Skyy’s KAKEHASHI Reflection

By Skyy Genies (Japanese Plus)

This past week, I learned so much about myself and Japan throughout my stay in Gifu and Tokyo; from culture and traditions to language. Going into the program, I didn’t really know what to expect, as it was my second time travelling to Japan. Would I feel any different? Would it be the same? These questions lingered in my head before the trip and were quickly answered the minute I landed in Japan. From the first activity to the very last, I was able to obtain valuable knowledge about not only Japanese society but about my own. Things were definitely as amazing, if not more than the first time I travelled to Japan. I had the opportunity to use my previous experiences of Japan to create a new perspective during the KAKEHASHI trip that would lead me to many revelations and reflections. A few of the events that were especially meaningful to me were the homestay program and the high school exchange.

The homestay program was one of the best experiences of my life. Throughout my 3 days and 2 nights living in a house with the Watanabe family, I was able to not only learn about the history of Gifu, such as Teru Teru Bozo, but I was able to create meaningful relationships with my family members and gain insight about the livelihood of the average Japanese family and exchange information about our countries with one another. From my host mother, Akemi Watanabe, to my younger sister Akemi, every member in my host family had wisdom and love to share with me which truly made the experience amazing. During our day together, our family travelled to Nagoya Castle, shopped in Nagoya, and even ate the famous local tempura shrimp together. That night we had an amazing feast of pizza, a plethora of sushi, and roe noodles.

Aside from touring, my host family and I discussed various topics such as the school system of Japan in comparison to the United States, protesting, politics, and hobbies. I learned about how the Japanese school system is structured, as my host mother was a Japanese teacher, how Japan perceives Trump, and even the little things like the Golden Dolphin of Nagoya Castle. Like any other family, we ate dinner together and cheered for the Olympics together. I felt like a true member of the family. By the end of the experience, I became an appointed mentor for my host sister Akemi. These amazing bonds are what truly made the homestay experience unforgettable. Not to mention the Nintendo Switch that my host brother was obsessed with. The cheering, shouting, and fun competition that Mario Kart offered us at any given time is truly a memory that I will continue to cherish for the rest of my life.

The high school exchange was an honestly breathtaking experience. From the minute we arrived at the high school, we were greeted warmly by cheering students, excited to show us their high school and presentations. I cannot put in words how amazing the performances of Taiko, Koto, Sado, and Kyudo were. The extreme contrast between the effort, dedication, and determination put into the students’ participation in the clubs was truly astonishing to me. The students seemed like true professionals at their club activities. Aside from the presentations, I felt so great after getting to know the students and realizing that despite our differences in language or culture, we had many things in common. I befriended people who loved K-pop, anime, fashion, photography, and art, just like I do! This experience is the perfect example that love and friendship has no boundary. Despite how far apart you may seem from someone physically or culturally, there is always common ground that you can meet on and build meaningful relationships on. I will never forget the day I spent at Gifu Sogo Gakuen High School and the meaningful relationships that I created.

Throughout the trip I realized the importance of the maintenance of tradition and culture, despite technology and infrastructural advancements, how far dedication and kindness can take you, and the significance that realizing that commonalities exist between people despite the seemingly apparent contrasts between people. From the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I learned that even in the midst of confusion, aggression, and threats, it is important for the people as a community to stand by what they believe and have believed for many years before, such as the anti-weapons stance that Japan stands by. From the high school students and my host family, I realized that if you put your heart into something, you are bound to see a positive outcome. Whether that be the construction of meaningful relationships or the mastery of your club, dedication can take you a long way. The thing that I took away from this trip the most was the fact that people from places on opposite sides of the world can still find common grounds and create sincere connections with one another that may have been unimaginable before. I would like to apply this knowledge to my future when I approach new concepts and people, because it is through understanding one another that people can avoid conflict and achieve world peace.

