama University seemed impressed with us, especially because we all make time after school to study their language.

Another important part of the night was when we were given information by the Okayama University representatives. They opened up a world of opportunities to us when they told us about studying in a Japanese university. They highlighted a program they created for international students, including those from the US, called the DISCOVERY Program for Global Learners. Although it’s not something I plan on doing, it was still nice to learn about the different options available to me. Here’s further information for those who may be interested:

Our Japanese Plus teacher, Yoko Eshita, with visiting Okayama President, Hirofumi Makino, and Vice President for Global Engagement Strategy, Atsufumi Yokoi.

Man-Woman Relations in Japan

By Elena Encarnacion

In class, we like to learn about the culture as much as the language. We often turn to A Geek in Japan by Héctor García for cultural comparisons. A section that I really enjoyed reading about is called “Man-Woman Relations in Japan.”

I was not surprised when reading the part that talked about the past and the different family roles that men and women had. However, I was a little surprised when reading about “omiai” marriages. An omiai marriage is an arranged marriage. Although people are no longer forced to marry others, people’s parents often get involved when a person is looking for someone to marry. I found this quite strange since in the States, parents don’t normally set their children up with the purpose of marriage. Parents normally have less involvement in who their in-laws are.

I was also surprised by the “Men-Women Separation” part. Apparently, Japanese people tend to separate by gender in the workplace. For example, the women will go out for lunch together, and the men will go out for lunch together separately. This was interesting to me because it’s not something that I’ve heard of here in the U.S. People just tend to spend time with whoever they want, despite gender.

Reading about the Man-Woman Relations in Japan was really enlightening. I hope to continue learning about the interesting ways that our cultures differ.

Visitors from the Japanese Embassy

By Elena Encarnacion

A day or two before class, we were told that we would have some “special guests” in our Facebook group. I was really curious as to the kind of guests we would have and the type of people they would be. When I found out that they were from the Japanese Embassy, I was excited, yet a little nervous. When Eshita-sensei said that we would have to individually introduce ourselves to our guests, I felt a lot more nervous. I was worried about messing up. However, after I introduced myself, the guests clapped and it calmed me down.

After all of the introductions, our guests sat in the back of the classroom and observed our class. They occasionally walked around and looked at our notebooks as we practiced writing Katakana. They praised and even helped us out if we asked for extra help with pronunciation or penmanship.

The guests from the Japanese Embassy finished off their visit by presenting us with Japanese sweets and cute little buttons that we could pin to our backpacks or shirts. Although I was originally anxious about what having them in our classroom would be like, in the end I was happy. Not only were they kind and helpful, but they also answered our questions and told us about some of the study abroad programs that were sponsored by the Japanese government. I hope our next visitors are as nice as they were.