Satoshi Fujimura Presentation

By Skyy Genies

During our Wednesday, March 22, 2017 meeting, our class had the opportunity to receive presentations from a panel of people who work in relations with Japan or work to expand the knowledge of Japan nationwide. One of the panelists was Satoshi Fujimura. During their presentations the panelists were asked to speak about their job and the steps they took to get to where they are. Satoshi Fujimura’s presentation resonated with me the most because he started his academic and career journey with an interest in Chemistry like me.

The most intriguing part of his presentation was his role change. He spoke about how he worked at Sony in many different positions. Then he “changed his role again” to Mistletoe Inc. I found his presentation very inspirational because it showed me that life isn’t a guaranteed thing. You may or may not have an exact plan of where you think your life is going to go; but his presentation showed me that it’s not certain. He also showed me that I should not be afraid to change my path if that’s where my heart leads me, because after his whole journey, he ended up in a place that he is comfortable and content with. Always follow your heart.

Religion

By Skyy Genies

In Geek in Japan in the Religion and Philosophy chapter, I read about how “most Japanese don’t believe in one specific religion but combine aspects of several religions in their daily lives, often unaware which one they’re following.” I find this as a huge contrast to American perspectives on religion. In Japanese society, religious flexibility and freedom is normal, where here in the United States our religious institutions and practices are more rigid. For an example, in our cultural conversation, one of my classmates, Talia, spoke about how uncomfortable an Islamic person may feel if they walked into a Christian institution and vice versa. I think this may be due to the religions sprouting from similar ideas/locations in Japan rather than here in the United States where the religions practiced are very strict and came from many different places. Which is expected given the homogeneity of the Japanese society and the diversity of American society.

Additionally, the values in America and Japan differ, which influences the prominence of religion in everyday life. As Eshita Sensei said, she didn’t know how much her daily activities were rooted in religion until she learned about religion in college. Everything (almost) has a religious aspect in Japan. This may seem true at first glance in America; however, we separate our religion and social, business relationships. Religion can’t be discussed/taught in school. This idea is also tied to the changes in America today, where many Americans are non-religious and questioning what they once believed. This is very different from Japan where respect and avoiding confrontation is an automatic standard. It’s just so interesting to me!

Amae

By Skyy Genies

The idea of Amae, which is “the way we act when we wish to be loved or seek attention or when we want to depend on someone else with a sense of submissiveness,” is very interesting to me. I find it intriguing that unlike in the United States, acting cute/spoiled to get attention is a quality that is expected in especially girls. The idea of collectivism that motivates Amae is something that the US opposed where our individual rights and uniqueness are expressed. This word makes me think of Aegyo in Korea, where the same cutesy concept persists. As the article states, Amae is sometimes perceived by Americans as spoiled or brat-like. The existence as a word for this behavior accentuates the huge contrast in the way we perceive submissiveness. In the article the author also speaks about how men like girls with girlish voices, faces, and Amae. However in the US men like women to be somewhat independent/powerful. The US also values its individualistic culture where people, including women, can have power in all realms and express dominance rather than submissiveness. This is so cool!

Japanese vs. Korean

By Skyy Genies

It was a normal day in the Japanese Plus Program, Eshita Sensei was teaching us about asking someone what they like to eat/their favorite food and how to speak about yours. Being myself (super obsessed with Japanese and Korean culture), when asked what I thought favorite/number one was in Japanese, I impulsively shouted “ichiman,” a combination of “ichi” one in Japanese and “마지막” (machimag) last in Korean. Silly, I know. However, to my surprise, that was actually correct. This situation caused me to be very curious about the similarities and differences between the Japanese and Korean languages. So I did a little research…

In terms of grammar, both Korean and Japanese use similar sentence structures and rely heavily on particles. The basic sentence structure of both languages is generally “Subject+Object+Verb.” In Korean particles such as 은,는 (eun/neun) and in Japanese は (wa) が (ga) are used to indicate the topic or subject being spoken about in the sentence. Also, many words in both Korean and Japanese have roots from the Chinese language or can be written in Chinese characters. In fact, around 70% of words in Japanese and Korean are rooted from the Chinese language. At one point, like Japanese, Korean used Chinese characters widely in their writing called “Hanja.” However, unlike in Japanese, the use of Chinese characters in Korean decreased drastically due in part to the formation of nationalistic ideas formed in 20th century Korea.

Despite these similarities, Japanese and Korean have many differences. These differences lie in the writing systems of the two languages. In Korean only one writing system is used in both Northern and Southern Korea, it is called 한굴 (Hangul). On the contrary, three writing systems are used in Japanese ひらがな (Hiragana) and カタカナ (Katakana), and Kanji – one for native words, another for foreign words, and the latter for Chinese symbols. Also in terms of the writing systems, in Japanese some of the symbols that are used have syllabic pronunciations, i.e “Ta, To, Ta, Te,” while in Korean, the symbols usually represent a single sound, i.e “B,D,R/L”; however some are pronounced “Yu, Ya, Yo”.

Cool, right? 🙂

Arlington Cemetery with the Kakehashi Students

by Skyy Genies

On Sunday January 29, 2017, two of my classmates, Rakiya and Chidera, and I met the Kakehashi Japanese exchange students at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. Even though, I was born and live here in DC, I have never been to Arlington Cemetery, so from the beginning, I knew this was going to be a life-changing experience for me in many ways.

When we first arrived, we were kind of shy so we walked behind the Japanese students for a while. Then when the crowd slowed down to take pictures, we introduced ourselves to the Kakehashi leader. Immediately, we were greeted and thanked for coming by the Japanese students. This felt, amazing because not only did it make us feel comfortable, but appreciated even though we were the ones who were thankful.

We trekked along the paths throughout the cemetery, taking pictures, learning facts about the sites. This was very fun and educational, however for me, the most memorable moment about this experience was watching the “Changing of the Guard” Ceremony at “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” We all watched in awe as the precise and synchronized guards saluted the tomb, checked their rifles, and yelled their duties. Afterwards, the Japanese students asked if we’ve ever been here before and what that meant, in this moment, we were the same. I didn’t know any more about what we just watched than they did. We learned and grew together as a group despite our cultural differences.

After the ceremony, we walked through the amazing amphitheater and museum. Then we walked to the peak of the cemetery where you could see the Capitol and monuments. It was here that we took the group photo. Even though we weren’t formally a part of the Kakehashi program, we were graciously invited to be a part of the photo. This was our last stop at the cemetery. After the peak, we walked to the seating and were asked to take selfies with the Japanese students. This was so nice, even though we had just met, I felt comfortable around these students as if I have known them for much longer than just a day ago.

It was then that I realized, that Japan was the place I wanted to be, I am so grateful that I was able to spend that time with the Kakehashi students. It changed my life drastically.