OSSE Scholars

By Lucca Bey

I’d just like to start today’s blog off with a big thank you to the coordinator of Japanese Plus, Sally, for connecting us to so many different resources and really pushing us to pursue them, because otherwise, I don’t believe that I’d even have applied for OSSE Scholars in the first place. OSSE Scholars was originally introduced to me last year, it being an opportunity that allowed DC students to go to college during the summer for no cost. This year, I decided to take the jump, genuinely not expecting to get in. From the phrasing of the last sentence, I guess you can probably tell that I was accepted to participate in the OSSE Scholars program.

While I had initially applied to OSSE Scholars in order to further advance my Japanese during the few weeks where Japanese Plus is out of session, I was matched to Cornell University’s summer program, which doesn’t offer Japanese classes, but rather my other major interest, a 6-week course on art and fashion design. Even if the arts program wasn’t my first choice, I would never have even pursued this opportunity if it wasn’t for Sally, and honestly, the Japanese Plus program overall and the connections we’re implored to make inside of it.

Lucca’s Great Wave of Knowledge

By Lucca Bey

On the Saturday of February 8th, we were given the wonderful opportunity to explore the Freer Hokusai exhibit with a tour guide who gave us an in-depth view about the art, as well as its origins. Katsushika Hokusai was a very well renowned artist during the Edo period, with his specialties being in painting, and woodblock printing. I originally thought I knew nothing about him, but it turns out that he was the painter of something that I’m sure even those who know nothing about Japanese art culture can recognize.

Does this ring any bells? It certainly did for me! I’ve seen this image so many times and always thought it was so beautiful, but for some reason never thought to explore the artist, and this trip was so full of making connections and delving into something that involved my two biggest interests: Art and foreign culture. This entire visit was jam packed with our tour guide, Robin, teaching us about things that we couldn’t have possibly known by just looking at the art itself. Did you know that Hokusai was most interested in depicting all stages and places in life (i.e wealth, age, social status) in his art, and was exceptional at doing so, which definitely can be attributed to the fact that he came up as a poor artist and gained wealth as well as fame as his art became more and more sought after.

The entire experience was just so enticing to me, as it really let me explore into a different type of artistic subculture in Japan, giving me a hands-on lens into Japanese culture as well as history in a setting that happens outside of the classroom, which is quite a valuable experience for me, considering that I’m a more kinesthetic learner (meaning learning by doing, and physical interaction). All in all, I do hope that we get to do some more museum visits that have to do with Japanese history and how it has laid down the foundation for the culture in today’s Japan!

Japanese reflections on a visit with Hokusai

On Saturday, February 8th, our Japanese Plus group had a special day outside the classroom. First we went to the Freer Gallery of Art to visit the very special exhibit, “Hokusai: Mad About Painting.” We are so grateful (again) to good friend of the program, Robin Berrington, who was our extremely knowledgeable and interactive docent. Then we walked across the Mall and into Chinatown – we were only allowed to speak Japanese the whole time! Last stop was the National Portrait Gallery, where we stopped by a painting by Japanese American artist, Roger Shimomura. Then Eshita-sensei asked students to write about their day – again, in Japanese. A fun challenge!

Cyrus サイラス

今日クラスでフリアーサックラーにいきました。 フリアーサックラーはびじゅつかんです。ツアーをしました。北斎のえを見ました。きれいとおもった。ぼくのすきな北斎のえは「Storm Personified」です。らいじんとしんとうがすきですから、おもしろかった。

Aeris エリス


Theo シオ



Jonah ジョナ


Jazmin ジャズミン




Katie ケーティー

ほくさいはおもしろいです。Gazing into the Distanceがいちばんすきです。ふじと男の子があります。きれいでくろいです。

Lucca ルカ





Jarid’s super inspiring visit

By Lucca Bey

This week during Japanese Plus we actually had a very special visitor come all the way from George Washington University to talk about their experience with learning Japanese. What’s more, our visitor, Jarid, more or less started their journey into Japanese language the same way that we did (with Globalize DC and the TOMODACHI program), which I have to admit was super inspiring. As senior year seems to be approaching faster and faster every day, the more stories such as Jarid’s seem to strike a chord with me.

The fact that something as small as a Japanese class can end up guiding my career and shaping my life isn’t something that I took seriously as a possible reality until this year. Talking to Jarid and asking her questions really gave insight into the reality of studying in Japanese class in postsecondary education. While Japanese is something that’s more personal to her that she wants to pursue, she’s also studying Biology and Education, and hopes to go to Japan in order to make language accessible, as well as to understand different education concepts around the world to learn how people learn. She announced to the class that she’s going to be applying to the JET ALT Program to pursue this goal.

