Cal Poly’s Japanese Student Association (JSA) President William Kriss comes from a unique early childhood which coincidentally intertwined to his passion for Japanese culture later in his life.
According to Kriss, his family moved to Japan from Florida when he was two months, but left Japan to move back to the United States when he was a year and a half years old. Although living in Japan “did not affect him,” his joy for Japanese culture grew during his childhood when he started to watch anime and read manga, both traditional Japanese entertainments.
“I felt that [watching anime and reading manga] was too limited of knowledge to say that I really like Japan, so I wanted to learn more,” Kriss said.
“He has a lot of love for the culture itself,” second year JSA member PJ Yebisu said.
Kriss was able to learn more about Japanese culture at Cal Poly, especially during his second year. Kriss is currently in a Japanese class which he has been in since the fall quarter.
According to Kriss, in his “activity-based” Japanese class, the teacher will go over Japanese vocabulary and intersperse Japanese culture if something current is happening. For example, a couple weeks ago, she spent the first 10-20 minute going over Children’s Day which is a Japanese holiday.
Furthermore, Kriss has recently become club president as he started in the winter quarter of the 2018-2019 school year. Two of his main duties include creating culture slides for weekly meetings and hosting weekend events every weekend.
The culture slides always include a Japanese phrase of the week which Kriss thinks is “useful or funny.”
“As I am not part of the culture a lot of the phrases are simpler, and more research based,” Kriss said.
Along with creating and presenting slides, Kriss also ties in Japanese culture into weekend events. For example, according to Kriss, JSA went to the beach a couple weeks ago. To coincide with going to the beach, the food of the week was watermelons because there is a traditional Japanese game called Suikawari which involves uniquely shaped square watermelons.
“I basically keep rabbit-holing into things I am interested in and things that I think other people will be interested in as well,” Kriss said.
“For the people who come from Japan it is very cool for them to see that people are trying to learn their ways and customs correctly here in America,” Yebisu said.
Through all of his duties, Kriss gains a lot of stress being the JSA president.
“Sometimes it gets a little too much but most of the time it is okay… because I enjoy what I do,” Kriss said.
Although there are traits that he notes he needs to improve on, his fellow club members praise his passion and hard work.
“Personally, as a fifth generation Japanese American, seeing someone else who does not even have that background but is trying this hard is very motivating,” Yebisu said.