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Posts by Mami Takahashi

My mother’s visit

When I was waiting for my mother at PDX airport, I was little bit nervous. I hadn’t seen her almost two years,and I was thinking about how I would react to her. In Japan, hugging is not a common way of greeting. I have never hugged my family. But I could not really remember how I acted towards her when I was glad to see her.

When she came out from the exit, we just said “hi” to each other. She immediately started to talk about how she had had a very long walk in the LA airport to get to the correct gate for her flight to Portland. It seemed like we were not sure how to act around each other.

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Bringing Cultural Understanding

Did you know that international students from Portland State are sharing their cultures with inquisitive audiences throughout Oregon?

I went to a care home for the elderly and talked to them about Japanese culture. I also spoke about my life in Japan with 500 middle- and high school-age students, and I went to a summer camp to provide a workshop on origami and papermaking.

I did this as a member of the International Cultural Service Program (ICSP) at PSU. The ICSP is a scholarship program for international students dedicated to promoting the recognition of commonalities and appreciation of differences through firsthand knowledge and experience. Read more

My mother is coming

During the three years I have lived in the U.S., I have never had my family come to visit. This is not only because all of my family members have full-time jobs and busy lives, but also because the cities I have lived in were not so attractive to them. But since my graduation is getting closer, my mother decided to visit me. Before I moved here, she didn’t have any idea how Oregon looked, and she had never even heard of Portland.

Now, my mother is  interested in most forms of art, such as literature, butoh (dance), visual art, and music. She has been to many exhibitions and shows in Tokyo where she lives. When she asked me what kind of performance art or butoh she could see in Portland, and what kind of visual art museums and galleries we have here, I was not sure how I should answer. Read more

Modern Japanese Arts

Many students may think of Japanese arts as very traditional since our art, theatre and music have such ancient roots. I have noticed that there are many lectures and books about Japanese traditional arts, but it seems that modern arts are not popular except foranime and Japanese games. However, modern Japanese authors, Haruki Murakami and Yukio Mishima, are popular here. Murakami’s books are often on the best-seller lists, and Mishima’s novels have been made into U.S. movies. Also, contemporary Japanese arts are getting attentions in the American and European art scenes. For example, there’s lots of interest in the Japanese avant-garde now, such as Gutai group exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. If you are interested in Japanese
contemporary art, I really recommend checking out this exhibition at Gutai exhibition at

Art On Campus

Current%20ExhibitionsMany students probably know that there are performing arts events at Lincoln Hall. I have seen music recitals, plays, lectures, and dances in Lincoln Hall, and they were all well attended. But it seems like campus art galleries are less popular for PSU students to visit.

We have four beautiful galleries on campus. There is the Littman Gallery on the second floor of Smith Union, which is run by a student group. Neuberger Hall has the Autzen Gallery on the second floor, and the Art Building has two galleries, MK gallery and AB Lobby Gallery, on the first and second floors. These galleries have art exhibitions constantly, and are open to the public.

All of the galleries show contemporary art by students and emerging artists. It is great to see what kind of artwork is being created right now, and how it reflects contemporary life. For example, you may see some social issues in gender, age, and race, through the lens of art. Sometimes artists from other cities and other countries are featured at the galleries. The galleries are just a fun way to spend a couple of hours between classes. If you are interested in art, I really recommend checking out PSU’s gallery exhibits at

Reality TV in the U.S.


When I came to America three years ago, I was very curious about what kind of TV programs were popular in the U.S. I started watching TV with my first roommate, Jennifer, whose favorite shows were on the Reality TV channel. She really liked watching every episode of “Cops”  and obsessed over “American Idol”. She would become upset, cry, or be very happy with these shows, which reminded me of reality show reactions in Japan.

We have many reality TV shows with similar line-ups, such as “Kesatsu 24ji” (Cops 24hours), “Aidoru Bangumi” (Idol competition show), and ”Kin^niku Banzuke” (Ultimate Figher Programs). Some of my friends in Japan  also have emotional attachments to these shows, displaying a sense of empathy to the people in the shows. I was not interested in watching these programs in Japan, but in America, I like to watch Cops, The Rattlesnake Republic, and Hard Core Pawn. I feel that these are real America, and that I am learning about parts of American society that I would otherwise not know.

