Houston Fulbright Blog – 180919

Wow!    Kyo wa ku gatsu juku nichi sui yobi desu!

Today (kyo) is Wednesday (sui yobi) September (ku gatsu), 19 (juku nichi)!

We are already into the second half of September, which surprises me. Although, I bet this month is going slowly for those of you in the throes of the semester. J

So, if you have studied Japanese you’ll notice that I’m using rōmaji (English letters) to phonetically write a greeting to you. It is easier for a Japanese language learner to use rōmaji. It helps us know how to pronounce words without having to memorize Japanese characters. The Japanese symbols can be pretty complicated; there are three main types: hiragana, katakana, or kanji.

Our family is studying Japanese as much as possible, and I’m happy to note that I’ve been attending language classes several times a week. The city of Saitama organizes a variety of language classes and opportunities to learn and have conversations in Japanese.

Yesterday our class was focused on the fact that it is mid-September and therefore a new season for moon viewing (o-tsuki-mi). Tsuki means moon, and the September harvest moon has a special name, ‘Chushu no Meigetsu.’ This full moon is said to be enchanting in the clear autumn skies and considered the most beautiful moon of the entire year. This might be familiar to some of you because the moon-viewing custom originated from China.  Legend has it that by looking at Chushu no Meigetsu you can see a rabbit pounding rice cakes (engaged in mocha-tsuki). We learned a lot of words related to seasons and harvest foods during our lesson. Finally our teacher asked us what Americans see in the full moon. All Kevin and I could think of was that sometimes we say there is a face, or “man in the moon.” But that idiom is not really related to the September harvest moon in particular. This, then, made me think of the September full moon over White Sands as well as when it rises over the Organ Mountains. It is always spectacular in Las Cruces. Maybe you will see it next week if the weather is nice.  

In addition to language classes, I started to attend a “Japanese Conversation Salon” where I am able to learn calligraphy, origami and preparing matcha tea in a customary ritual while wearing a kimono. I was able to take some pictures and have fun wearing this surprisingly comfortable traditional dress. Next month I hope Kevin and the kids will join me so we can all wear kimonos.

Besides these activities, we attended a Fulbright reception in Tokyo on September 12. The reception was held by the Japan-United States Educational Commission (Fulbright Japan). The purpose was to welcome the American Fulbright grantees, meet other recipients and network. I met a lot of people involved in the Fulbright program in Japan (photo credit: JUSEC).  Our entire family attended, as well as Dr. Suzuki. The kids loved the buffet that was prepared; it was a huge spread of Japanese food. I’m copying here a couple links for you to check out if you’re interested: https://www.facebook.com/fulbrightjapan/ http://www.fulbright.jp/eng/scholarship/grantee.html#2018jpn

The night was extra special because it ended with the Executive Director of Fulbright-Japan, Matthew S. Sussmen, asking Kyraluna, Kaleb, and Joaquin to go onstage and say what they like about Japan. I posted a short video clip of part of this interaction on YouTube. It was super cute! https://youtu.be/amf6ohFC2Cc

One final thing–I am working on signing my name in katakana. It is written below. I wonder if you can figure out what part is Jessica and what part is Houston.

ヒューストン ジェシカ


Thank you for reading and enjoy o-tsuki-mi!

Jessica P. Houston, Ph.D.,

Affiliate Faculty, Saitama University Graduate School of Science and Engineering

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