Raven’s KAKEHASHI Trip Reflection

By Raven Bluford (Japanese Plus)

Going to Japan this time around, I am coming in with new eyes. A lot of things I learned the first time I went to Japan were reinforced this time around. But all in all, there were definitely many things I didn’t know before. A few things that really stood out to me on this trip was Japanese energy conservation, Japan’s foreign policy, Japanese customer service, Japanese school life, and Japanese home life. I already knew that Japanese people were environmentally aware and they did a lot of energy conservation. But actually experiencing how they conserve their energy in daily life was very interesting to me and made me think about how I waste energy on a daily basis. I should try to be more environmentally aware of the decisions I make, because the smaller decisions can have a negative impact on the earth as a whole. Examples of the energy conservation I observed were the eco-flush toilets, turning off all electricity when you leave the house, and the houses not having central heating.

Learning about Japan’s foreign policy was one of my favorite lectures that we’ve heard on the trip, because I already had an interest in the relationship between the US and Japan. This interest came from me writing a research paper about the US occupation in Japan after World War II, which was the foundation for the relationship that the US and Japan have now. So it was interesting to understand how that relationship evolved and to see what Japanese people really think about not having nuclear weapons. The point of view that a lot of Japanese people have about not having nuclear weapons was really fascinating and it really made me think about how much better the world would be if we all shared that same mindset, because it would force everyone to talk it out instead of just resorting to violence.

Another thing I learned that I didn’t know the first time I went to Japan was about Japanese school life. I already knew that it was required for the Japanese students to have a club. But I never knew how much commitment and time that they put into their activities and it was interesting to see how in America the goal is to do multiple activities and put just enough effort into them, but in Japan the students choose one activity and they put more than enough effort into their activity. Another thing that I learned about Japanese school life or from what I’ve seen from Japanese people in general, is that they know how to turn the professionalism on and off. When the Japanese students turned off the professionalism, I could see that we were not so different in that we could bond over the fact that we were all shy on first meetings and that we shared similar music interest. But I also found a lot of the students to be quite hyper, which was quite refreshing.

The main thing that stood out to me over the trip was Japanese family life. For home stay, I stayed with a family of 4 with a father, mother, daughter, and son. Prior to the trip, I expected the father to not be as active in the children’s lives because I’ve read about how sometimes the men that work in companies are overworked, so they aren’t home as much. But I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see my host family’s dynamic and I really valued that they took us into their home and allowed us to view this dynamic. All in all, this trip reinforced to me things I already knew and things that I learned. This trip also reinforced to me that in the future I would love to stay in Japan more long-term and I would not trade this trip for anything, because I am so appreciative of the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, and the things I learned.

US and Japan gun laws

By Raven Bluford

About two weeks ago, we read articles that discussed the relationship between the United States and Japan in relation to President Trump. The article that I really enjoyed reading the most was the article about the shooting in Texas and how the number shot was much bigger than the amount of shootings that occurred in Japan within the past five years. The article really went into detail about the difference between the United States and Japan’s gun laws. It even went as far as to criticize American gun laws by making the assertion that getting a gun in America is as easy as getting chopsticks in Japan. Although the author of the article heavily critiques the United States, it doesn’t take away the fact that it makes a great point about the U.S. needing to look at the way that Japan does its laws and why their way is successful. I hope in the future our government reconsiders our current gun laws to hopefully prevent another tragic mass murder.


Raven’s Photo

Cha Cha Slide

This picture shows our Japanese Plus group teaching a popular American line dance to a group of Japanese exchange students that were with the Kakehashi program. My favorite part of the Japanese Plus Program is that we are able to utilize the Japanese learned in class with native speakers that are closer to our age. But more than that, our work with the Kakehashi program has raised our cultural awareness and understanding of Japan.

Raven Bluford

My First Tap Experience

Kazu Kumagai

By Raven Bluford

This was my first time ever seeing someone tap dance, so I didn’t really know what to expect and I was really anxious. Once we met Kazunori Kumagai, my anxiousness turned to anticipation because when he talked about how he got into tap dancing it really showed me that there was so much more to tap dancing than what I originally thought. I learned that tap dancing tells a story and the story can be told with more than one story-teller. The story can be told with tap dancers, trumpet players, bass players, and drum players.

The performance overall was really intense and I loved seeing how everything had a solid contribution towards each other. The background music and the lights really set the mood for the music being played and made the experience more intense, which caused me to be quite emotional. I loved seeing how attuned all of the musicians were with each other, because every time the musicians played something, Kazunori knew how to tap to it in a way that made you feel like it was rehearsed, but also made you feel like it was impossible for it to not be impromptu. If given the chance again, I would love to be able to watch another tap performance.

