The Sakura Matsuri Experience

By Jenny Jimenez

On April 8, 2017, our Japanese class participated in the annual Sakura Matsuri, a Japanese street festival here in Washington D.C. We had our booth and we shared aspects of our classroom, as well as educating children (and some adults too) about Japanese culture. We each took shifts throughout the day, and after my shift was done I was eager to go explore the festival.

Bryson, Chi, Dakharai and I went around the festival and learned about Japan, like food, culture, and music. Bryson and I were so excited to see the anime booth because we both enjoy watching anime! We went to all types of booths, some for anime, others relating to food, but most of them were about Japanese culture. Personally, my favorite booth was the anime one because we got to see the collector’s items of our favorite anime, and I also enjoyed the clothing that was being sold. In my opinion, Japanese clothing is very unique; a lot of the fashion could be categorized as cute, so when there was the opportunity to wear a kimono, I took it! Earlier this year I discussed kimonos and yukatas in a previous blog post,  but wearing a kimono during the festival was so much fun! The booth that was arranging this allowed people to wear the kimono for a little bit and walk around.

Overall, it was a spectacular day and I hope we get more opportunities to go to festivals like this as a class. It was a great opportunity to learn about other programs in our area as well as having a chance to be a weeaboo for a little bit!

About Giri

By Jenny Jimenez

In our Japanese class the book that we discuss is A Geek in Japan, which is a great read if you want to learn about Japanese culture in detail! One section of the book discussed Giri, which is roughly translated to an “obligation to take care about those who have given you something in life so that you are indebted to them.” Giri is a mindset in which the Japanese feel a duty to return gratitude and this is evident in relationships between teachers and students, men and women, friends, family members, business associates etc. I thought that this was an intriguing aspect because in American culture we do not have this mindset; in general, actions of kindness would simply be seen as someone being polite, whereas in Japan giri is an ideology that heavily influences Japan’s culture. Giri is something that makes the Japanese want to return favors in order to preserve harmony in relationships, which effectively creates a peaceful aura in society.

Since the ideology of giri emphasizes that there is a duty to return gratitude, gift exchanges are frequent during the year. Giri shows that the gifts that are exchanged should be no more nor less valuable than the relationship; I personally found this interesting because unlike American culture, Japan emphasizes and focuses on keeping positive relationships with your peers and this mindset is a pathway in keeping your relationships healthy.

One specific example that the book has is Valentine’s Day and how the Japanese celebrate it! Valentine’s Day is a western holiday that the Japanese adapted, in which giri also plays a factor. During this holiday, women are expected to give their male peers chocolate which can be categorized into two things: giri chocolate or true chocolate. Giri chocolate is given by women as a social duty, whereas true chocolate is given to a male that you like. Since women feel obligated to give chocolate on Valentine’s Day, giri shows that the males have an obligation to repay the favor, thus White Day was created! White Day is exactly a month later, in which the males that got chocolate on Valentine’s Day repay the favor and give women white chocolate! Personally, I think America should adapt giri, because it would create a more peaceful atmosphere in our society as well as White Day, because one can never have enough chocolate! o(≧▽≦)o

A Visit from Meiji University

By Jenny Jimenez

On the 25th of February, our Japanese class had a special visit from university students from Meiji University. We spent the day learning about Japanese calligraphy, which is known as shodo, and some students spent time making origami! Personally, I was in a group with students that taught me calligraphy. One of the students wrote tomodachi, or friend, perfectly on the calligraphy paper and proceeded to give me a sheet so I could write it as well. Although it seems simple at first, it does take practice! The brush glides on the paper easily and one false movement can make an impact on your handwriting. Although my calligraphy wasn’t perfect, it was fun to learn about Japanese calligraphy and its impact on their culture.

