Saturday Japanese Class

I’ve been teaching myself Japanese through daily self-study since February. It has become my passion. たのしいです。They say that you can acquire a language quicker if you live in the country (“immersion.”) So I’ve been trying to virtually immerse myself in the language & culture through YouTube, apps, music, anime, travel, and even grocery shopping. The only thing lacking was the opportunity to converse with native speakers.

I signed up for the UH-Mānoa Outreach Japanese class this Fall. We meet on Saturday mornings on campus at Sakamaki Hall. I found out about the class from ふみこせんせい who taught summer school at Kamehameha. She is awesome! I really enjoy the class and my classmates.

After class, we have optional conversation sessions with volunteer native speakers. We speak half-hour in 日本語, then half-hour in English. It has been amazing so far! すごいです!Everyone has been so kind. Aside from practicing the language (which is already great,) I’ve been able to make friends from Japan. In fact, one of the volunteers lives in my building! びっくりしました!We hope to meet up at Mr. Tea Café for weekly practice.

This class has been an absolute blessing. I’m truly enjoying this journey on hopefully becoming fluent in three years. がんばります。


In my Japanese language self-study, I’ve been immersing myself in the culture. Washoku is traditional Japanese cuisine. I’ve been eating Japanese food all my life, and only now do I notice that the bowl of rice is always on the front-left side. The foundation of Japanese cuisine is called “ichiju sansai,” meaning “one soup – three dishes.”

This pic is of my washoku style tableware. The chopstick rest was gifted to me by Lance-bro. The chawan (rice bowl) front-left is from the old Shirokiya from 10 years ago. The beautiful, wooden shiruwan (soup bowl) front-right is from the Rice Factory. The mame zara (tiny plate) in the middle is for tsukemono. In the rear are the “three dishes.” The nimono bowl (simmered dish) back-left and aemono dish back-middle are from the Itadakimasu gift shop in McCully. The sashimi dish, back-right was gifted by friends from ERD.

Picked up a few of these bowls to motivate me to cook more. To learn more about washoku and ichiju sansai, click on this link. Hope that eating Japanese food will help me to learn Japanese better. Sure can’t hurt…



“Soapbox” was launched at the Kamehameha Schools Education Technology Conference in 2013 as a new platform to collaborate and share ideas. Soapbox is an informal session, much in the spirit of mini TED Talks. Speakers are given 5-10 minutes to share an idea, an innovation, or tell a story. The goal is to include student voices as well as innovators, thought leaders, makers, and creatives from industry.

At this year’s conference, we wanted to highlight teacher voices. It was an absolute blast! The hope is that this session could expand into perhaps a quarterly meetup for educators statewide. Here is a summary of the past few years…

Soapbox returned to the KS EdTech Conference on June 4th, 2019. We heard stories from educators in (public, private, charter schools, homeschooling, online learning, and entrepreneurship.) Our theme was ‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi. All knowledge is not learned in just one school. Mahalo to our speakers!

Cecilia CC Chung, Kaʻimiloa Elementary

• Trevor Atkins, Hālau Kū Māna

Dorothy Hirata, University of Hawaiʻi

• Carey Yen, Homeschooling

• Nick Wong, Nalukai Foundation

Soapbox 2015 took place at the Kamehameha Schools Education Technology Conference, on Tuesday, June 9th, at the Blaisdell Center’s Pikake Room. Here was the lineup:

• Genesis Leong, Lead Curator of TEDxHonolulu

• Russel Cheng, Co-Founder of DevLeague, Hawaiʻi’s first coding bootcamp

• Katelyn, kindergartener at Hongwanji Mission School

• Elizabeth Garrison, President of HSTE, Hawaiʻi Society for Technology in Education

• Tiffany Chang & Isabel Wong, Co-Founders of The Canvas, Hawaiʻi’s first student workspace

• Jenny Engle, Teacher Liaison at the Honolulu Museum of Art

• Burt Lum, Executive Director at Hawaiʻi Open Data & Producer of Bytemarks Café on Hawaiʻi Public Radio

