Thank you to everyone who joined us on March 16th, 2024 for our fourth Japanese Language Festival (JLF)! This was our first time holding it in-person and it was a rousing success!

JLF took place at Chief Sealth International High School and we had over 70 students and volunteers join us from across eastern Washington to enjoy a full day of Japanese cultural exploration and language immersion. Read below to see some of the things the students did!

What is the Japanese Language Festival?

The Japanese Language Festival started in 2020 in celebration of the Society’s 25th year anniversary of its Japan In the Schools (JIS) program. Originally planned as an in-person festival, it quickly transitioned into a virtual event that year due to the pandemic. Since then, JLF has been an online event to celebrate Japanese language learning and education in Washington State. This year, however, we decided to transition to in-person programming to better cater to in-state students and to better bring attention and focus to providing students with a space to continue their language learning into higher education and beyond.

The goals this year was for students to (1) discover cultural aspects of Japan and (2) give them an intimate opportunity to practice Japanese in real-world settings. The programming was inspired partially by Japanese immersion camps held in the past and by the Society’s JIS education program.

What did we do?

The day started off bright and early, with registration beginning at 9:00 am! There were some light breakfast items for the students and volunteers, and you could feel some nervous energy in the air as people wondered what the day ahead brought. We were also joined by various Japanese teachers from the Washington Association of Teachers of Japanese (WATJ), who were there to help support their students!

The festival officially kicked off at 10:00 am, with a quick opening ceremony introducing some of the day’s activities and a quick energy-boosting Radio Taiso exercise. Once warmed up, the students broke out into three different groups and went around to various stations to experience some cultural activities!

AM Session: Cultural Exploration

Taiko Practice with School of Taiko

Asako Tateishi-san, from the School of Taiko, led one of our cultural exploration sessions. At each session, she taught the students the proper way to hold a bachi stick and beat on the taiko drums. Students learned how to play a basic rhythm and were split into groups to play a short piece together.

Tea-Tasting with Sugimoto Tea Company

Sugimoto Tea Company generously provided us with samples of four of their basic teas: sencha, hojicha, matcha genmaicha, and kukicha. Students had a chance to sample all four flavors and experience the different tastes and aromas of the various teas, after which they were challenged to a blind tea-tasting to guess if they could pick the correct tea by taste and aroma alone!

Scavenger Hunt

In the scavenger hunt session, students split off into two teams in two large science rooms, where they learned vocabulary words for some common household items such as a stuffed plushie, box, cup, tablecloth, calculator and others. They were then instructed to hide the items around the classroom for the other group to discover, where upon discovery, they would have to bring the items to the volunteers and say the item’s name in Japanese to get points. Students had full access to the classroom and found clever and creative hiding spots for all the items!

Lunch Break

After the three back-to-back sessions, students gathered back in the cafeteria for a quick lunch break! Students were able to enjoy various delightful Japanese food – some rice balls from Onigiri Sanzan, okazupan (savory filled fried bread) from Umami Kushi, and a mix of hojicha and matcha oat milk lattes from Sugimoto Tea Company! Special thanks to Umami Kushi and Sugimoto Tea Company for the donating the food and drink mixes!

During the lunch and throughout the day, students had the opportunity to gain tickets for the prizes at the end of the day through a volunteer bingo and a trivia quiz. Students chatted with various volunteers to try and fill out squares and get a blackout to get tickets. Questions included finding a volunteer who majors / majored in Japanese, who has never been to Japan, who likes natto, or is/wants to be a teacher – some were definitely more difficult than others!

Students could also get tickets by filling out our trivia quiz on our various supporters! Above, you can see the questions that were asked and again, some were definitely a lot trickier than others!

41st Annual Washington State Japanese Speech Contest

After a delightful meal, students marched over to the auditorium to listen to the presentation of the 41st Annual Washington State Japanese Speech Contest finalists, hosted by the Washington Association of Teachers of Japanese. Earlier in the year, students had a chance to submit a speech in Japanese for the contest, which were then judged by various teachers in WATJ. The finalists then came to JLF to present in front of their family and dozens of peers, with almost 100 people in the audience focusing on the speeches for the finalists of each division: Mark Sidlinskiy’s “ウクライナからの引っ越し” (Moving from Ukraine; level 1), Jayda Fountain’s “初めての日本の旅行” (My First Trip to Japan, level 2), and Joshua Buhay’s “日本語の勉強方法” (Strategies to Learning Japanese, level 3). The first three finalists are from Curtis High School. Woodinville High School’s Alice Fuentes “アメリカでの高校生活” (My U.S. High School Experience; Heritage level) completed the speeches. All winners received gift certificates and plaques, with Mr. Buhay also receiving a round-trip ticket to Japan!

