Meet our first Language Coordinator, Rachel Reed! Rachel is the Japanese Language Coordinator, meaning she coordinates everything for our Japanese community.
Rachel is a Maryland native who has worked in and around DC for the past ten years off and on. She taught English to middle school students in Akita, Japan for three years as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET Program). She loves practicing her Japanese and has dabbled in Korean, Chinese, and Spanish. She currently works as a Program Development Officer for an international exchange non-profit and serves as the President of the JET Alumni Association of Washington, DC (JETAADC). She would love to learn German next!
We asked Rachel a few questions about her journey learning Japanese.
What drew you to learn Japanese?
When I was in middle school, I studied kendo (Japanese fencing). Through kendo, I became much more interested in the language and culture of Japan. My friends introduced me to anime and Nintendo and that interest developed into a love of Japanese literature and theater. I have been working with Japan professionally for the past 10 years now and I love it!
What is your favorite word or phrase in Japanese?
This is a tough one as it changes with the seasons, time in my life, my mood, etc. but currently it is ichi-go, ichi-e (一期一会). Literally translated, it means one time, one meeting. It is a Japanese proverb that means “treasure every encounter, for it will never recur” which is a core principal in Zen Buddhism.
Do you have a funny story related to Japanese or traveling to Japan?
Where do I start! One time I was honored with the opportunity to sit at the judges table for a middle school kendo (Japanese fencing) competition in rural Japan. The judges table was at the front of the room in the gym and it was covered in trophies to be awarded to the winning teams. The trophies were passed from school to school and they had cloth ribbons on them with the names of all of the winners going back for years and years. We were eating our o-bento or lunch boxes at this table and I took an ill-fated bite of a tiny, cherry tomato. Defying logic, the juices from this tomato sprayed over all of the ribbons and the judges’ score cards. I absolutely murdered that tomato and the evidence was everywhere. Shocked that something so small could create such a bloody scene, I struggled to quietly clean up the mess when I noticed the teacher sitting next to me who was staring at me and had clearly seen the whole thing, including my vain efforts to clean it up. She burst out laughing and told me the “tomato blood stains” made the trophies look cooler and more authentic anyway. Then she helped me replace the judging cards and I knew we would be good friends.
What's your favorite Japanese beverage?
I absolutely love sake or nihonshu, which is what sake is commonly called in Japan. My favorite brand is Fukuroku-ju (福禄寿) and I am particularly fond of Ippakusuisei (一白水成) as it is brewed locally in Gojome-machi, where I lived when I was on the JET Program. Lately, I really enjoy a glass of Yamazaki Aged 12 year single-malt whiskey, but since it is quite pricey, I definitely reserve it for special occasions.