Remembering 3-11

By Katie:

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami began on March 11, 2011 with almost 22,000 deaths. I believe that to preserve the event and to honor what had happened, we should have a moment of silence and learn what happened on March 11, just like on September 11 when the twin towers had fallen. We should also be more supportive and caring to the victims of the earthquake/tsunami. I was thinking that we can integrate at least learning a bit of Japanese to honor the Japanese victims and I feel that others should be aware of what happened. It is really heartbreaking to see that Japanese victims are still recovering from an event nine years ago. Even after watching 10 mins of the film that Eshita-sensei and Sally showed us, I was pretty shocked by the impact of the tsunami and was disappointed in myself for not being aware of the effect the tsunami had on residents.

By Jazmin:

The Great East Japan Earthquake was a tragedy. I can’t imagine the loss of those lives who were swept from the tsunami in Northern Japan. An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0, gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. In order to remember this tragic event, I think by more people being aware and or learning about this tragic event is one way to honor what happened there. There are others who don’t know anything about the 3/11 Great Earthquake. Another way we can remember this event is to visit areas that were affected by the tsunami, and help those in need. There are still people who haven’t fully recovered from the Earthquake. We can visit people in those areas and we can hear their stories. It’s one way we can connect with them, and can resonate with them one way or another. When I watched a clip while the tsunami was happening online, I saw people running to higher grounds. Those who ran faster were missed by the tsunami by mere seconds. The tsunami ran about 6 miles inland, and caused an accident at the Fukushima Nuclear power plant as well. It’s sad and heartbreaking that over 18,000 people died. I hope in the future, there are ways we can avoid this tragic event from repeating itself and doing things differently to prevent it from happening again.

By Theo:

I’ve been thinking about the events of March 11, 2011 for a while now and how I, as both a student and an American can honor the loss of so many people. I confess, I still haven’t found a satisfying conclusion, but for now I am content in submitting my philosophical ramblings for a wider audience.

I believe it’s honestly rather hard to sympathize with someone an ocean away, and harder still to empathize with them. Understanding can come easy; loss is, after all, something everyone experiences multiple times throughout their life and that shared experience breeds a shared understanding. Empathy, however, requires one to take the extra step and to share the same feelings as another person. Of course, emotion being so nuanced it is impossible to truly understand and to truly feel the depths to which an individual experiences loss and as such, we only feel empathy in a broad sense. In my experience, this vague form of empathy is present even among close relations, be they family or friends, and thus it should come as no surprise that our already incomplete empathy is spread thinner and thinner as it looks further and further away. The result is that, at least on a personal level, I cannot empathize with the many Japanese people who lost both possessions and relations at a truly meaningful level. Instead I’m left thinking “I’m sorry” or “that’s so sad.” The issue I have with these thoughts are that they exist to placate my own desire to empathize for fear that a lack of empathy would make me a bad person. Personally, after a great deal of thought, I don’t believe true empathy is necessary, nor is it a reasonable request for Americans in general to hold any deeper emotions than those on the surface when discussing Japan.

What I do think is necessary is understanding, recognition, and respect. Even if you cannot feel what the many people who lost their loved ones feel, it is important to realize where that feeling stems from and to respect the depth and enormity of such feelings. For an American, I believe this attempt is one of the best things one can do for those who know loss from a world away.

By Aeris:

Natural disasters are a very real and very scary threat in our lives. Some of us may be safe from them, and others see so many it’s as if they’ve survived a war. In class, we watched a short documentary showing the horrific tragedy that was the earthquake followed by a tsunami in Tohoku, Japan on March 11th, 2011. The class fell into a petrified hush as we watched people try to rescue people from the waves only to be pulled in themselves. From people describing how they watched their friends and loved ones be swept away in front of their eyes, to others recounting their narrow escapes from death. I think I was honestly near tears… I don’t even think I had noticed the subtitles and could honestly hear the pain in their voices which greatly upset me. Unlike in many situations, there’s always a way you could learn from the past, but having to write about this felt very weird, I feel like this is not my place to speak about it, it’s not my trauma to unpack. Many people only had moments notice before they were able to get away, and even those who did get away to evacuation zones also got swept away. Over 18,000 people died in the tsunami, and the rest came back to towns that were completely washed away. Many towns still look like they did after the tsunami today. I know there are also still many relief efforts going on and it reminded me of a story I heard from a JET participant, who spent their days off volunteering to help clean up in some of the affected towns. I would like to help with those efforts when I go to Japan.

