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Keeping in touch with your host family after JSP

Posted by: gktakahashi | April 12, 2021 Comments Off on Keeping in touch with your host family after JSP |

Hi everyone! This blog post is brought to us by Linka Wade, a former JSP participant who graduated from Willamette in 2018. Linka has some great personal stories paired with tips for your own experience. We hope to have more of these posts from alumni to come in the future, so keep an eye out!


Keeping in touch with your host family after JSP

Willamette’s Japan Studies Program is unique from many other study abroad programs in that it requires participants to live with a host family during their time abroad. This is a valuable experience for many reasons, not the least of which being that it gives you the ability to form a lasting connection with a family in Japan. But after leaving JSP and returning to America, you’re faced with a ton of obstacles to keep the connection going – like the massive time difference, language barrier, and your own busy life as a student. So how do you keep the connection up? Here’s some tips I’ve come up with after reflecting on my own relationship with my host mother, five years after my time on JSP. 

#1 Don’t forget to spend time together

One thing I regret about the semester I spent on JSP is not spending enough time with my host mother. Despite living with her while I studied at TIU, I still feel like we didn’t do a lot together. I got very swept up in my classwork, spending time with new friends, getting involved with school events, and going on day trips to explore as much of Japan as I could. It’s really understandable to get preoccupied with these things. After all, you only have a limited amount of time to spend on JSP and there’s so much to see, do, and experience. During this time, I took a couple day trips with my host mother, as well as spending some time shopping or running errands together, and chatting and watching TV in the evening. After moving back to America, however, I realized that I only had a few shared memories of activities with her that we could talk about. It became a bit of a stumbling block in ongoing communication because we had little common ground to share when we weren’t living together anymore. 

The study abroad experience can feel very overwhelming, partly because you may feel like there’s so much to do in so little time. My feelings of regret over not spending enough time with my host mother isn’t meant to dissuade you from enjoying school activities or going out to explore apart from your host family. I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did while I was on JSP, and I think I balanced out everything as best as I could. I would only caution you to remember that spending time with your host family is an integral part of the JSP experience – and that you will get as much out of the relationship as you put in. 

#2 Get the family involved

My host family experience was a bit more unique than the normal host family situation. Instead of being placed with a younger family, I lived alone with an 80-year-old woman. Her husband had just passed away the year before, and her three children and their families were worried about her being lonely and depressed. Since she lives very close to TIU, they suggested she try being a host parent. I met each of her children and grandchildren several times, and generally got accepted as her oldest grandchild by the time I returned to America. Being involved with her family was a fantastic experience, and opened a lot of doors for new experiences, plus gave me more things to talk about with her. 

In return for her so graciously welcoming me into her family, I also tried to introduce her to mine as much as possible. When I would video chat with my family, I’d bring them over to her for a quick hello and chitchat. We shared pictures of our families and talked about them, and she was interested enough in them to ask about what they were up to. Before I left Japan, my brother came to visit and we stayed a few nights with her at her son’s house in Kansai while we explored. She was thrilled to meet someone she had seen on my phone screen, and I was excited for someone from my family to meet her. 

Our families still keep in contact. My mother sends my host mother a Christmas card every year, and my host mother returns it with a new year’s card. Two years after I studied abroad, one of my host mother’s sons took his family and her on a trip to California. They came to stay at my parent’s house for a few nights and finally got to meet each other. Meeting my parents is an experience my host mother still treasures and reminisces about. The visit in California paved the way for me to take my parents to stay at her house when they visited me in Japan a few years later. 

My main point in urging you to get your family involved with your host family, is that it helps the host family to know more about and feel more connected to you. Sharing more parts of your life with each other gives you more things to share in a relationship. Being actively interested in each others’ families also makes you each feel valued, and that it’s important to the other person that you know more about them. It also gives you more opportunities to stay in touch, like visiting each other or exchanging holiday cards.  

