Learning Hiragana

By Kenny Nguyen

After mastering Katakana, one of the three writing systems Japan uses along with Hiragana and Kanji, we jumped straight into learning Hiragana. At first I was struggling with memorizing the characters, because I was still used to the Katakana characters, and Hiragana seems to have a lot of characters that resembles each other. For example A (あ) O (お) Wa (わ) are just examples of some of the characters that resembles each other. But thankfully, Sally and Eshita-sensei provided us with a Hiragana and Katakana book that provided us with extra practice writing Hiragana and Katakana at home. Along with a quizlet that my fellow classmate, Lucca Bey, created, so that we can have an extra way of studying.

Once we master Hiragana and Katakana, there is going to be a karuta competition on March 3rd which hopefully I will be able to attend once I have memorized the new Hiragana characters. Another advantage of mastering Hiragana is that we will finally be able to write and read anything in Japanese, since Katakana are used to represent loanwords and Hiragana for everything else. So I am very excited to master both Katakana and Hiragana, even though it is very challenging. If you ever decide to learn these writing systems, I would recommend writing the characters over and over so that you can get the feel of doing the strokes and your hand will get used to it. But also after mastering hiragana, we will move into Kanji, which I am very excited for. But in the meantime, I will continue to practice my Katakana and Hiragana.

Honne and Tatemae

By Kenny Nguyen

Honne and tatemae are Japanese behavior. Honne is the true feelings you have and wish to express but tatemae is the obligation to withhold your opinion in order to seem respectful. An example of this is in a Japanese work place, when you are at work you would want to be as respectful as possible and withhold any negative comments about a co-worker or boss. This is tatemae, when you do have a problem, but can’t express it since you are trying to hold social obligations. A way that the Japanese would then express their true opinions is whenever there is a nomikai (party), and coworkers would go to an izakaya (Japanese traditional bar). These occasions are where you are able to let loose and talk about all the troubles you’ve had at work or at home, honne. This is also because of the beer and drinking, which lets them let loose.

I find the honne and tatemae concept very different from American society. In America we can say and express whatever we want and not care about what others think, or how they would feel. Whereas the Japanese are withholding their true feelings in order to maintain social obligations. At an American workplace or school, we would complain if there is anything that upsets us. For example, at my school, whenever there is a project and someone isn’t really doing work, we would complain and criticize him or her, while the Japanese would have concealed this truth and would have just tried encouraging them to pick up the pace of their work.

Before joining this program, I never thought that such a concept would exist. I always thought that people would just express whatever they want in order to have people understand them. But now I know just how different America can be from not only Japan but from other countries as well. I look forward to learning more about the different aspects of the Japanese culture and just how different we are compared to them. Jyaa nee!

Meeting Simon

By Kenny Nguyen

It was our third week of class and Sally, one of the program directors, brought in someone she recently met near her high school. His name was Simon. He told us about how in middle school he got into Japan because of JUMP comic books, and in middle school started to learn the basics of Japanese in order to be able to read and speak Japanese. He was a really fun guy and brought a positive atmosphere to the classroom. Simon was really helpful, and he helped me write katakana since it was my first time learning it and I was struggling.

After having our Japanese lesson of the day, Sai-sensei, the name Simon told us to call him by, told us a little bit more about his connection to Japan. He talked about how he started to learn Japanese in middle school but when high school hit, he started to stop trying to learn the language. Then in college he started to re-learn that language, since he had the opportunity to teach in Japan. Having Sai-sensei talk about his past really connected with me. He told us that if we were going to learn the language then we have to get more invested and not just learn it because of anime or anything simple. Back in middle school I used to love anime, and I tried learning Japanese because of it, but once high school hit and I didn’t have the time for anime anymore, I started to lose interest in trying to learn Japanese.

But then over the summer when I was traveling in Asia, I realized just how amazing and beautiful the culture was, which reignited my determination to learn Japanese. Having Sai-sensei in the classroom will really be amazing since he is able to connect with us since he experienced the same things we did. But also it’s always nice to have an extra hand around, especially when you’re learning a new language. So having Sai-sensei around will help me be able to better write my katakana and have someone to talk to in Japanese so he can critique it. So I look forward to our next class together and hope you continue helping out our class so we all can become better at Japanese!

Doozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!