PM Session: Language Immersion

After listening to their peers at the Speech Contest, what better way to start off the afternoon than with some language practice? Students divided up into groups by language levels to participate in various language immersion activities. The Beginners group broke out into small discussion sections and learned some basic Japanese phrases and vocabulary words. The two intermediate sections tried their hand at a shopping exercise – learning how to shop for various items in a post office, convenience store, a bookstore, and a toy store. The final level – Heritage/Advance speakers, had a mix of board games and conversation practice!

Closing Ceremony and Kuji Prizes

After a long day of drumming, games, activities, and speaking, we finally wrapped up the event at the Closing Ceremony. Joshua Hansell-sensei, Japanese teacher at Chief Sealth International High School represented WATJ and spoke for a few minutes, followed by Yoshie Phillips of Russell Investments, the Education Committee Chair for the Society. After the brief speeches, students were finally presented with the reason they had been collecting tickets all day – for the kuji prizes!

Based off of the popular kuji lottery games in Japan, students were able to exchange 3 tickets for a kuji slip. Each ticket is a winner, with each ticket containing a prize with tiers ranked from A~D, with A being the highest. There were over 140 opportunities to win a prize – with three A-tier prizes (2% chance): a Kindle Paperwhite, a Yoshi Yoshitani Kitsune Reversible Jacket, and a 3-month subscription to Tokyo Treats Japanese snack box! B-tier prizes (13% chance) included items such as a Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 Bundle, stationary goods, a Squishmallow, and apparel from Yoshi Yoshitani. C-tier (15% chance) had different Japanese manga, beauty goods, and toys. There was a 70% chance of getting a D-tier item, which was an assortment of different Japanese snacks and toys.

Thank you to all the students who participated, the parents who brought their students to CSHS, the teachers who came out to support, staff and Society members who helped organize the event, and to the volunteers who helped make the event a smashing success! We look forward to seeing you all again in our future events, and especially to our next Japanese Language Festival!

Thank you to our Supporters!

Thank you to the following organizations for directly supporting the Japanese Language Festival through sponsorships and donations!

Anonymous Donor

Huge thanks to all of our volunteers!

Photo Credits: Yujin Heo (Intern), Eileen Roco (Volunteer) David Yamaguchi (Staff)


List of Our Past Interns

KyungYoung (Jenny) KimApril 10, 2023 ~ November 19, 2023
Christie JungMarch 31, 2023 ~ July 8, 2023
Taira ShimotsuyaFebruary 27, 2023 ~ June 1, 2023
Koki MatsumuraJanuary 23, 2023 ~ March 30, 2023
Harin ParkOctober 3, 2022 ~ January 20, 2023
Chihiro MatsuoJune 29, 2022 ~ September 2, 2022
Moena YamakawaJune 29, 2022 ~ August 19, 2022
Jiwoo JungApril 4, 2022 ~ July 31, 2022
Satoshi MikiJune 2022
Ellen UchidaApril 2021 ~ December 19, 2023
Isami February 24, 2020 ~ April 3, 2020
RioFebrary 3, 2020 ~ Febrary 27, 2020
DaichiFebruary 3, 2020 ~ February 27, 2020
Tomohiro IshiiJanuary 2020 ~ February 2020
Naoki KokubuNovember 1, 2019 ~ 
Randy UnJuly 2019 ~ September 2019
Tomomi July 1, 2019 ~September 13, 2019
Nanami KikuchiAug 7, 2019 ~ August 30, 2019
ChirikoJuly 2019 ~
Misako SatoJuly 22, 2019 ~
Kana KitahamaFebruary 6, 2019 ~ April 30, 2019
Aya OgataFebruary 1, 2019 ~ February 26, 2019
Yuno TanifujiJanuary 28, 2019 ~ March 30, 2019
Shari MonsonOctober 2018 ~ Febrary 2019
Midori NakanoAugust 16, 2018 ~ August 31, 2018
Hiroki IshiiJune 26, 2018 ~ August 31, 2018
Yuka MuroiFebruary 7, 2018 ~ March 2, 2018
Lee Hyung WooFebrary 2018 ~ June 2018
Nao MiyamotoJanuary 28, 2018 ~ April 1, 2018
Hitomi Kase January 2018 ~
Ryoko YamamotoOctober 11, 2017 ~
Raymond SimOctober, 2017 ~
Chihiro KurokawaOctober 9, 2017 ~ December 1, 2017
Tomomi TsukadaAugust 25, 2017 ~ September 13, 2017
Shohgo MiuraJuly 6, 2017 ~ 
Jumpei AsakuraEnd of February 2017 - Mid-March 2017