Study Abroad

Japan in Today’s World Program

March 28th-July 28th 2010

Me and three monkeys in Beppu, Japan.

Me and three monkeys in Beppu, Japan.


          I participated in a semester long study abroad program in Kyushu University’s JTW program based in Fukuoka, Japan. This is a program specifically for undergraduate students, typically in their third year of college. I went during the spring semester of my junior year of college. JTW’s focus is on providing a high quality of education and a rich cultural experience at the same time. Their program is designed to facilitate these goals by providing classes in English and study trips.

If you wish to know more about their program, click here to read more.

Courses Taken

  • Modern History of Japan II (I had taken History of Japan 100 the Spring semester previously at Berea College): Covering Japanese history from 1900 to present day.
  • Japanese Politics Today: How the Japanese government system works and current issues.
  • Japanese Language : Starting in the Elementary level, taught with the GENKI textbook. 
  • Enculturation and Education in Japan: Studying how schools in Japan work and the cultural influences for those choices.
  • Japanese Noh Theater (Half term course): Understanding Noh, the traditional Japanese theater and the value of the imagination.
  • Japanese Modern performance (Half term course): Studying and experiencing the many shapes and forms of what is considered modern art in Japan and what political, cultural, and economical influences may have caused them. 


Independent Research Project

I also write a paper based on my independent research project for credit. I looked at how modern events had influenced the plays written by Kobo Abe during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Often times when a culture is being suppressed by another, the reaction can be seen through art being produced at the time. Now in modern day, this can be done through film. But before the age of the video, theater was the medium. I examined several of his plays and discussed themes that were connected to the events of the day. I also gave a fifteen minute presentation on the topic for the whole program.


Japan Through Totoro’s Eyes

At the time I went to Japan, my niece was two years old. I was worried she would lose her connection with me since she was so young. I created a way to keep her engaged by taking pictures and making stop motion videos of her favorite character in the form of a stuffed animal because it was easier for her to connect to and be a part of my exciting experiences.

Totoro on Flickr

It soon became clear that Totoro became a cultural bridge that helped me make incredible human connections with people I met in my travels. 


The Videos

I also created four stop motion videos about my journey from America to Japan and recreated some of the things I encountered there.

Episode 1: Totoro arrives from UPS and tries to explore when he is startled by a cat and hides in a backpack.

Episode 2: Totoro wakes up the next day and emerges to discover he is in an airport. The video covers my experiences flying.

Episode 3: Totoro can finally emerge once traveling has stopped and explores the room. He then goes to bed.

Episode 4: Totoro wakes up next to a new character and tries to hug him when the new Totoro is introduced. They decide to play soccer (at the time the world cup in South Africa was going on) and when a large beach ball attacks, the two Totoros hide in travel bags.