#3 Reach out, and stay involved

Above all else, the most important tip for maintaining a relationship is to keep reaching out. Send little emails or texts, even if it’s not important. Talk about the weather, send a cherry blossom that made you think of them, whatever. Anything to keep up contact and not forget the time that you spent together. It also gives you a great excuse to practice writing in Japanese! 

If you return to Japan, and you’re able to, make a point to go visit your host family. Don’t worry about feeling like a bother, I bet they’d be thrilled to see you again. I was extremely lucky to get a JET placement only a couple hours drive away from Kawagoe, so I’ve been able to visit my host mother several times since moving here. Through these visits, and from keeping up email contact with her, I’ve been able to share important life events with her.

My best advice is this: if you want to have a long-lasting relationship with your host family, reach out. Be involved with them while you’re there, and keep them involved in your life once you’ve left. Value all your experiences on JSP, but don’t forget that you have the opportunity to build something that could last a lifetime. 

– Linka Wade ’18

under: Alumni Voices

Japanese News Websites

Posted by: gktakahashi | March 22, 2021 Comments Off on Japanese News Websites |

Hi everyone! For today’s post, I’d like to link some Japanese news websites. They’re all pretty similar in function, but it’s nice to have an assortment of sources!

Yomiuri and Asahi are both websites from older newspapers that were originally issues back in the 1870s. Yomiuri has a site run that’s all in English, as well. It isn’t the same exact website/articles translated into English, but just an English news site by the same company.

Both sites have a lot of different sections to chose from, such as sports, recommended, top articles, etc.

CNN Japan and Yahoo Japan are probably names you’ve already heard of! With the CNN site, on the front page there are different topics and a few articles that you can pick from. I like the interface of the yahoo website as well because it has a long list of おすすめ articles that you can scroll through and choose from, especially if there isn’t a particular topic you’re looking for and are just in the mood for some reading practice.

There is also NTV news, which is from Nihon Terebi. On this main page, they link other websites that are like branches from this one- such as a news livestream, a site for weather information in Japan, etc. This news site has less serious articles compared to the other ones, considering it’s from a larger television channel.

Using news sites can definitely be a challenge, but a really good way to practice your reading skills! It’s also a great opportunity to use a formerly posted about resource called Readlang.. ; )

– Rey

under: Japanese Language, Japanese Resources, News, Reading


Posted by: gktakahashi | March 15, 2021 Comments Off on Verbix |

Hi everyone! Today’s post is going to be pretty short cause this website is very self explanatory. However, I find it really helpful nonetheless!

Verbix is a website that’s all about verb conjugation (it apparently works with many other languages too, which you can check in the upper left hand corner). It’s very simple and straightforward, with an interface similar to any sort of dictionary website. All you do is type in the verb you want to conjugate (all in lowercase romaji!) and it’ll bring up a long list of different conjugated forms; all written in romaji, hiragana, and kanji if the word has kanji to it.

For students learning keigo, it includes humble and honorific forms as well, which is really nice! It also features the stroke order to any kanji the word will have at the bottom.

For as simple as this website is, I hope you can use it well! I personally can’t keep track of all the various conjugation forms, so it’ll definitely help me in the long run.

– Rey

under: Grammar, Japanese Language, Japanese Resources


Posted by: gktakahashi | March 8, 2021 Comments Off on Kansai-ben |

Hi everyone! Happy Monday. This weeks resource is a website that’s all about kansaiben! 関西弁 is the dialect of the Kansai region, which includes prefectures like Kyoto, Osaka, Nara. etc.!

Kansaiben.com is a simple & easy to navigate website geared towards self-studying the Kansai dialect. It’s currently split into 7 chapters pictured below. These chapters have drop downs; for example, in chapter one, there are separate areas for the accent, specific word examples, and speech style. For an easier look at all the website has to offer, go to their sitemap!

What’s really nice about this site is that all of the examples have audio to go with it! So, you can really get a good idea of how the pitch and accent works comparing standard Japanese and Kansai Japanese. There are also a lot of video examples of people talking in standard vs kansai, so that you aren’t just hearing words but also full sentences/short conversations.

