Hallie’s Reflection

By Hallie Munsat

To start off, it’s amazing enough that I was able to do this program online, for free, at a time I was available. I am so so SO lucky for that. I definitely got more out of this program than I was expecting. I joined this program in the simple hope that I would be able to learn Japanese so I could better communicate with my friends in Japan. But it was so much more than that. It got me excited about continuing my study of Japanese language and culture. The program further affirmed my wish of going to Japan for a semester in college. I was able to dive deeper into Japanese culture, etiquette, and the history of Japan. I not only started to learn how to understand Japanese, but also how to properly interact and be within the culture which was incredibly helpful. I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to be in person and become closer with the people in a classroom, but I also know the teachers did an amazing job in bringing everything accessible to screen and supporting students throughout the program. It’s hard to learn a new language, but one of my favorite parts of the program was the guest speakers and tips that students gave to continue learning Japanese even outside the program. Now that I’ve gotten so much helpful information from this program, I’m more confident about continuing my Japanese study in any way I can. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I’m hoping to do something with it again.

Visiting a Japanese Temple

Kinkaku-ji, a famous Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, known as the Golden Pavilion – credit “Global Basecamps”

By Hallie Munsat

Temples are considered to be places of worship for those who practice Japanese Buddhism. Because of this, almost every Japanese municipality has at least one temple. While you can find them many places, cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Kamakura are the most popular places to go to temples. Popular temples include Osorezan, Kiyomizudera, the Todaiji Temple and Kinkakuji.

I chose this topic because we were learning about temples and a bit about temple etiquette in Japanese Tamago class. I think it’s important to adjust to your environment when you’re somewhere unfamiliar. That’s why I’ve taken a big interest in the culture in Japan because showing proper manners in a place you’re unfamiliar with is a great way to show your thoughtfulness. So I am here to share some of the things I learned about visiting a temple.

The structures you can usually find at a temple include:

-The main hall in which the sacred objects of worship are displayed

-The lecture hall where meetings and conferences take place

-The pagoda which stores the remains of the Buddha

-The gates mark the entrance to the temple

-On New Year’s Eve there is a bell that is rung 108 times for the Buddhist concept of worldly desires

-And a cemetery containing people’s ancestors

Because this is such a place of worship, there is proper etiquette when visiting a Japanese temple or shrine. I wanted to share some examples with you in the case that you decide to visit one of these beautiful places of worship.

To start off, there is no dress code when visiting one of these areas. However, it should go without saying that dressing modestly or appropriately is respectful. In temples they contain offering boxes in front of sacred objects of worship. You can show respect by throwing a coin into the offering box and then following it with a short prayer. In some temples you will find an incense burner for visitors. If you’d like you can purchase a bundle of incense and light it, waving it around with your hand and putting it in the incense burner. In temple buildings, it’s very possible you’ll be required to take off your shoes so make sure you’re wearing a pair of socks along with that and leave your shoes at the entrance. Make sure to take hats off as well. You may take photos on the temple grounds, but it’s often prohibited to take pictures inside the buildings. Overall, you should take into account that this is a peaceful and sacred place for many people so be respectful in the level of your voice and what you do with your body so as to not disturb others. As long as you’re showcasing proper manners and temple etiquette, enjoy your visit to these beautiful temples!

3-11: Ten Years Later

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on 3-11-2011, the students in our online Japanese Tamago program used video and other resources to learn about the horrific events that unfolded that day. The goal was to help our DC students connect with the experience and the residents of Tohoku, and to try to imagine themselves in the moment. Here are some of their immediate responses.

By Zoe Roell

Ground splits
Black waves
Homes fall
Lives collapse
The world grieves

By Hallie Munsat

In 2011, an earthquake and tsunami occurred on the pacific coast of Tohuku in Japan. The magnitude of the earthquake came to be 9.0-9.1. This terrible tragedy turned out to be the most recent deadliest earthquake. It left almost 16,000 people dead, about 6,000 injured and 2,500 people missing. Now ten years after the fact it’s still left many people unstable emotionally and financially. I cannot even begin to imagine what being in that situation is like. It’s bad enough to experience it in the moment, it’s worse to live with it for the rest of your life. This was an event that couldn’t really have been prevented. It’s terrifying to go through things you can’t control and it takes time to process things like that. We have to be gentle to ourselves and others during hard times and we have to be there for each other to listen, and to support. Because of the severity of this event, many people in the same community went through the same thing. There’s always someone to listen to or understand because no one is alone.