Additionally, I realized that I definitely want to minor in East Asian studies and study abroad in Japan during my time in University so that I can give back the same generosity and love to those who treated me so well and guided me during my time in Japan during the past week. I am so thankful for the experiences that I had in Japan through the KAKEHASHI program! Thank you!

Trump in Japan

By Skyy Genies

For many people in America today, President Trump’s foreign endeavors are a very sensitive and for some, infuriating topic to discuss. Of course, I am one of those people, and today when I read an article titled “Trump Tells Japan It Can Protect Itself by Buying U.S. Arms” from the New York Times, I was in utter disbelief. The article discussed President Trump’s recent visit to Japan; his opinions about the imbalance of trade, his attempts to persuade Japan to purchase U.S. arms, and in my opinion, the worst of all, his racist and ignorant remarks about Japanese society. Trump referred to the people of Japan as “samurai warriors” and painted them as weak for not retaliating against North Korea for their missile projects. Reading this article brought to my attention the fact that It is a common trend among many youth in this country to hate our President, even if for many, it is just a matter of riding the wave. Besides learning new facts about U.S. and Japan relations or Trump’s methods in foreign policy,

I learned a very valuable lesson from this experience. If one doesn’t know much about politics (or any topic), like me in some ways, taking the time to actually do a little research and read about the different perspectives of a phenomenon can help you back up your opinions with actual evidence and even help you become a more well-rounded and in a way open-minded person.

Skyy’s Photo

This picture perfectly depicts the intimate and fun environment in which we learn new things about Japan from culture to language, and exchange ideas about current events facing our own country and Japan. Japanese language can be hard sometimes, but with the diversity of our skills and knowledge, we help and support each other to get past our obstacles.

Skyy Genies

Japanese Connections: Kazunori Kumagai

By Skyy Genies

Today October 18, 2017 was an extremely emotional and eye opening day. I was given the opportunity of witnessing a beautiful artistic performance from Kazunori Kumagai, a world renowned tap dancer from Sendai, Japan at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. My emotional journey started when we first arrived at the Kennedy Center, and we were lucky enough to be able to actually speak with Mr. Kumagai. He told us his story about how he was inspired by Michael Jackson’s Thriller when he was five and then became interested in tap dancing. When he was 18, he moved to New York City to study tap dancing among the best in the business.

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The most touching aspects of his story to me were how he took in criticisms from his teachers and peers back in Japan when he said he wanted to be a tap dancer. Kazunori Kumagai was not afraid to follow his heart and disregard social expectations and opinions of him that may have led him down a path that he wasn’t happy with. Despite obstacles such as race that may have arisen in Mr. Kumagai’s path, he was able to receive praise and accolades for his determination to showcase his self expression. Additionally, since I traveled to Tohoku, Japan this summer, I was extremely inspired by Mr. Kumagai’s dedication to his hometown as he often returns to Japan to assist with the reconstruction process after the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, and raise awareness about the arts.

Then came his tap performance. Honestly speaking, before witnessing his performance, I didn’t think much of tap dancing. But boy, was I wrong. I don’t even know how many times I cried during his performance. His ability to tap in sync with the other instruments present during his performance simply amazed me. When we spoke to Mr. Kumagai earlier, he told us that tap dancing sounded like a conversation between his feet and other instruments. There is truly no better way to put that. The melody, rhythm, and balance of the performance sounded like a story that directly related to my life. I couldn’t help but feel my emotions well up. I was so amazed. After today’s experience, I learned a few new things:

  1. Don’t have opinions about something you’ve never experienced for yourself because it’s most likely wrong.
  2. Don’t let social expectations deter you from the path your heart is leading you down.
  3. And, never forget where you came from or who helped you get to where you are.

Japan Is My Life

By Skyy Genies

So today, my blog is going to be about how everything Japanese has become a part of my daily routine. I have been taking Japanese for around 8 months now, and just from that, I have noticed a drastic change in the way I carry myself and the way I speak. How, you ask? Well, since learning the Japanese language, I haven’t gone one day without speaking Japanese. Yes, we only take the class two days out of the week, but whether it’s intentional or not, some Japanese slips out every day.