The only thing with the videos is that there aren’t any subtitle translations, however, they’re all in pretty simple Japanese, and typically less than a minute long.

Towards the end of the site, there is a large amount of video interviews with people who speak Kansaiben! There is also lists of things such as Kansai music, anime, and other pop culture. From grammar to culture, this website is packed with a lot of information, so I’m sure you can easily learn lots about this dialect of Japanese!

– Rey

under: Grammar, Japanese Language, Japanese Resources, Japanese Videos, Vocabulary

Dogen: Japanese & Comedy

Posted by: gktakahashi | March 1, 2021 Comments Off on Dogen: Japanese & Comedy |

Hi everyone! Wow, it’s been forever since I made a post on the actual blog.

This weeks resource is of Dogen, a youtuber who teaches Japanese in a pretty casual context. A lot of his videos are short & comedic, and really fun to watch if you’re not wanting to sit down to a very long video.

To get a taste of what I mean by short and comedic videos, check out some of these below.

These type of videos are definitely an easy and fun watch; typically around only 2 minutes long. He has a lot of these videos and I have definitely gone down a rabbit hole of going ‘well they’re short so just one more’.

Along with these, there are more serious educational ones! He does brand himself as a Japanese teacher, after all.

This one is interesting. He listens to a Japanese students speaking and gives some tips based off of that. I think it’s a really interesting video to watch because he’s using a direct example from another Japanese learning student. He focuses a lot on phonetics in his teaching videos, and there are other kinds that don’t feature other student submissions. If you want to skip to where he starts giving his own advice, the timestamp is ~2:40.

If you’re willing to pay, he also runs a Patreon account with more official Japanese pronunciation lessons. I’m not subscribed myself, but his Japanese is really good and I don’t doubt that he has even more good tips posted over there.

I hope you all don’t mind how a lot of these posts are youtube channels recently. There are a lot of resources out there, but a good amount of them are pretty similar, so I’ve been trying to find things that are a bit different. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them! My email is <gktakahashi>, please feel free to email me!

– Rey

under: Japanese Language, Japanese Resources, Japanese Videos, Listening, Speaking

Learning Kanji Youtube Channel

Posted by: gktakahashi | February 8, 2021 Comments Off on Learning Kanji Youtube Channel |

This weeks resource is another youtube channel called Learning Kanji, and I’m sure you can guess what it’s about. This user has many videos teaching kanji and doing JLPT exercises. He has playlists organizing them into different levels, varying from elementary school to JLPT N2 levels. He speaks in both English and Japanese and captions his Japanese as well.

His kanji videos are very straight to the point. For example, in this video, he goes through 3 different kanji characters and goes through the stroke orders, various words the character is included in, and explains their meanings. This might just be me, but the way that he has them all listed on a paper and circles/marks with his pen as he goes really helps me focus on what is going on rather than if it was just all digital.

His JLPT N5-N2 playlists all include long walkthrough videos of grammar, vocab, and/or reading portions to mock JLPT tests. While some of them are quite long, it’s still beneficial to not only see a mock test, but also to see a native Japanese speaker annotate. There are a few sample reading videos that are much shorter than the rest, too, so you don’t have to just skip around a really long video.

This channel is more of a straightforward education channel for when you feel like settling into some studying for a bit. There are a lot of various videos on his channel, all with annotations and comments from him, so I hope you can find something useful from this!

– Rey

under: Grammar, Japanese Language, Japanese Resources, Japanese Videos, Reading, Vocabulary

Watercolor by Shibasaki

Posted by: gktakahashi | February 1, 2021 Comments Off on Watercolor by Shibasaki |

Hello all! Today’s resource is less of a direct educational tool, and more of a casual immersion resource. If you’re a fan of art, and more specifically watercolor painting, then I hope you’ll enjoy this youtube channel!

Watercolor by Shibasaki is exactly what it sounds like! Shibasaki is a Japanese watercolor instructor who posts a lot of watercolor painting videos with english subtitles. His videos aren’t very long, on average around 8-13 minutes long, so it’s an easy channel to take a quick relaxing break with, all while your Japanese in a more low-key fashion.