By Jonah:

There are too many emotions running rampant after any catastrophe. All are appropriate for you to experience. There are pains and aches that will plague anyone after a loss this large, which are appropriate feelings. Time can only heal, and it always will take time. There will be better days and there will be more time to heal, there will be more opportunity to recover from this loss. Be sure to make the most out of each moment and live to the fullest, each moment should count.

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

フリアーサックラーにいきました。ロビンさんは私達のガイドでした。ツアーはとてもおもしろかったです。北斎のえはかんぺきでした、たしかに北斎はよくがんばったとおもいました。びじゅつ学校に入っていますから、本当にたのしかった。ロビンさんはとてもじょうずなガイドでした。私の一ばん好きなえはおしょうがつの女シリーズでした。スタイルはじょうひんだとおもいました。もう一回見に行きたいです!:D

Theo シオ

フリアーでとあるひとのれきしをみました。ツアーのあいだにほくさいさんのえはかわって、もっとうつくしくなりました。あのさいごのえはわたしのいきをとりました。あのいろとかげがとってもすばらしかった。

ツアーもすばらしかった。そしてロビンさんはちしきがありすぎました。ロビンさんからいろいろならえました。そして、わたしはたぶんひとりでもっとべんきょうします。つまり、たのしかったです。もういちどいきたい。

Jonah ジョナ

ほくさいはほんとうにゆうめいです。私の一ばんすきなえはらいじんです。ロビンはいいガイドです。ぜんぶのほくさいのえは、かっこいいです。

Jazmin ジャズミン

ふじがすきです。

みずがいちばんすきです。

ほくさいのまんががすきです。でも今のまんがはわかりません。

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

大きいびじゅつかんにいきました。このびじゅつかんはオバマのえがあります。私は2018ねんにみました。すごいですよ。日本のえもあります。日系アメリカ人がかきました。すごいけど、かなしいです。

みんなは三十分ぐらい日本ごではなしてみました。今日はさむかったですから、たくさんの人はコートをきました。でもジョナくんはコートがありません。みんなはほんとうの木をみました。この木はすごく大きいです。びじゅつかんのえもぐこし大きいです。そして、きれいでうつくしいですよ。

みんなはほくさいのびじゅつかんにいきました。ほくさいは日本のゆうめいながかです。ほくさいのえはほんとうにすごいですよ。そしてとてもちがいます。

 

Mind Over Matter: Ikigai

By Theo Greiff

Ikigai is a way of life originating from Japan built around finding and pursuing your purpose. Upon hearing this, I was incredibly interested as the idea of purpose is one very close to my mind. I’ve struggled with the idea of purpose for a while because my interests are so varied that I can never seem to find one thing I really want to do. Additionally, I’ve never subscribed to the idea of a preordained purpose so the solution I came to was this: we have no purpose in life except those we give ourselves.

With this in mind, I view Ikigai as a self-help guide to finding your self-appointed purpose. It is divided into four primary parts: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you are paid for. Where these four meet is your Ikigai. For example, if the world needs better food distribution and you love cooking but are skilled at management, maybe your Ikigai could revolve around food drives. The philosophy of Ikigai allows people to help the world at large while pursuing their own, personal happiness.

However, the effects of Ikigai are not solely immaterial and practicing ikigai has been directly linked to a variety of very real health benefits. Within the body, the mindset of Ikigai balances out neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and there is a negative correlation between Ikigai and anxiety. As a result, Ikigai is frequently cited as a potential cause for the longevity of Japanese people about which multiple texts have been written.

Responsibilities: A Complaint

By Theo Greiff

Japanese Plus has, for me, been one of the most enjoyable activities I have had over the past year and, importantly, was one that I pursued almost entirely on my own. That being said it remains a commitment and, no matter how much I may enjoy it, work is work. As such, I have decided to devote this blog to an unnecessarily meta discussion on the process and personal difficulty of writing a blog.

I should preface that my time management is, and has always been, abysmal. In school I consistently defer assignments to the last possible day and i do the same with my chores. I have an intense dislike of doing things I don’t want to do and I believe my consistent failure to manage this issue is the aspect of myself most in need of change. As such, it should be of no surprise that I am currently quite behind in my blog writing and as such am forced to rely upon the work of meta humor before you.

