I volunteered for serving lunch to local Buddhist people at a temple on the day of a obon ceremony. I report that experience in this paper. Firstly, I mention the details of the reason that I joined the event. Secondly, I discuss my experiences.
I visited Japantown in San Francisco on July 3rd for the first time. Before I came to the U.S., I would like to see a temple in the U.S. and researched that, so I knew there was a temple in Japantown. However, I could not find out it, I entered a grocery store and asked a clerk about that. The store sold Japanese goods and the clerk was a Japanese woman of middle age. She told me about the temple’s office hour, a way of use, and obon ceremony and lunch with local Buddhist on July 10th. Then, I knew the event, and the woman invited me to it. The temple was already closed that day, although it was around 6:00 p.m., so that I decided to visit there again and join and help the event. The woman said one of the reasons of that shorter office hours of the temple than temples in Japan was the problem of security. I once heard the crime rate was very low around a temple and a shrine in Japan, but it seemed that the situation in Japantown and the U.S. was different from Japan. The above is the detail that I joined the event.
I went to the temple called Sokoji (桑港寺) on the day of the event. It was a temple of Soto sect (曹洞宗). As the woman said so, the temple had an intercom at the gate, and a worshiper was supposed to tell her/his visiting. A priest welcomed me to Sokoji, but he seemed that he thought my visiting was strange. When I entered the temple, people also looked at me suspiciously. Apparently, all of them knew about each other, and so I was a kind of outsider for them. Actually, the priest said he was surprised that a young and strange man visited there. In other words, Sokoji was a place which only particular people visited. Compared with a general temple in Japan, it could be said that Sokoji was a closed community. However, after I introduced myself, all of them welcomed me. Obon ceremony and interior decoration of Sokoji were not difference from homeland’s one. The priest read out not only local Buddhists’ name but my name and prayed for our ancestors during reciting a sutra.
After the ceremony, we started to prepare lunch in a basement. My job was setting the table for lunch. The number of participants were about thirty. There were many kind of food, so I went back and forth again and again. Because most of the participants were older people, my work was very much appreciated by them. During serving lunch, I noticed that only women except me served it. Men was just talking each other sitting down. That situation reminded me of a memorial service for my relative in Japan. There was the same gender role even in the U.S. as traditional Japanese custom had, although I did not know what the U.S. had a custom of gender role.
We had a conversation for about an hour over lunch. While most of people spoke fluent Japanese, some people spoke not fluent Japanese, though them appearance were Japanese. I supposed that there was no longer any necessity of speaking Japanese for some people even in Japantown. The woman, who invited me to the event, also said that the number of Japanese or Japanese-American was decreasing year by year in Japantown and they were facing an aging society. Furthermore, almost all customer to her store were not Japanese but Chinese and other foreigners now. It could be said this Japanese community was weakening. On the other hand, the priest was relatively young. He looked like early 30s. After he practiced religious austerities at Eiheiji (永平寺), which was the head temple of Soto sect, he heard that there was no priest at Sokoji for a few years, then he decided to came there. He preached a Buddhism sermon in both Japanese and English after the Obon ceremony. His English was not fluent, by the way. I told them that I came from Ryukoku University and my family religion was Jodoshinsyu, the woman jokingly said “you are a spy!” I’m not a spy. When we were eating, other two priest came into the dining hall. One was the previous Sokoji’s priest, and another was American priest. I heard many American people came to Japan in order to become a Buddhism priest. I helped also cleaning the table in the end. Before I left, I got goshuin (御朱印) that was each temple or shrine’s original stamp from the priest. They kindly offered to let me visit there again, and I thanked them and left.
Through these experiences, I learned an important thing: a position of Japanese people as minority. Japanese people including me are an overwhelming majority in Japan, so I did not understand minorities’ feeling, situation, or something. This event gave me an opportunity that I started to think about minority. At the same time, I noticed that they kept part of Japanese traditions and religion functioned as the center of community also in Japantown. I was relieved that I could feel Japanese elements during busy days in a foreign country.
I asked three UC Berkeley students, Dmitri who is graduate student and my classmate in session A, Sonali who is sophomore and my roommate, and Dana who is senior student and also my roommate. In this essay, I am going to write about strengths and weaknesses of American educational system, especially educational system of university.
Firstly, the strength of American educational system is freedom to choose classes. It means that there is only a number of classes which are required for a major, however, students can study anything they want although their major was already decided. Therefore, they can start to narrow down their focus on some areas and specialize. Generally, university students in the U.S. find field they are interested in with taking many range of classes in the first and second year, and decide a major in third year. Additionally, students can change their major after entering university and have double majors if they want to. I learned this system from Dmitri who is from Belarus. Interestingly, in his home country, whole program for every major is designed by the faculty from the first to the last year. In Japan, there is not strict like his country, but we have limit to choose subject except majors. For instance, most of university in Japan, art students usually cannot choose kind of science classes unless transferred to other department. Actually, in department of Global Studies, students cannot take classes of other language except their major, English even they want to study. It might lead to take away talents or possibilities they have. However, in the U.S., it is more flexible than Japan’s one. Students can extend knowledge as they like, and also find what they really want to study. That means they can find what they really want to do in the future. I think it is really good system for students, and seems to be strength as well as the biggest difference of university educational system between in Japan and America.
