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.

The concept of Giri

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

The concept of Giri is very interesting, because it contributes to how Japan wants to preserve as much social harmony as it can. According to Giri, the closest translation is obligation or social duty. If a person gives you a present, then you eventually become indebted to that person or owe them somehow. The balance of Giri has become unbalanced and the relationship will once again become balanced once you give a gift of equal value to the person who gave you a present in the first place. Initially, it was kind of strange to me that on Valentine’s Day girls gave boys milk or dark chocolate. In addition, there are two kinds of chocolates. There is “giri” and “true” chocolate. The “giri” chocolate is when women give men chocolate whom they’re close to due to social obligation. While the “true” chocolate is when women give men chocolate to whom they actually love. Another thing I thought was interesting is “according to one study, the same amount of money is spent on presents in Japan as Americans invest in justice.” This is interesting how gift giving is crucial in Japanese society today and how gift giving can be a cultural aspect.

The Power of Language

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

We’ve had a few visitors so far this Japanese school year, but the visitors that have impacted me the most were from November 3rd. Initially, before their arrival, I was panicking because we needed to introduce ourselves as we always do, now that we know self-introduction. For me it’s always kind of hard, because I practice a lot to the point that I know it, but when it comes to the moment of actually saying the self-introduction I almost forget. My nervousness impedes me from calming down and making me forget a little, although in the end my self-introduction turned out fine, better than what I was hoping for.

One of the visitors was Yuuki Shinomiya, and he’s the director of Strategy and Chief of Staff at Septeni Global. He works in advertising and with the gaming industry. The other visitors were Hiroyuki and Aoi Takai. Mr. Takai is the Head of the Washington D.C. Office of Sumitomo Corporation and also involved in the Japan Commerce Association of Washington. which is an association of Japanese businesses. There he’s in charge of language education here in Washington D.C., which impacts Japanese Plus because we’re the after-school group in D.C. that studies Japanese as a language. Ms. Takai, on the other hand, talked more about language and culture. She talked about how she studied English through the radio, etc., as a second language, and compared the two different cultures. This was important because she talked about how learning a different language also helped her in career and job, and helped me think about how I would use Japanese language in the future.

For me the visitors impacted me because they made me understand what the power of language really does have and how it’s important, especially in today’s globalized world. I’m always motivated to learn new languages that I’m interested in learning, but the visitors from today inspired me with more motivation to learn Japanese, despite its difficulties. They made me embrace that knowing more than one language is essential and actually like a secret weapon to communicate with many people around the world. Learning new languages can provide different perspectives and lenses on how we can view the world. Therefore, they made me also realize that knowing more than one language can be useful in the future, that it’s definitely worth it to learn Japanese. Which I’m enjoying so far, and I can’t wait to learn more Japanese!

Jazmin’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman (Japan in DC)

Going to Japan was a life-changing experience for me. I’m really glad I went to Japan because initially I wasn’t going to, but I’m really glad I did. If I didn’t go, I wouldn’t have met my wonderful host family. The homestay was my top favorite thing of the Japan trip, because I made a new family and in the end I felt like I was at home. They took me and my partner Jamilet to Gifu City and there we went to a museum and learned lots of things of Japanese life during the Edo period, including learning how to make sparks, using two rocks. It was a lot of fun, and then we went to a castle on top of the hill on a zipline cart. Then we went to a shopping center because the stationery in Japan is amazing. Afterwards we went to an Okonomiyaki restaurant and in the end they took us to karaoke.

We had lots of fun and I learned a lot of things during my homestay, especially the fact that Japanese homes are very cold. I miss lying on a futon with an electric blanket and my host mom’s cooking. My favorite dish that she cooked was called tonjuru, which is pork soup. I learned a lot about my family in general and one of their surprises that they had for us is a welcoming party, which was as warm and fun when we first met them, they did a welcome sign for us. I miss them so much, but I know for a fact that I have a home in Japan.

Another favorite activity during the trip to Japan was going to a high school in Gifu prefecture. The students were so happy to see us and we did a lot of fun things that made me really not want to leave. First we talked and introduced ourselves, and then they took us to their gym to watch a taiko (Japanese drumming) performance performed by the students and it was awesome, I really like the energy that they put into the performance and the beat of the performance. Then we did taiko drumming ourselves, which was really loud and awesome. Afterwards they took us to do calligraphy, which is hard because I didn’t know a lot of kanji, though I did learn some. Then we went to listen to a koto (Japanese string instrument) performance and went to see a bit what Japanese archery is like. Leaving the school I was really sad, because I wanted to stay but I knew that I would come back, that it wasn’t going to be a last goodbye.

Personally, the impact that this trip had on me is learning how to take a once in a lifetime opportunity because you can’t get it back. I’m still learning how to get out of my comfort zone in order to do these amazing opportunities that I never thought I would have done. Going on this trip also deepened my interest to learn even more about Japanese culture and language, because going to another country on the other side of the world is mind blowing and has shown me how interconnected the world could be, but different with many different cultures. I would want to come back to Japan and probably live there for some time teaching English as a second language to students. Some insights that I learned in Japan are how time is really crucial and important in Japan, how it shows that you care and you’re respecting everyone else’s time. In addition, I’ve seen the respect in Japan and how cooperation is big, that no matter the job occupation a person has, everyone deserves respect. I’m really grateful for going to Japan, which changed my life and made me make new connections on the other side of the world.

Blue Star of Life

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

On Tuesday, October 31st 2017 I had the opportunity to go to the Blue Star of Life Ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and met nine wonderful Japanese students. All of us DC students had the opportunity to drop pebbles inside the vase, Blue Star of Life, to symbolize peace and friendship between the United States and Japan.

It was a once in a lifetime experience for me because it was a life lesson that Sally Schwartz taught me and once said, “Life is more than being in a classroom.” It even motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about our interconnected world. As much as I was nervous of meeting university students and a high school student, it made me realize that they were also nervous and they’re just like me. I wish there were more experiences like this and this has definitely taught me a lot about global citizenship.