Additionally, in the way I carry myself, after reading the chapters about social life and communication in Geek in Japan, I unconsciously changed my behavior. Especially after actually being around Japanese people on multiple occasions through the Japanese Plus Program, I have been more accepting and open-minded of things I am new to. Also, I find myself trying to avoid confrontation and saying things blatantly. Although these things aren’t that far off from how I originally acted, I think more in a way of “How would this look in Japan?” and “Would I do this in Japan”. These thoughts cross my mind constantly and they push me to further indulge myself with what I love, which is Japan! I love how much learning the Japanese language and simply participating in the Japanese Plus Program has influenced my everyday life. One time I even stood up and said “Kiritsu” (stand up) in my History class, everyone looked at me crazy and I realized what I was doing. Just that one school tradition that is practiced in Japan stuck with me and has become a part of my daily routine, cool right?

When I joined the program, I expected to learn things about the Japanese culture, but I never thought that I would start to notice those characteristics within myself after a while.

Geek In Japan – Chapter 5

By Skyy Genies

Something about the fifth chapter of Geek In Japan that interested me was the drastic contrast between the motivations and intentions of someone working in the United States when compared to that of someone working in Japan. According to Geek In Japan, in the United States “most people do things for their own benefit, eventually bringing prosperity to consumers and society. In Japan, on the other hand…the Japanese give their utmost in their work in order to serve consumers and society, in this way they automatically obtain benefits for the society and achieve their individual aims.” Additionally, the Japanese maintain respect for people above you at work regardless of how long you have known them or worked at that company.

These work practices in themselves perfectly exhibit the way society works in both of these countries. In the US, most people worry about making themselves successful and living good, whereas in Japan, most people worry about how they can improve their community and society. The work ethic is also very different. Here in the US work is usually only done for money, if someone is working overtime they are sure to receive overtime payment. Their motivation for doing that work is bettering their financial status. However in Japan, the motivation of their hard work is simply bettering those around them; they don’t expect to be paid if they work overtime.

In terms of the interactions between the different levels of the company, I think there is also a big difference between Japan and the United States. Here in the US, it may be seen as normal for a long-time employee to casually speak to the head of their department or even the president. That is different from Japan where regardless of how long you’ve been there, you are expected to uphold a high level of respect. I think these differences are really cool, I really want to experience what society is like when everyone is working to better each other rather than only worrying about themselves.

Ramen-Ya

By Skyy Genies

On April 1, 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to go to a Ramen Restaurant in Adams Morgan, Washington,DC. First off, I just want to say it was SO AMAZING!

According to Cookinglight, ramen is “a Japanese noodle soup dish, with Chinese-style wheat or egg noodles served in a very rich broth along with cooked sliced pork, fresh scallions, and a maybe slightly-more-than-soft-boiled egg.” It is a very popular dish in Japan. How did this unbelievable event arise you ask? It was just another day in the Japanese Plus Program. During this meeting, our class was extremely busy preparing for our booth at the Sakura Matsuri (Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival). Out of nowhere, Ms. Schwartz announced that as a reward for our hard work and dedication to our booth, she would treat us to Ramen. I was so excited!!! I had never had traditional ramen that was actually prepared in a restaurant. I could not wait.

At the end of the class, we waited enthusiastically to leave. It was a long walk, but once we arrived and ate, it was definitely worth it! Since I wasn’t able to eat meat during the time of our visit to the restaurant, I chose a vegetarian ramen bowl that contained corn, seaweed, carrots, mushrooms, and a few other vegetables. Some of my classmates chose the Korean inspired ramen dishes with kimchi, eggs, and beef bulgogi. The aromatic scent of juicy steak made me have a negative expectation of what my ramen would taste like. But boy was I wrong. It was amazing! After having ramen on that day, I will forever look forward to my next bowl of ramen. I am so thankful to Ms. Schwartz and the other coordinators that made this amazing trip possible.