Jeff’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Jeff Jenkins (Japanese Plus)

I must say that the program was marvelous, and I enjoyed every moment of it. From the people that I met and the things that I was able to experience, especially the homestay and the Gifu High School visit. I find it amazing how traditional Japan remains, while other countries are rushing to new advancements and technology, forgetting their cultural roots. The High School that we visited was a great example, because they had clubs for Japanese calligraphy, Japanese archery and Kumi daiko (traditional Japanese drums). It is amazing that teenagers can participate in more old-fashioned clubs, instead of just track and field, football and basketball. It’s awesome to know that they have a larger variety of activities to choose from for their afterschool activities, something I wish we had in America.

Being able to communicate with Japanese people in Japanese was super fun and it showed that I had come a long way from the last time that I had visited Japan, which was in the summer of 2016. Possessing the ability to read and communicate in Japanese filled me with me self-gratification and I couldn’t be any happier about it! Especially during my stay with my host family, I could convey my ideas to them and we could hold conversations with each other making our time together much enjoyable. I must say that it was quite interesting switching from Japanese and English, I remember quite clearly that I said the phrase “sumimasen” to both Japanese and English speakers one too many times, as if it was instinctively. The Japanese classes I have been taking for a year in a half truly paid off, and I’m thankful to my sensei and my Japanese Director for allowing me to see how much I’ve truly grown and gained a deeper perspective on Japan – specifically, their “Constitution,” which was crafted by the United States of America after WWII.

I had known that our relationship with Japan had been deep since WWII, however I never knew that we constructed a constitution that stops them from declaring war or going to battle with anyone. This was truly shocking to me, because I had always thought of the constitution as something that would only be used in America, not across the world. I only knew the tip of the iceberg when it came the relationship of Japan and America, but after my trip, I understood that it goes a lot deeper than we may know.

Recently

By Jeff Jenkins

Recently, a US serviceman committed a heinous act in Okinawa prefecture of Japan. The man raped and killed a Japanese woman, then proceeded to dump her body in the woods, where it was later found by local authorities. An act of this caliber usually leaves people in shock, but not in Okinawa. Why? Because this is not the first time that a US serviceman has committed crimes like this on Japanese soil, especially in the Okinawa area due to the high military presence there. Oftentimes, when the military of the nation that you’re allied with is near you, you should feel safe, but the people of Okinawa cannot because nothing is being done to stop acts like this from happening in the first place. Two great examples would be the 1995 rape that happened on the beach of Okinawa, where three servicemen kidnapped a 12-year-old little girl and proceeded to physically and sexually abuse her. While all three of the servicemen were sent to prison, they did not truly receive a punishment equal to the crime that they committed, and while Okinawans did protest to have a greater punishment dealt towards the military, nothing happened. The other example of nothing being done is the recent car accident that happened when a drunk US serviceman hit a Japanese pedestrian. The event sparked a lot of debate between the people of Okinawa and US military bases. However, the only thing that happened was a short and temporary ban on alcohol that lasted for less than a week.

I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing my own military, but this is getting out of hand and it is becoming a trend where if a serviceman does something that they should never do, they only receive a slap on the wrist. Their actions do not only affect our standing in Japan, but around the world, and that gives our country a bad reputation.

Especially in this current era, where nuclear warfare and possibly WW3 is right at our front doors, we should not be betraying the trust and hospitality of our allies, but instead finding ways to ensure each others’ safety and prevention of another war.  I hope that the US military and the people of Okinawa can come to a reasonable compromise, because if this continues to go on, I fear a much bigger problem will arise.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/japan-ex-marine-kenneth-shinzato-life-rape-murder-okinawa-woman/

Jeff’s Photo

At Embassy of Japan

This picture shows me and my colleagues with university students from Japan, who participated in the Blue Star of Life Ceremony alongside us. The event commemorated the 163rd Anniversary of the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity. This picture was taken after our visit to the Japanese Embassy and our discussion of global concerns. From the discussion, I was able to better understand how important our relationship is and why it should be preserved. This is something I would have never known, if it wasn’t for Japanese Plus and the copious opportunities that it provides!

Jeff Jenkins

The Blue Star of Life Exchange

By Jeff Jenkins

The Blue Star of Life Ceremony was an extremely educational experience in both my career and knowledge of the U.S-Japan relationship.

After, the formal portion of the event at the Kennedy Center (in which I gave a major speech), I could talk with the university students about their careers and what they wish to pursue after college and their responses were very insightful. Especially Masa-san’s, because his major is in international relations, which is the same major that I wish to go into for college. During our discussion, I realized that we all had the same dream and that was to make the world a fair and equal place for all, not just in Japan and America, but the entire world. Our bond has the potential to not only benefit both countries, but the entire globe. If we’re able to continue similar practices such as the Blue Star Ceremony, where the youth from both countries can sit down and exchange ideas, it’d be a major step in the right direction to strengthening our bond. Throughout the two group discussions I could hear a lot of interesting ideas on how we could as a group find ways to make our societies better, either economically or socially, even more so because times are changing, and new innovations are being made that could lead to more problems for society.