Having people like this, coming from the same city, program, same schools even for some of us, who come in and show us that the sort of career that we dream about is indeed achievable, is really awe-inspiring for us, making our goals seems even closer than before!

Embassy visit to our classroom

By Lucca Bey

A couple classes ago, we had some very special visitors from the Embassy of Japan who gave us an interactive lesson about Japanese history, geography and culture. As they were giving the presentation and we were playing a fun game of truth or false, I was really surprised by how much we actually knew about Japan as a class. For example, they quizzed us about products that came from Japan that we see in our everyday DC, such as metro cars, cameras, and of course, video game systems. You see, when you learn something, you absorb the information, of course, but you don’t really grasp the magnitude of how much you’ve learned because of how abstract knowledge is as a concept until it’s laid out in front of you, and honestly, the visit from the Embassy of Japan did just that. Even the representatives from the Embassy of Japan were pleasantly surprised with our knowledge of things about Japan that weren’t inherently Japanese language related, and I’ve got to admit, it was definitely a boost to our confidence.

Aside from the more formal part of the Embassy’s visit, we also got to make these adorable (albeit very complicated) origami Olympic medals, to go along with the Olympic motif, since the Olympics are being held in Japan this year! We even got the privilege of seeing one of 100 models of the Japanese Olympic torch. Fun fact: If you look at it from the top side, it’s shaped like a cherry blossom, which besides being Japan’s most celebrated flower, also has ties to our very own Washington, DC! The experience within itself was such an educational, fun, and informative experience. Japanese Plus is so thankful for them taking the time out of their day for us!

Carrying the Sun

By Lucca Bey

Last week, we ended up visiting the Freer|Sackler museum to expand and apply the Japanese history we’ve been studying in class about the happenings of different historical periods. Seeing how the different events affected the style and content of art during that period is way more interesting than it sounds on paper. For example, most of the artwork in the Japan exhibit was from the Kamakura period, which depicted a lot of religious symbolism as well as primarily paintings, which matches up to the events during that period. I won’t go too much into that though, I plan to talk about an art piece that in particular, caught my eye:

[Pictured: Carrying the Sun by Kasuga Mandala, courtesy National Museum of Asian Art]

For context, deer are considered messengers of the divine in the Shinto religion, and the sun above the deer is meant to symbolize the kami Amaterasu as well as the Buddha Mahavairocana. I found this piece particularly eye catching due to the symbolism of two distinct religions depicted here, and what’s more, the museum’s explanation for this was the fact that during the Nanbokucho period, both the Kasuga Grand Shrine and the Kofukuji, a Buddhist monastery, maintained close ties to each other and were sponsored by the same clan. I’d personally like to imagine the piece as a symbol of solidarity between both groups, and the gold painted onto the sun as well as the border of the scroll makes this art even more beautiful.

Rugby tattoos and cultural conflict

By Lucca Bey

Lucca wrote this post after a classroom reading and discussion about the Sept 18, 2019 Washington Post article, Rugby World Cup stars will cover their tattoos at times to avoid offending Japanese hosts.

With the date of the Japan Bowl coming closer and closer, we’re really beginning to dive into the intricacies of Japanese history and culture, as well as their crossroads with cultures besides our own. One of the really interesting points of conflict we discussed as a class was actually about conflicting cultural aspects that were introduced in this article about the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which we analyzed as a class. Since Japan is hosting the Olympics in 2020, there’s going to be a mecca of cultures intersecting, but specifically the Samoan rugby players. But first allow me to provide some context.

In the American Samoa, tattoos (commonly referred to as Tataus within the Samoan language) serve as an extremely important cultural rite of passage. Tattoos date back to more than 200 years in Samoan culture, and are representative of the hardships, status, and a mark of pride that are only to be worn by Samoans.

However, Japan has a very complicated history and associations with tattoos, more specifically crime syndicate associations. In Japan, those who wear and proudly display tattoos are considered to be part of the Yakuza, going as far as to ban tattoos in the 1800’s. The real question I find myself asking is: To what extent does honoring one’s cultural traditions go too far? While Tattoos have an important cultural significance to the Samoans, that significance is seen in Japan for a very different reason.

This is what I find the most interesting about studying Japanese culture, a whole world of extra cultural interconnections happen, and you start to view things around you through a more global and educated view.  What do I personally think the correct course of action should be in this case? After a bit of reflection, I feel that it’s not my place to decide what’s objectively right or wrong. Cultural conflicts are always subjective, and it’s especially important to keep being open minded.