This being said, I am starting to view these blogs as a microcosm for my time management as a whole. Even if I have trouble with the stuff I don’t like, I should be able to do the assignments I choose to do which is, if nothing else, a start. Though I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, it seems appropriate to make one now dedicated to improving my ability to do the things I don’t want in order to do the things I do.

Final Presentation

By Theo Greiff

Our class recently finished our final presentations for Japanese Plus, on May 29 at Sumner School, and it was far more fun than I thought. I expected to be too formal during the reception and too nervous during the skits to enjoy myself, but I’m pleased to say that it was exactly the opposite. The reception was a far more casual experience than I expected as I was able to talk with my classmates most of the time and, during the times when I actually did have to explain the program, I felt excited to share my achievements to others, which overall made the reception extremely enjoyable

The skits were much of the same. I expected to feel nervous to show my Japanese in front of native speakers, but I actually just felt proud that I knew enough Japanese to put on a skit in the first place. As a result, the skit was really fun to perform and I got really into it, even improving certain movements and short lines. Overall, I enjoyed these final presentations far more than I expected and was very pleased with all that I could accomplish.

Theo’s Final Reflection

By Theo Greiff

Perhaps the greatest shift in my thinking that occurred while taking this class was the realization that there are others who share my passions to the same extent that I do. I have been looking to take Japanese since my 7th grade year and, throughout the process of pitching the language to my school, somewhere along the line I decided that Japanese was simply not a language many people in DC were interested in. This view was then further enforced last summer when I went to Concordia Language Villages for two weeks for a Japanese immersion program. While there, though I met many people from all across the nation, I never met any other Washingtonians, which served to support my misconception that my passions were not shared by those around me. It was with this mindset that I started Japanese Plus.

However, throughout the year as I met more and more people through the Japanese Plus program, I realized my previous views were wrong. The first challenge to this view came from my classmates themselves, who represented clear evidence that my passions were shared and, as the year went on, even more challenges began to pop up. Throughout the year, many visitors came to our class both from the US and Japan and provided further challenges. In particular, I remember Simon who is a simple middle school teacher that I would expect to have no relation to Japan, and yet he knew the language fluently. These challenges continued to demonstrate themselves throughout the year, but I believe the moment that truly changed my views was when I went to the Sakura Matsuri and witnessed just how many people felt connected to Japan. As I walked around the festival, I saw so many people in cosplay or anime T-shirts or other expressions of their passions and, while manning our booth, I saw even more people write down or draw out precisely what connected them with Japan. This experience, coupled with the many other experiences I had through this program, showed me that my passions were shared by far more than I had thought and that I may have more in common with a random passerby than I may initially believe.

Competitive Karuta

By Theo Greiff

Karuta is a kind of Japanese memory/reaction game in which there are two sides, with each side having a certain number of cards in front of them. On each of these cards is the second half of a poem and your job is to slap the card that corresponds with whatever poem a designated reciter is saying. The reciter says the poem in full so if you know the first part of the poem, you can slap the card with the second part before the reciter even says it. This means that while karuta can be a fun reactionary game for children or someone like me who doesn’t know the poems and can only respond to the second part, it changes into a memory game for people who put in the time and effort to learn all 100 poems in a full karuta deck.

Of course, people do put in that time and effort and the result is the wonderful world of Competitive Karuta. Competitive karuta is highly ordered and, like other competitive games originating in Japan, ranks individuals by dan to determine opponents. In karuta, for example, individual matches can range from classes A-E with E being for beginners and A being for only those who have achieved 4-Dan or above. As someone who has played the most amateur of karuta and watched it at the highest level, the most striking difference is speed. It seems obvious that higher level players would be faster than those at lower levels, but to succeed in karuta it isn’t enough to simply memorize the poems, or even to memorize their positions on the playing field, as your opponent has most likely done so as well. To succeed in karuta, players must move with the utmost speed, throwing away restraint. As a result, while in my amateur games we would tap our cards so as to avoid a mess, in competitive karuta, players violently slap cards away, leaving the playing field crooked and requiring reorganizing and thus physical endurance becomes just as necessary as memorization.

All in all, competitive karuta, despite the simplicity of the game, is surprisingly intense and overall rather fun to watch. Indeed karuta itself, though admittedly difficult to get your hands on in the US, is rather fun to play at both an amateur level and a more advanced one (or so I’d assume as I have not taken the time to practice karuta that much), while also being a good study tool for the Japanese language system hiragana, which the poems are written in.