Smiles spread on the Japanese storekeepers' faces as Jonathon, an obvious foreigner, asks them a question in their language. Jonathon, a University of Iowa graduate student who is spending a semester abroad, loves this interaction with the locals, both for absorbing the culture and practicing his Japanese language skills.
Face to face with this man, I still feel as weak as a child before an adult. Each time I manage to plant my feet, he twists or jerks me off-balance again; his movements fluid and relaxed like those of a dancer. The men gathered around the circle shout, “Niko! Niko! Haraigoshi! Gambate Gambateee!” and I plant my right foot, turning and lifting this short, powerful man. My left foot slides up to meet the right and I sweep my opponent’s legs, throwing him over my hip and onto the mat.
Missy first discovered her interest in Japan in elementary school. Her best friend was always wanting to show her the latest manga and anime that she had discovered, but Missy wasn't interested and would always say that she would try to look at it later. That "later" came when she was 13 years old and she read her first piece of manga. That led to her watching an anime show. Between the Japanese language, storyline and school uniforms, Missy was hooked.