Soapbox 2014 took place at the Kamehameha Schools Education Technology Conference, on Wednesday, June 4th, at the Blaisdell Center’s Pikake Room. Here was the lineup:

• Casey Agena, Nichole Adolpho, Punahou School / Kimo Carvalho, Envision Hawai’i

• Marion Ano, Salt Water Apps, HICapacity

• Erin Kinney & Kirra Downing, “mojo managers” for Our Kakaʻako

• Michael Fricano II, ‘Iolani School, JoAnn Jacobs, Mid-Pacific Institute, EdCamp Honolulu

• Chad Nacapuy, Hawaiʻi Department of Education

• Jonathan Honda, Kamehameha Schools Senior, Louise McGregor Award for Outstanding Student Director

• Kaleiohu Lee, Five by Five

At Soapbox 2013, topics included coworking, design thinking, TEDxHonoluluED, and the Google Teacher Academy. We even brought in a “soapbox” platform from our drama department. Here was the lineup:

• Katie Sakys, Kamehameha Schools Sophomore

• Rechung Fujihira, The Box Jelly

• Adam Pating, Punahou School Junior, TEDxYouth@Punahou

• Douglas Kiang, Lab School @ Punahou

• Cathy Ikeda, KS-Hawaiʻi

• Ian Kitajima, Oceanit

• Liz Castillo, Kamehameha Schools, Google Teacher Academy

• Kourtney Puahala, Kamehameha Schools Senior

Japanese Self-Study Vlog

I started learning Japanese back in February. Here’s the backstory.

It’s been a blast so far. たのしいです。 I’ve decided to keep a vlog for fun, for practice, and to track progress. (Vlog located at the bottom. I hope to post monthly updates.)

This is my journey so far. I started out with a vague goal of wanting to speak Japanese, but not really knowing how to get there. I only knew that I didn’t want to learn “textbook Japanese” through a formal study. I had to first learn how to learn Japanese.

There seems to be two schools of thought. One is that you need a system (a good program, daily routine, practice, etc.) The second thought is that you do not “learn” a language, you “acquire” it (immersion.) My premise is that you probably need a little of both.

Month 1: I started collecting a variety of resources (iPhone apps, websites, YouTube, manga, etc.) I quickly discovered that I did remember a little Japanese from my youth (I flunked Japanese school when I was little.) I also remembered about 90% of hiragana, which was a big help. The turning point was when I bumped into a few visiting students from Tokyo on our campus. I wanted to be friendly and have conversations with them. All I could mutter was “konnichiwa.” My essential question became, “so what do I want to be able to say in Japanese?”

Month 2: I quickly discovered that a lot of what I learned in the 1st month was either rude or useless. Words like anata, sayonara, etc. A Japanese YouTuber asked, “Why are foreigners learning a style of Japanese that we don’t speak?” I had to rethink and redesign my methods. I got off the apps and vocabulary recordings and sought out more natural Japanese. This led me to Japanese vloggers, talk shows, and J-dramas. I also started journaling to take notes of important phrases and topics. So instead of being a passive receiver of information, I decided to teach myself what I wanted to learn.

Month 3: I moved more toward the side of immersion. I got into culture, cuisine, and even J-pop, all via YouTube. I watched my first anime and J-drama on the DaiWEEB website. Here you can toggle on-and-off Japanese and English subtitles. Of course some of the dialog is not used in real life, but I learned about body language, gestures, and nuances (masculine/feminine, polite/casual, seniority, etc.) I’m also trying to speak a little now (to coworkers, to myself, and to inanimate objects…)

Self-study has allowed me to make adjustments on the fly, whereas a program would have to be scrapped. Immersion has made this process rich, engaging, and fun. I don’t see it as a “task,” but moreso as “recreation.” 日本語 has become a passion.

They say it takes 2200 hours to become fluent in Japanese (approximately 6 years for one hour of daily study.) I’m “studying” about two hours per day now. And with my Japanese school background, I hope to be able to converse in Japanese in half that time (ETA 2022.)