For example, my group’s topic was about “Technology.” We talked about how robots (AI) could coexist and benefit mankind, especially since robots are starting to become the future of the world. We discovered that it’d be nearly impossible for robots to coexist with humans, especially in workplaces, because robots would kick a lot of people out of their jobs and that would create other global problems, due to the amount of people that would be poor. And this required us to think of various laws and regulations that would prevent such things from happening, such as creating new laws that governments would have to follow to balance out the rapid increase in technology and find a middle ground between robots and humans.

We also discussed how technology could benefit educational systems around the world and provide a fair and free opportunity to gain education. For example, Taku-san explained to us an invention called “MOOC.” It’s an invention that allows people to listen in on college lectures for FREE and it’s available anywhere and for anyone to use. However, people must have access to the materials such as laptops and Wifi, which could also be provided for free, especially for less developed countries around the world that don’t get the proper attention needed. Together we can provide the support needed to give everyone a fair chance at an educated and fair life.

Overall, this event helped me better understand the role that I play in the U.S Japan relationship as the upcoming youth, who’ll one day make big decisions that could potentially affect the world forever.

A brief appreciation of classical Japanese art

By Jeff Jenkins

Konnichiwa minasan!

Today’s blog will be about my new favorite thing that I’ve come to love and appreciate about the Japanese culture. – that being the classical/old Japanese art, including the literature often written with it. A few days ago, I and a small group from my Japanese class visited the Utamaro exhibit at the Sackler Museum. We could gaze at his original artworks and see how art was portrayed during his time.

There’s something about the level of detail and delicacy put into each piece of work that you can’t find often in modern day art. Just by looking at some of the older Japanese murals you can truly see the amount of patience and integrity that the artist used to put into his work before displaying it to the public. Also, the different writing styles were unique in the sense that each character was written together to flow like a stream. Though it was difficult to make out what some of the characters meant, it was still cool to try and read some of them, which I did manage a few times.

The biggest thing that stood out to me was the craze for Japanese art back in the 1800’s, which ended up spreading across most of Europe, but mainly in France.  Like how people have a craze for Japanese anime which is still very popular until today, I just find it very interesting that things that come out of Japan usually have a massive impact on the outside world, whether it’s through art, technology or entertainment.

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this short blog and sorry for not including any personal pictures (we couldn’t take any inside of the exhibit).

If you’re curious, here’s a link to the exhibition: http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/current/utamaro/default.php

Till next time! (Mata ne)

Japan Bowl 2017

By Jeffrey Jenkins

Hello everyone, it’s Jeff here and today’s blog will be a little short but it was sure worth the wait. So, now to the actual story.

On April 6, 2017, my Japanese class was invited by the Japan America Society of Washington D.C. to attend the Japan Bowl 2017, which is a competition between schools across the country who come to compete in tournaments testing Japanese language, culture, and history knowledge.

During the first two hours of the event six or seven universities gave us presentations about what they can offer for foreigners interested in attending university in Japan for their four years of colleges or just a semester. The majority of the universities were starting programs specifically aimed at foreigners, which for me or anyone who’s about to graduate is very good, especially since these universities offer scholarships that pay for your full four years of college, so that’s potentially free colleges! – and who’s going to say no to that?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the actual tournament because of school, but I was able to attend the pre-competition program that took place that same day.  The pre-competition of the Japan Bowl that I was able to stay for was the opening ceremony, which had two performances – one from a shamisen* player and another from a Japanese boy band from New York, but the shamisen (しゃみせん) was the best part about the entire opening ceremony. The boy band was meh; nothing can top the shamisen, in my opinion.

Well that just about sums up this blog, I hope everyone enjoyed the short read and if you’re learning Japanese and interested in attending the Japan Bowl, you should try and participate next year! For more information regarding the Japan Bowl, please feel free to click this link!: http://www.japanbowl.org/

またね!

* A shamisen is a traditional Japanese guitar, for those wondering.

Why a mascot?

By Jeff Jenkins

We were motivated to make a mascot because of Japan’s profound love of mascots, having them for just about any and everything. They’re kind of like state flags in the United States, although these mascots have a ton of personality to them and influence quite a bit of the community. Mascots are so popular in Japan’s communities that there’s an overpopulation of them, which the Government has even stepped in to regulate! A perfect example of this epidemic would be Osaka with over 40 mascots to represent the Prefecture alone.

Not all mascots are meant to represent towns and prefectures. There are a lot of mascots that represent things such as fighting for solar power and tax reduction. Japanese mascots are meant to represent some form of uniqueness and cuteness that’s able to win the hearts of a crowd, which also determines the popularity and livelihood of these adorable creations. Domo-kun is a great example of this long-lasting popularity that keeps mascots relevant. Created in the late 90’s, he still manages to hold a spot in people’s hearts.

Also, government organizations and the military use mascots to represent current affairs, both local and national. That’s right! The Japanese Army uses these adorable creations to represent themselves, so don’t let their cute looks fool you! Furthermore, mascots are used to generate money for companies and organizations, the most iconic one being Kumamon whose economic effect raised 124.4 billion yen in the past 2 years. Kumamon was originally meant for the promotion of Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train) in 2010 and since then, he’s grown to promote things such tissues, children’s toy’s and even clothing.

kumamon

So, although it seems like most mascots are meant for just looking kawaii on display, they are very versatile and can be used for more than just one thing. In fact, they can be used to relate an important message to people that other forms of art or social media can’t, and who knows, that may be the reason why some mascots manage to win the hearts of their supporters.