Monthly Archives: July 2014

Going offline with Nihongo no Mori

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I wrote about the Nihongo no Mori group (日本語の森) before in a previous blog post – they are a Waseda student group who produce YouTube videos teaching Japanese grammar, vocabulary, special language topics (e.g. regional accents), etc. Their videos were extremely helpful in my N1 study and I strongly recommend them to anyone looking for alternative study materials. Their non-JLPT videos are also pretty entertaining to watch and give a glimpse into various Japanese cultural topics (who doesn’t want to learn about Samurai?).

Last week they held an ‘オフ会’ (offline meeting/party) in Shibuya and I decided to attend to meet the students (teachers!) and thank them in person. I invited my friend Aysel who happens to be a Waseda (exchange) student and who became an immediate fan of 日本語の森 after I linked it to her. We knew the event would be recorded (and made into a YouTube video) so we were a bit nervous, but it turned out to be very fun and we were able to meet some interesting people here in Tokyo!

They rented a large room and had chairs arranged in rows, with a desk for the teachers at the front. Honestly, the setup looked a bit like a press conference at the UN rather than a YouTube party! They gave us a goody bag as we entered the room and we took some seats. The event started a bit later than expected so we had a chance to talk to the other people in the room. Unsurprisingly, they were all non-Japanese (from many different countries!) studying for JLPT. I even found someone from Vietnam! But decided against trying to communicate to them in my poor Vietnamese – at this point, my Japanese is definitely a lot stronger!

There wasn’t really an opportunity to talk with the teachers directly – instead we spent most of the time playing three games. The first was a variant of Rock Paper Scissors / Janken (たたいて・かぶって・ジャンケンポン), with the added rule that the winner has to grab the (inflatable) hammer and hit the loser on the head, while the loser has to grab the helmet and wear it to protect himself. The teachers gave us a demonstration and then we joined in afterwards. If we won against a teacher of our choice, we got to take a picture with them – I chose and won a picture with Yuha-sensei! It felt like we were taking pictures with pop idols rather than ‘ordinary’ university students, but I didn’t let that thought ruin the fun… I await the day somebody takes part in a convoluted game of Rock Paper Scissors just to win a photo opportunity with ME!

Winning!

Winning!

Aysel was not so lucky...

Aysel was not so lucky…

The second game was the ‘Wasabi Challenge’. They put large amounts of wasabi inside a single piece of sushi (out of many), and the teachers each took a piece in turn and ate it. The job of the rest of us was to guess who had ate the wasabi-filled piece, from the facial expressions/reactions of those eating. We also played a reverse version of the same game – all except one had large amounts of wasabi while the single piece had none. They were pretty good at acting so I couldn’t really tell who it was – as expected for a YouTube group! Aysel took part in the student version of the game, fooling almost everyone with her class acting skills.

Aysel taking a mouthful of wasabi... Or is she??

Aysel taking a mouthful of wasabi… Or is she??

For the final game, one of the teachers placed mystery items in a box and the others took turns to guess what was inside by touching it with their hands. The audience could see what was inside (generally ordinary stuff like soft toys, pencil sharpener) but we gave our best (over)reaction to put off the person guessing. At one point there was a piece of raw chicken in the box, whose texture would have surely freaked anyone else out, but Misato-sensei was surprisingly unfazed and stayed extremely calm – 余裕!

I don't like touching raw chicken even when I know what it is...

I don’t like touching raw chicken even when I know what it is…

After the games we took more pictures together and filmed a short clip with everyone dancing. They said they would be using that clip at the end of every(!) Nihongo no Mori video to encourage people to subscribe. I am very happy to have participated in this event, even if there are some embarrassing moments captured on video. I think studying Japanese is incredibly important for anyone who wants to be here for the medium-long term and I support any initiatives bringing foreigners one step closer to fluency!