Lucca’s Final Reflection

By Lucca Bey

I’m Lucca, I’m a 16 year old, black, trans dude, who, until last year, only knew two languages, Chinese and English. I had discovered Japanese Plus through my school, and I vibed with it immediately.

In the beginning, I truly didn’t have an idea to which extent the Japanese Plus program was going to have an impact on me. Though this is primarily a Japanese language learning program, the language and culture are intrinsically connected, and thus, we ended up learning a great deal of both. Japanese Plus really opened my eyes to how foreign, yet closely connected we are globally. Even though they’re completely different places, the similarities with Chinese culture, Japanese culture, and American culture were a huge surprise to me, and the differences and new concepts we learned about drew me in.

It felt a bit like an immersion experience as we got to experience first-hand Japanese culture inside of our own city. Through the enriching events that we attended to the guest speakers in our class, it really widened my perspective and taught me that Japanese cultural experiences are so much more than just Kimonos and Sushi.

A lot of the speakers we had in the program even exposed me to how valued a global education and vantage point are in both college and career settings. Seeing all these great people talk about how excited they were at the opportunity to have us study abroad in Japan, and how many colleges are more than happy to have students who spoke and understood another language, gave me this revelation.

In short, this program helped me diversify my mindset, and taught me the value of a global education. I am more grateful for this experience than I can put into words.

How far we’ve come

By Lucca Bey

As the school year’s close is fast approaching, so does a period of reflection. With our final presentation for our Japanese I class closing in, it’s crazy to look back on how much progress we’ve made as a class so far. We learned over 90 different Japanese characters, excluding Kanji, learned over 120 different vocabulary words, and too many cultural aspects than I can count.

While we still are in the beginning of our Japanese journey, it’s important to look back on how far we’ve come in just a year. Whenever you study a language you begin to recognize it in places in your everyday life more than you thought could actually be possible. It truly gives you an entirely different perspective on little tidbits on the world around you. The connections that can be made from the basics of Japanese that we already know is amazing.

For example, just the other day I was browsing twitter and saw a post with Japanese. Now while no one in our class is completely fluent (yet), I wanted to give it a go. I didn’t go into the post expecting to understand any of it, yet surprisingly enough, I did! Well, kind of.

One doesn’t become fluent in a day, but the post had so many of some of the basics we learned in class, and some words I picked up along the way. Before I start droning on, as I tend to do, I’ll cut to the chase. The post was about a girl who was studying art, and how she had progressed from her first year to her third year. While I can’t say “progress” in Japanese, I do know the words “study,” “art,” general number counters, and how to say “year,” so all I needed to do was some light guess work to fill in the blanks!

It was a pleasant surprise that really made me reflect on how much we’ve managed to learn in such a short period of time, and I’m excited to show that off during our Capstone project on the 29th!

Beyond The Wall

By Lucca Bey

Recently, through Japanese Plus, I got an amazing opportunity to see the opportunities that learning a different language can bring someone. We attended a community screening of the documentary, Beyond the Wall, at Roosevelt Senior High School. The film is about a group of kids learning Chinese who got to experience Chinese Culture and a language immersion environment firsthand.

In truth, I wasn’t terribly excited to sit in a theatre for an hour, watching a film after a school day and lessons, but it turned out to be one of the most eye-opening experiences that I’ve had in Japanese Plus. The film was around an hour long, and it was crazy inspiring in my eyes. I’d have to say, some of my favorite parts were that the four main kids inside of the documentary were so open to new experiences, really embodying the concept of a global thinker.

I, myself have been learning Chinese for around 9 years now, and so, understandably, this film struck a chord with me. I saw a lot of some of the things I wanted to go on to do in the kids in the film. They were all high school students, just like us, who sought out language learning activities, which again, made me think of our Japanese Plus class.

This also led me to dwell about the different pathways that learning Japanese will have on my career later on, and how it’ll open many doors in life for just about anything that I choose to pursue. A prime example is the addition of cultures you’re familiar with, people you get to meet, and language specific experiences that you can relate to. Language, as I’ve realized in this class, is intricately tied to culture. You can’t separate one from the other, which is why it’s so very important to learn and understand both.

While it can seem a bit overdramatic to say that the film we watched caused me to have some sort of life changing revelation, seeing other high schoolers my age using language to participate in a foreign culture was definitely key to some of the aforementioned introspective thinking. With the school year unfortunately coming to a close, I’m excited for what else this class has in store.