Secondly, one of the weaknesses is that many students are isolated, not help each other because of GPA system. It means that students compete for high grades, and it is very important to get high grades for them, because grades are related to job hunting. If someone messes up GPA, the chance getting hired in good company diminish. There is a risk that they might be expelled from university if students receive under 2.0. As a result, they focus on getting high grades too much, and study hard by themselves. It makes stakes at schools already high and people get too competitive. In case of Japan, students focus on whether they take credits or not, not how much grades are, because it is not very important for job hunting. Therefore, they tend to work hard together. They have friendly competition. I think competition is important, but working together is also necessary in studying, since it teaches how to make good relationships with other. It can be a kind of practice for being part of the society.
Whole Foods Market (WFM) is a chain store. You can find about 220 stores in the United State (I counted the lists of the store which I found on the official site of WFM <http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com>). The one I visited is Berkeley branch. This large local supermarket is located near our dormitory. It takes about 15 minutes by walk from our dormitory to the supermarket.
Personally, I was working at grocery store particularly a greengrocer’s shop in Japan for part time job. I will compare my work place and WFM in this report.
■Things which Japanese supermarkets could learn from WFM
There were several points which Japanese local supermarkets should learn from WFM. I will write three of them.
Firstly, I will suggest about the width of aisles in the store. They were much wider than those in Japanese supermarkets. In Japan, sometimes it difficult to walk through the aisle more than two people at the same time. However, there were still space even more than two people walk side by side in the aisles in WFM. It helps customers feeling free to take their time to choose the products. No fear to hit against store shelves (At my work place sometimes customers hit the store shelves and vegetables /fruits fall down to the floor).
Secondary, the criteria of setting a price of the products. At my work place and I guess most of supermarkets in Japan, price of the products are mostly fixed by sorts of the products. For example, suppose there are two apples, apple A and apple B. They are from same orchard and they both are classified as a same product. However, apple A is obviously smaller than apple B. No matter the difference of the size, customers need to pay same amount of money for both products in Japan. On the other hand, in WFM, some of the products such as apple and broccoli which could have different sizes were sold by measure. It can be a little complicated to sell the products by measure, (because shoppers need to scale each product) but I guess it worth trying.
Lastly, shopping bags. Not only WFM but many shops in Berkeley, they are using recyclable paper bags instead of plastic bags. It helps to decrease our use of plastic bags. We definitely should follow this custom.
■Things which WFM could learn from Japanese supermarkets
There were several points which WFM could learn from Japanese supermarkets. I will suggest two of them here.
Firstly, the way of putting shopping baskets. They put shopping baskets on ground without anything between shopping baskets and the floor as you can see in the second picture I posted. Since WFM is showing their selves as a supermarket which provides “clean” foods to customers, they should be careful with their images of “cleanness”. Even the products are fine and “clean”, if the shopping baskets which we keep the products while we are enjoy shopping were not, it can be a blemish of their image. Also, if they put the shopping baskets on something with the caster, it enables to move them with less power.
Secondly, the way of listing products especially fruits. Most fruits are delicate. For example, peach bruises very easily. Therefore, in my work place we put cushions to those each fruits. With doing this, we can keep them fresh longer. I guess the reason why they do not put the cushions to almost any products is because they are selling green fruits. I found uncovered yellow peaches in the store, but they were hard and have no bruise.
The first impression of the supermarket was huge. I guess it because supermarkets usually adjoin other kinds of shops and I am not used to see such a large grocery store alone in Japan. I focused on differences between WFM and a supermarket in my home town which I was working at in this report. However there were many other interesting differences and similarities between them. Once you get into different circumstances, you get eyes to see things clearly. Probably, it is because you see things from different aspects. Probably, it is because you acknowledge that you are in different place and are trying to find out differences or similarities there.
5 new words and 5 new phrases after I came America
Dualism: It is one of a philosophical word, it is a way of thinking that everything which in the world can be classified into two category. It works to simplify the world efficiency, but it is not just simple two opposite meaning of words. For example human/non-human, and man/woman are “Dualism”. A left side of words are more valuable than a right side of words.
White supremacy: it means that white people are always considered as top, or best. Whiteness dominates in the world. They also think themselves superior to other races. It especially effects the US society a lot.
Cover letter: which is needed when you apply to job, you have to give an employment manager it with a resume. What you should write is that of course what you do not write in resume, the reason why you want to be hired and what you can do for the company using your ability and also a detail of resume
Heteronormative: I learned this word in gender class, it is used as “heteronormative couple”. It means that a couple is consisted of man and woman. In other word, a couple is made up of two different sex people.
Tag on/off: I found this word in a train station, and the place to touch with IC card which is called “clipper” in the US and it has same function as pitaya. I figured out this meaning, tag on means touching a particular place first, and tag off means touching again at the very end.
How is going: It is another way of “How are you?” I know we have a lot of way to say “How are you?” but I realized this way after I came here. Actually I think that it is the most common way in the US.