This is his channel introduction video. He uploads quite frequently, twice within the past week so far. Here’s a quick video of his that I found nice and you could start with too!

His channel is mostly these painting videos, but he has a few daily vlog type videos as well.

Youtube channels are a simple way to practice your listening and potentially learn some new vocabulary at the same time. And in channels like these, you can combine it with another interest or hobby as well!

I hope you find this channel fun to watch, and that you have a good week!

– Rey

under: Japanese Language, Japanese Resources, Japanese Videos


Posted by: gktakahashi | January 25, 2021 Comments Off on Aizuchi |

こんにちはみんな!Happy Monday!

Spring terms first blog post will be about あいづち。Aizuchi is the umbrella term for all of those filler words you make in the middle of a conversation, such as うん or へえ. Aizuchi is one of the key elements to having really impressive sounding Japanese!

This blog post lists the common aizuchi and organizes them by similar meanings. It’s a pretty quick and simple post, so I really suggest you give it a read!

Tofugu also has a post about Aizuchi, with some more information than the link above. The author of the article goes into the definition of Aizuchi, how to use it, and cultural differences between America and Japan regarding filler conversation words. The end of the article also includes a chart and conversation examples of informal and formal aizuchi. I really recommend this article!

(you should at least scroll about halfway down on the article to see a super cute video of a little Japanese boy practicing his aizuchi with his parents it’s so adorable)

Finally, I found this youtube video from a Japanese youtuber in which she also goes over some common aizuchi. I liked this video a lot because her definitions and examples made a lot of sense and were easy to understand. You can also nudge a little bit of reading and listening practice in as well, since the video is all in Japanese with both English and Japanese subtitles!

I hope you find these resources helpful and fun! Have a good week everyone!

– Rey

under: Japanese Language, Japanese Resources, Speaking


Posted by: gktakahashi | November 16, 2020 Comments Off on NHK WORLD-JAPAN |

As we wrap up the blog posts for this semester, this week’s resource is a youtube channel that you can enjoy watching videos about Japanese culture with!

This youtube channel, NHK WORLD-JAPAN, uploads a ton of videos on various aspects of Japanese culture! There’s videos on Japanese foods, architecture, traditions, etc., and lately they’ve been including a series in which they talk to people about how the pandemic has affected their jobs. Most videos are short and sweet, typically around 2-4 minutes long.

Here are some examples to get started:

OnigiriGassho-Zukuri RoofsInterview with a Zen Priest during Covid-19

The channel doesn’t only include short videos, though. Fujiwara-Sensei herself recommends the Journeys in Japan series, which features ~half an hour episodes on various locations in Japan, in English! Especially during a time where we cannot go traveling, this series can be very pleasing and fun to watch. Luckily, it’s already compiled into a playlist, so it’s a lot easier to browse through and find a video that suits your interests!

With winter break coming up, I highly recommend you check out this Youtube channel!

– Rey



under: Cultural, Japanese Resources, Japanese Videos


Posted by: gktakahashi | November 9, 2020 Comments Off on Imabi |


imabi.net is a website that has a BUNCH of different grammar and vocab articles, with levels such as beginner, intermediate, and advanced, and more!

There are tons of articles packed into this resource. If there is a grammar point you need memorizing, or an expression you don’t remember how to say, I bet you’ll be able to find it on imabi.

When it comes to grammar, the articles will give a definition/summary, how to conjugate it, and lots of sentence examples.

Here’s an example from the 〜ている article:

From the ばかり article:

There’s also this cool article that lists Japanese prefixes and examples of words they are included in.

There really isn’t a lot for me to talk about when it comes to this resource, as it’s all just articles that summarize grammar points and sometimes other aspects of the Japanese language as well, but I highly recommend it as it’s a great archive!

– Rey

under: Grammar, Japanese Language, Japanese Resources, Vocabulary

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