Later in the day, Eshita Sensei told us that we would be having conversations with the students about anything! I met Yuta, a freshman at Meiji University and we talked about American culture as well as Japanese culture and university life in Japan. To my surprise he explained that he has been learning English since middle school and that he actually has visited California last year! Since my Japanese language skills are limited to talking about family and food, we talked a lot in English. He explained that a troubling aspect of learning English is the pronunciation of “L” and “R,” because in Japanese the syllables ra, re, ri, ro, ru are said with the mixture of the sounds from “R,” “L,” and also the “D” sound. He explained that it’s a little bit difficult to notice the difference between “L” and “R” when it comes to listening but he could tell the difference when it came to reading. I found this interesting because I noticed that when Eshita Sensei said ramen in Japanese, it wasn’t pronounced in the way that American people say it. Learning from Yuta that English learners have difficulty with pronunciation was surprising because I wasn’t aware about this challenge since it comes naturally for English speakers.

I enjoyed the visit from Meiji University because I was able to connect with students like Yuta, with whom I have exchanged communication, because I want to learn about Japanese culture from a Japanese person rather than reading from a book or from watching a video of an American explaining it. I hope we have more visits from Japanese students in the future because it was an amazing experience due to the fact that both the DC students and the Japanese students were able to exchange a tiny piece of each other’s cultures!

Meiji University Jenny blog

Kimono and Yukata

By Jenny Jimenez

On January 28, our Japanese Plus class was honored to meet the students in the Kakehashi program! This program allows Japanese students to come to the United States in order to learn about American culture as well as practicing their English skills. Kakehashi means bridge in Japanese and the students from this program and the students from the Kakehashi program connected by sharing aspects of each others’ cultures.

The Japanese students presented many stations in which they shared important cultural traditions; my personal favorite was the kimono and yukata station! Each student was paired with a Japanese student that would put on a kimono or yukata and while we were getting dressed, an explanation would be presented by the Japanese students.

My Japanese student was Yayoi and we had a conversation about yukata! She happily explained to me that yukata are worn in the summer whereas kimonos are worn in the winter because they are made of thicker fabrics. My yukata took the longest to put on in our group, but it was so beautiful! It had purple flowers on a red background and Yayoi put a large bow on the back of my yukata and let me hold a fan! Although putting on the yukata took a while to put on, I loved learning about this traditional dress because of its importance in Japanese culture. I especially loved talking to Yayoi because she clearly explained what the yukata’s importance was in Japan, as well as asking me questions about why I am learning Japanese and why I like Japan’s culture. I am so glad to have learned about the traditional dress but furthermore I enjoyed interacting with Japanese students who were extremely nice to us!

In this photo, you can see the American students wearing kimonos and yukata beside the Japanese students who helped dress us up!



By Jenny Jimenez

On November 30th, our Japanese class went to Youth For Understanding’s headquarters to participate in the World Food Day Campaign by Table for Two! Youth For Understanding is an international organization that sends students in exchange programs all over the world and they allowed our Japanese + class to make onigiri in their kitchen!

Onigiri is the Japanese word for rice ball and we learned that our class would participate in creating these rice balls and that if we posted an image of our onigiri creations on social media with the hashtag #OnigiriAction, food would be provided to other people in African countries with our support. Onigiri was chosen because, as research shows, Japanese food is healthy and rice is a product that fills you up when you eat it. We learned about how to form the rice ball as well as the toppings that can go on the onigiri. The most popular topping was nori or seaweed; personally I liked eating my onigiri with tuna! Our teacher also mentioned that a popular topping in Japan was pickled plums. A couple students, including myself, tried eating the pickled plums, only to find that they were really sour, yet they had honey in them!

Some of the more creative students made onigiri with designs like cats, pandas and other animals or characters. Two students, Skyy and Amee, won the “Most Creative Onigiri Award” with onigiri that looked like the character Pucca and also a crying man!

A lot of students loved our onigiri making day because we were able to express our creativity as well as learning about Japanese food!

Below are images of our winners Skyy and Amee with their onigiri as well as my own onigiri! Congratulations to them for winning the award!!