In some fashion: which means that using any way to explain the reason or to prove something. This phrase was used when the professor was explaining our assignment. First I guessed that it related with something fashion, but it was totally different. That is why it has impact for me.
Have two strikes against you: which is a one of business word using baseball idiom. It means that only have one chance left; to be in difficult situation. That is because you have already made two mistakes. I knew this phrase in Business English class.
Touch base: It means to keep in touch; connect with someone. Example: I have been out of the loop on this project for so long. I need to catch up with you soon. Do you have time so that we can touch base on this?
Swinging for the fences: it means that to do something extremely ambitious, especially rashly. Example: before you sell your house to start a new company, you should do your homework. You can’t swing for the fences; there is so much on the line here.
1-1. General information of speaker 1
Zeyi Zhou, a freshman at UC Berkeley(picture1). She lived in Canada for 2 years when she was a young. After coming back to Taiwan, she had studies English continuously while going to language school. However, she quitted the language school soon, so she studies English by herself in most of the time. She had been to various kinds of English spoken countries in order to improve her skill. From her intensive experience, she could get full score of TOEFUL and now she teaches how to study language toward young children.
1-2. How to study English? ~Listening skill is key for improving second language~
First of all, she advised me to watch animation or movie in English in order to improve listening skill. In her case, she watched American movie with Chinese subtitle at first. Then gradually she changed from her mother language subtitle to English one. She focused on improving listening skill, because it corresponds with speaking skill. She mentioned her idea that English learner will be able to respond conversation content if they can listen English. In other word, people cannot make conversation if it is enable to understand what other people say. That is why, she trained her ear in order to be accustomed with second language. Also, she mentioned another important part that to learn how native English speaker create sentence. By doing this, English learner can understand correct English and it lead to development. Thus, she paid attention to people whose mother language is English so that she can learn how to create sentence from them.
2-1. General information of speaker 2
Karen Cheung, a 2nd year surveying major at Hong Kong university (picture2). Now she study abroad at UC Berkeley as summer international student. She takes Architecture class which relate to her major in summer session. She graduated English based high school in Hong Kong so she took almost all subjects with English. From her active personality, she made opportunities which she can speak English regardless of country.
2-2. How to study English? ~English through media~
In Hong Kong, English is necessary to enter high educational school. It is stricter than Japan, so every students study English in order to use it. In her high school, she had English conversation practice once a week with 4 group. It seems like a few opportunities to speak English, albeit having such as chance continuously lead to improvement. Also, she studied English via media resource, especially news article. She read news articles at first, and then writing what she though like report. However, she mentioned disadvantage of using news articles. According to her, surely it meaningful tool for improving English, but sometimes English level is not suitable to learner. That mean, learner feel uncomfortable to read too much difficult article, and it becomes one of cause of demotivating. She mentioned the important things that to enjoy studying English and having feeling which learner want to tell idea correctly with others. Thus, she studied English enjoyably thorough using media resource.
3-1. General information of speaker 3
Hahyeon Park, a freshman engineering major at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of science and Technology university (picture 3). She is member of UC Berkeley summer international student. Her major is engineering, but now she takes media studies in order to expand knowledge. She has been studying English since she was an elementary school student even though she is science course.
3-2. How to study English? ~Online based learning~
In Korea, online based materials are popular among English learners. She also used online resource for speaking and listening. In speaking session, she had 30 minutes English conversation practice per day. Also she could learn sentence which is spoken in specific occasion through listening online materials. She output sentence which she learned during speaking practice. In another way, she got useful tips for studying English from her uncle. That is why, she tried various kinds of way of studying English. Thus, she used online material basically while searching another way of studying English.
4-1. Lessons from three speakers ~Different English education system~
As I mentioned before, those three speakers came from different countries, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. From their background, I could find difference of English education system in each countries. Basically, Taiwan and Hong Kong tend to focus on using English for daily life. They studied English as mandatory from elementary school student and having continual opportunities to speak English. From my analysis, those two countries want citizen to use English for getting job, otherwise they cannot survive.
Meanwhile, Korean and Japanese English education system is similar which about people study English for entrance exam rather than using daily life. That is why, they tend to focused on grammar in order to learn correct English. Combing these two differences make lessons clear that not only studying grammar but also speaking with correct sentence is key of improvement. Thus English learner should not consider each skill sections separately, but connecting with each other.
4-2. Lessons from there speakers ~Two types of progress~
From interviewees of experience, I could understand how meaningful to watch animation, movie and reading news article. However, speaker 2 (Karen Cheung) mentioned disadvantage of using news articles. From her opinion, I could find difference between “slow progress” and “fast progress”. The former means that people learn something at high educational place which is not suitable to current one’s level. For instance, children who have not enough language skill will not be able to improve their skill quickly even if they take university lecture. In fast progress case, children can develop their language skill if they speak with same developmental level children, because they have more chances to output compared with former example. Individually, now I stay at border between slow progress and fast progress which mean the former is corresponds with summer session class and the latter equal to speak with my friends. That is why, it is necessary to take class in English in order to step up while speaking with various kinds of people.