At the American Grocery Store

I went to a grocery store in Arizona with my American friend, for the first time about three years ago, and I did fine until we got to the cashier. In Japan, customers normally pick up a shopping basket at the entrance and place it into a cart or hold it with them. When finished shopping, they place the basket on the cashier’s lane with products inside. Then the cashier will scan each items directly from the basket and place the items into another basket on his or her left. After paying, customers take the second basket to a packing station located near the cashier, where the customer packs their products into bags, which they brought or were provided at the stations. If someone needs help, the cashier brings the basket to the station, but the customer still needs to pack the items themselves.

In this new grocery experience, I didn’t know that I had to take items from the basket and put them on the lane myself. Placing my basket on the lane I waited for the cashier to do so. My friend was behind me, and said that I had to remove the items myself. It confused me and made me a bit embarrassed to show other customers what I was buying by placing the items openly on the lane. After paying, I was surprised that I didn’t need to pack the groceries myself. These small differences are everywhere, which makes me a fan to investigate other cultures.

Japanese Mayonnaise and American Mayonnaise

One of the surprising things that I have encountered living the U.S. is the difference between the taste of Japanese and American mayonnaise. In Japan, mayonnaise was introduced by the Japanese food company Kewpie Corporation in 1925. Generally, Japanese mayo is made of egg yolk, rapeseed oil or soybean oil, and rice vinegar, which creates a soft and mild mayonnaise which is preferred by many Japanese. For me, American mayo tastes more sour and salty, and Japanese mayo is sweeter. I thought maybe Japanese mayo contained sugar, but I checked and  there is no sugar.  However, there is in some American mayos. So why does it  taste sweeter? I guess that it is because American mayonnaise might use more salt and vinegar instead of rice vinegar, which is less sour.

Some of my American friends prefer Japanese mayo to American versions. In Portland, most Japanese markets, such as Anzen market and Uwajimaya in Beaverton, sell Japanese mayo. If you are interested, it might be fun to try a different culture’s seasoning.

Japanese Books at the PSU Library

Many students here at PSU have taken foreign language classes. One of the ways to study a foreign language is by reading a book written both in your original language and the language you are studying. Personally, I constantly check out both Japanese and English versions of books by Japanese authors in order to test my understanding of English.

I also enjoy seeing how professionals translate from Japanese to English. Sometimes very simple words are interpreted into something very complicated, as well as the other way around.

I also just love to read. One of my favourite authors is Haruki Murakami, whose books (both fiction and non-fiction) are well-known around the world and have earned him many prizes, including the Franz Kafka and theJerusalem. Murakami’s fiction is surreal, focusing on themes of alienation and loneliness. He is popular not only in Japan, but also in the U.S. I am able to find many of his books in the PSU library system, even the original Japanese versions. For example, both versions of his first well-known book, Norwegian Wood, are available at the PSU library. I really enjoyed reading the English edition. The translation was sometimes surprisingly different than I thought, and at other times totally made sense. Also, it is just a really great read! If you haven’t read any of his books, and are interested in modern Japanese culture, I highly recommend that you check out his work from the PSU library.

Japanese Visitors on Campus

Have you noticed that many Japanese people visit Portland during summer? Many of them are living in the dorms here at PSU for a few months. The Office of International Affairs at PSU enables students from foreign countries to visit Portland and PSU in order to expand their knowledge of English as well as to experience another culture. This summer, I have been working for a Japanese group from the Tokyo University of Science (TUS). The students take English classes until the afternoon and then have fun activities around Portland in the evening. My job is to help with these activities as a translator, to explain cultural differences as a kind of guide, and to show students where important resources are. So far, we have been hiking at the Columbia Gorge and visited Washington park as well as numerous museums. We also went to Seattle and to Victoria in Canada for a weekend. But my real job is to help the students become self reliant in this new country. They need to be able to buy groceries, order in restaurants, and get around the city on their own. Most of time they have to use English, and when they have a question or unexpected situation, they need to figure out how to find help while using English. I am helping them learn how to survive here. At the beginning of their visit, they were nervous and very shy about speaking English, but now, near the end of their stay in Portland, it seems like they have more confidence and are much more comfortable. I am amazed by their ability to adjust to a different culture as well as a foreign language. So if you see a group of Japanese students, try and make them feel welcome here in this strange place!


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