By Penelope Morris

At first, I almost couldn’t believe that three events that would by themselves have been horrific to deal with, all happened simultaneously and hurt so many people. But the damage was right there in front of my eyes.

By Kourtney Beauvais

My initial reaction to the film of 3/11 was shock. I wasn’t aware of how fast the devastation occurred, and couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be there. With the recurring earthquakes, I assume that the residents of the area had very conflicting emotions, flicking back and forth between hope and desperation and fear. It makes me wonder if they were thinking about what was happening in the present, what the future consequences would be, or a mixture of both. It was also saddening to think of the feeling of loss, not only of belongings and a familiar landscape, but of their family, friends, and community.

By Sakarrio Moore

I’ve never experienced any tragedy of this magnitude, and I literally can’t imagine the physiological response of people who lived there. I just feel so sorry. I imagine that in the instant, people would have just felt as if the world itself was against them.

By Akesh Mallia

My reflection on 3-11 is that it was really heartbreaking to see so many lives impacted by something as uncontrollable as nature. I thought it was especially scary when the tsunami hit the people trying to escape by car, those people couldn’t even evacuate. And the impacts of the natural disasters are very much still present today, especially with the nuclear meltdown which I think shows the scale of the earthquake. I hope safety measures and public awareness measures are being put in place to prevent this type of event from happening again. 

By Owen Strasberg

I found it interesting how initially even though the situation seemed very chaotic, people were handling it calmly (like when everyone was evacuating). It was sort of scary though to think that whatever high ground people stayed at was where they would have to be for the whole thing, and you would just have to hope it was safe enough.

By Dara Lira

If I previously lived in Japan, I would probably not pay much attention to the earthquake at first. However, as the day progresses, I would become more scared, confused, disturbed, and shocked at the events unfolding before me. A matter of life or death such as this terrifies me, and I can hardly imagine what this was actually like, especially seeing as I’ve never been in an earthquake before. 

By Chamiya Carnathan

The amount of earthquakes that appeared continuously during March 11 was mind blowing to me. I can’t imagine how scary the situation must have been for everyone inhabiting that area. Earthquakes are common in Japan and I wonder if the inhabitants living in the affected area thought that it would be a regular occurrence. I truly cannot imagine the fear of earthquakes that were that large being struck down on me. The biggest takeaway that I gained from watching the video and map is that you have to go to high ground. Don’t worry about taking pictures and videos or watching what’s happening. Worry about your own safety and go to high ground.

By Camila Marryshow

If anyone had known March 11, 2011 would have submerged entire towns in water along with thousands of other civilians fighting for their lives, there would have been preventative action to protect the people along Japan’s east coast. But there was no way of knowing the events that would unfold within those 24 hours. 

Employees worked to earn their pay to support themselves and their families. Graduations occurred. Earning diplomas, congratulating friends, and celebrating achievements of other students would soon be replaced with sheltering in place under desks, evacuating school and office buildings, and rushing to higher ground to ensure safety. Some walked away with missing friends while others without families to provide for. Some could not walk away from their cars with water impeding their ability to escape while others would never walk the Earth again. The tsunami stripped towns of commerce, buildings, history, and many of its residents. 

Within 24 hours, several earthquakes evolved into a 9.1-magnitude earthquake that generated waves many meters high devastating hundreds of square miles of Japanese land. Over 120,000 buildings were destroyed. More than 100,000 people lost their homes. Nearly 20,000 people died. 

The Tohoku region of Japan along with other coastal areas have worked over the past ten years to rebuild Japan and provide housing to those who are in need. The survivors who witnessed the events of that day will be able to not only recount the suffering numerous people endured, but can speak of the recovery and progress the Japanese people have made from the rubble of the tragedy.