Performers at the Sakura Matsuri

By Raven Bluford

My shift for our booth at the Cherry Blossom Festival was from 4-6 p.m. and I had arrived at about 10, so we had a lot of time to explore the festival until our shift. A few of us spent a lot of time at the JPOP stage, where there were various Japanese performers performing throughout the day. The performances ranged from bands to dancing groups to fashion shows. My favorite performances were by a J-Rock group called Kanadete sourou and a J-Pop group called Jr. Exile. I’d never heard of Kanadete sourou and I’m not a big fan of rock, but I really enjoyed the songs they were singing considering the female vocalist had a really amazing voice and she was really energized. Another thing I liked about them was that the speakers were really loud, so you could really feel the vibrations from the drums and guitar. I knew Jr. Exile because two days prior we had watched them perform at the Japan Bowl, so I was really excited to see them because I was amazed by their performance at the Japan Bowl. I think their performance at the Cherry Blossom Festival was better than the Japan Bowl because the audience was louder and more pumped, which made the performance more exciting. I really liked Jr. Exile because they’re really good dancers and very good singers. I especially liked the dancing because they were in-sync and they did a few stunts as well. This was a really great experience because it has influenced me to explore more about them and their music.

Our Meiji Kakehashi meeting

By Raven Bluford

We had another Kakehashi visit from another set of students – from Meiji University. This time we got a chance to practice our Japanese with them. The conversation was very hard due to the fact that we had to talk for 7 minutes in Japanese and I don’t really know that many questions in Japanese. But the person I was talking to was very willing to try and understand what I was asking, even if the way I was asking questions could be seen as confusing due to the questions lacking sentence structure.

Like the other Kakehashi visit, we were invited to go to Z-burger with them. This time I decided to sit with two of them and try to practice my Japanese. I asked them questions about what they think of America and their response was quite interesting, because the way they saw America was quite different from the way I look at America. The first thing they thought of when I asked that question was large serving sizes, which was quite funny. I also asked questions about what they do and about them learning English. Overall, I really enjoy getting to have experiences like this because it allows me to meet people and interact with actual Japanese people in ways I otherwise never would.

Photo Spotlight: Meiji Visit

By Raven Bluford

This picture was taken during the second Kakehashi visit at Z Burger, where we got a chance to meet up with the Japanese students from Meiji University again. This allowed us the opportunity to practice some more of our Japanese. One of the things I remember the most about this experience is that as we were struggling when speaking in Japanese due to the limited amount of Japanese that we know, the Japanese students were struggling just as much when trying to speak in English. This made me feel much better and also motivated me to try to become as close to fluent in Japanese as I can, because being able to break the language barrier would be quite useful in trying to communicate with other Japanese people to learn more about their quite intriguing culture.

Giri and presents

By Raven Bluford

The section in Geek in Japan about giri and presents is quite interesting to me because in some ways it is similar to what we do in the United States, but in some ways it is completely different. I found it quite intriguing that the gifts Japanese people give to people depends on the relationship of those two people, and that if you give a person a really good gift, but you just met them, they would be offended because they are obligated to get you a gift that is just as good. This is a little similar to the United States because almost everyone puts more effort and spends more on a gift for someone they are close to, as opposed to someone they just met.

Another thing that I found fascinating is that Japanese people give gifts to people for funerals, whereas in the United States it is seen as impolite to give gifts to someone who recently lost a loved one. Japanese people also give gifts on the first day of work to your boss or co-workers, while in the United States doing something like that is quite uncommon.

Japanese and French

By Raven Bluford

The other language that I am currently studying is French, which I have been studying for about 3 years. Although I found French to be definitely easier to learn due to the letters being the same as the English letters, I found that I enjoyed studying Japanese more. Before joining Japanese Plus, I had no prior experience with anything Japanese, so the fact that I had no prior knowledge about Japan or Japanese culture and I have enjoyed it this much says a lot.

Studying French didn’t really help much when studying Japanese, because there are completely different components that makes up the language and culture. One similarity that I did find between the two was that Japanese and French start combining numbers using mathematical expressions to make new numbers. For example, in Japanese 11 would be the word for 1 and 10 and when you add them it’s 11. In French the word for 80 is 4 and 20, which means you would multiply 4 by 20 to get 80.

Bingata Reflection

By Raven Bluford

bingata1After meeting the Kakehashi exchange visitors, a few of us went to go to this event where we were able to make Bingata.

Bingata is an old Japanese tradition, where you dye cloth and make different patterns nature-related, using various bright vibrant colors. We were given cloth that had a template to dye the cloth. When we dyed the bingata we were given palettes that had very light colors, which kind of served as the base before we added the darker colors. After adding the light colors to the cloth, we were given the darker colors, which would be added or even covered some parts of the light colors. It was quite different from painting, because instead of actually making long strokes, you just use one brush for dotting and the other brush for rubbing in that dot. This was quite fun because it didn’t matter if it was inside the lines or not, because once the bingata dried, the paint outside the lines would be gone.