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.

Free Lunch

By Theo Greiff

Last weekend my group finally went out for ramen with Sally and Eshita-sensei after we got the greatest combined score last Unit and, overall, it was a very fun experience. We had initially planned to go to Daikaya, which I am told is the best ramen in town, but due to the hour long wait, we went to the nearby Bantam King. It was the first time I had eaten ramen so I was excited and the Shoyu Ramen I tried definitely delivered on that excitement as it was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, my lack of an appetite meant that I couldn’t eat the whole thing so they gave me the remainders to go. We then had dessert which was also delicious (I had some vanilla soft serve ice cream served with honeydew soda) and left, only for me to realize that I had forgotten my leftovers at the restaurant. It was too bad that I wasn’t in time to get them back, but it didn’t diminish the experience in the slightest and I went home very much satisfied.