Thursday, November 20, 2008

Okonomiyaki party

We had our annual okonomiyaki party for bungo students. Yes, we had fun as usual.

Previous Courses

The following are the syllabi for previous classes taught at The George Washington University. Some of the information may be outdated; it is provided here only as a general guideline when deciding which class to take. Requirements pertaining to a given class in a given year can vary. Current syllabi--hard copy or Blackboard link--will be provided in class. For courses and course description of all Japanese courses at GW, see the the University Bulletin Course Catalog.

For specific questions or further information, contact me at: hanami{at}

To read a syllabus, click on one of the following links:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

On composing haiku

On November 1, I woke p at 4:30 in the morning--people who know me would be shocked at this--showered and dressed, and waited for my ride to pick me up at 6 AM to take me the annual conference for FLAVA--Foreign Language Association of Virginia--held in Richmond, VA. The teacher and current president of MAATJ--Mid-Atlantic Association of Teachers of Japanese--drove the two hours from Northern Virginia to Richmond, where I gave the Keynote talk on composing haiku for K-12 students at the MAATJ chapter at the FLAVA conference. Those in attendance were primarily elementary to high school teachers, mostly from Virginia, with a few from Maryland.

I talked about strategies of how they might teach haiku composition in Japanese to their students. I covered the basics, of course: 5-7-5 structure, season words, etc. I also suggested strategies to excite students: No grammar in haiku!!!! I also suggested compositional principles to jazz up their poems.

Actually, I have been the judge of their annual haiku contests for the past three years and told them that some of their students were very imaginative and often conveyed many of the techniques found in haiku written by the master, Basho. One technique might be called "funneling" as in the following poem by Basho.

In the dawn / the white fish, it's whiteness / one inch

The poem suggests a loneliness born of an image of a single puny white fish with the dawning sky as its backdrop. The technique is to begin the image with something large--the dawn--and funnel into a smaller size--a school of whitefish, then focusing on the size of a single fish by looking at its color--or perhaps its absence of color, especially in contrast to the red sky of dawn.

A high school student from Langley High produced the following.

つよい風 たこをすいあげ くもの上
Strong wind / blows the kite up / above the clouds

This poem also suggests a desolate loneliness represented through a kite. A strong wind (large presence) pulls the kite into the sky above the clouds, the kite, of course, getting smaller as it ascends. The image of a kite dominated by the wind suggests a desolation, and the progressively smaller kite is a lonely site indeed. And yet, it is a beautiful image.

In any event, it was a nice meeting and I had a nice albeit embarrassing time. I get kind of flustered when people kind of fawn over me: "Oh sensei, this way please." "Oh sensei, would you like more coffee?" My old man used to like this kind of attention, but I find it awkward as I don't really see myself as worthy of any special attention.