Ally McKechnie

My name is Ally, and I am a Junior at the College majoring in Government, and hope to complete a minor in Italian. At first glance it may seem that none of this is remotely related to Japanese cultural studies, and in some ways this is a correct statement. I am not taking this class for a GER or any other requirement, but I have always loved languages and been fascinated by foreign cultures. Most recently I have discovered both the Japanese language and the awesome, complex culture it represents.

Someday I hope to work for the State Department as a Foreign Service officer, and believe that familiarity with many parts of the world is an important preparation for this occupation. To understand states in their current situation it is crucial that a person understand the past of the people and government. Japan’s Gross National Cool is a small step in that direction for me. Japan is an extremely powerful, modernized nation on the international scene, and I find the Japanese culture enthralling. I love the people, the technology, and the things that make it both similar to and different from the United States.

Adam Labriny

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My name is Adam Labriny.  I’m a Freshman here at William and Mary, and am planning on double-majoring in East Asian Studies and Business.  Ever since I was a kid, Japan has always been one of the most interesting places in the world to me.  Whether it’s T.V. shows, food, or the language itself, I love it all.

In high school, I spent a summer abroad in Akita, a small city in Japan.  This changed the way I thought about Japan.  I realized that despite studying the language since middle school, I knew almost nothing about the culture.

And so, here I am in Japan’s Gross National Cool, hoping to learn more about Japanese culture!

If you would like to know more about the high school I studied abroad at here’s a link–


Charles Fliss

Howdy! I’m Charles Fliss. I’ve always been interested in Japan. When I was younger, the Samurai and their weapons were amongst my favorite of ancient warriors and I actively quested for plastic katanas with which to do battle. As I grew older my interest expanded as I was exposed to anime – first in the form of Pokemon, then in the films of great Japanese directors such as Miyazaki and Otomo. Soon I was sucked into the wonderful world of manga and enthusiastically discussing the deeper meanings of the Final Fantasy games with my friends. In spite of my exuberance, my experience had always been bound to history texts, movies, comic books, and the occasional convention. [Read more…]

Christopher Drake Barnewolt

Christopher is an International Relations major, with a strong interest in history.  Born in California and raised in Massachusetts, he came to William and Mary seeking some famous Southern hospitality, and likes what he sees.  Christopher began studying Uechi-Ryu Karate, an Okinawan martial art, when he was six years old and holds the rank of a First-Degree Black Belt, or shodan.



Growing up, Christopher initially resisted the Pokemon craze that swept through his peers like wildfire through tall grass, but was ultimately sucked in through peer pressure.  Later in high school Christopher and his friends took part in a memorable viewing of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, an aesthetically breathtaking film he remembers one of his friends appropriately describing as “stoner-ific.”  Simultaneously intrigued by and wary of modern Japanese pop-culture, Christopher kept his distance from most of its manifestations until being blessed with a quirky college girlfriend with a love for anime.  Through her, Christopher was reintroduced to the works of Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, and Satoshi Kon.

These new interests were eventually integrated into Christopher’s love of history.  While taking a class on Modern Japanese History, Christopher became more aware of the unique cultural position of Japan, it’s long and varied history, and the ongoing identity crisis Japan has been experiencing since Commodore Perry forced her to accommodate the Western powers.  Christopher is particularly interested in the transformation of Japanese society since Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, and how activists on both the left and right have attempted to re-shape Japan’s modern identity in their own image.  He is especially interested in the sociopolitical messages of the great anime master Hayao Miyazaki and the semiotics present in his work, and sees him as emblematic of post-war Japanese pacifism, which may be on the decline.

Rachel Pick

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Rachel is an English major, but wishes she could minor in the Internet. In terms of Japanese cultural export, she especially likes San-X characters (Afro Ken, anyone?), the films of Miyazaki and Ozu, Boris, and Boredoms. She loves the absurdities of pop culture from every country, but thinks the Japanese have a unique aesthetic sensibility and an often superior imagination. Her fascination with Japanese pop culture and all things kawaii began when she started working at a toy store her freshman year of high school. With an entire section devoted to Sanrio and San-X, she soon found herself the owner of Hello Kitty stationery made to look like toast, several plush incarnations of San-X characters, an army of metal wind-up robots, and an inconceivable amount of stickers. She once saw someone else carrying the same Hello Kitty handbag she had, but that person was a five year-old girl.

She would also like to share these two links:

Beautiful hand-painted photos of 19th century Japan

Pokemon collector breaks world record with more than 13,000 pieces of memorabilia

Like Kogepan, Rachel is usually disgruntled.

Ingrid Heiberg


My name is Ingrid Heiberg, and I am a junior majoring in French and Literary and Cultural Studies (film track) here at William and Mary. So what is a French major doing in a class about Japanese culture? Aside from my true love for Hello Kitty and all things Sanrio, I have always been fascinated by Japanese culture, and I am excited to learn why. I have studied Japanese at William and Mary since freshman year, and I also had the opportunity to work with Japanese students from Keio University in Tokyo when they came to visit the U.S. and complete a cultural studies project comparing Japan and America. Working with these students really solidified my love for Japanese culture: Japan is no longer a cool, faraway place to me, but rather home to several of my friends. Because I am also a cultural studies major, I am excited to see how cultural studies applies to one of my favorite places to study!

Jessica Wang

doraemonAn unbroken string of obsessions–the GNC abridged version.

Born in Taiwan. Watched countless Xiao Ding Dang (better known as Doraemon) episodes.

Moved to South Carolina at 5 years old. Watched Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro–the unsubbed, undubbed, original Japanese version–at age 6 and thought, “what are they saying?” over and over again. Discovered the beauty of anime (okay, Sailor Moon) in 2nd grade. Anime obsession peaked in 5th grade with Digimon.

Moved to Virginia Beach, VA in 8th grade. Began to truly appreciate Japanese Pop in 10th grade. Started viewing Japanese Dramas during the summer between 10th and 11th grade. Drama fever settled in after viewing the still popular Hana Yori Dango two-part drama with a film finale–though at the time, only part one was released. Drama fever led to Arashi fever and the rest, as they say, is history

Will Gautney

School has let out, students have all gone home, and  the neighborhood boys are running around in their various groups ignoring homework as well as their mothers.  One group stands in an empty suburban lot, two boys facing off at a time with giant sticks pretending to be not army men, not European knights, but samurai warriors avenging their friend’s “death” by bonking with a stick not three minutes before.

While most of the other boys grew out of this interest and fascination of Japan, Will Gautney did not.  A senior at the college of William and Mary majoring in Global studies with a special focus on East Asian Studies, he has been a consumer of Japanese goods, wither it be imported or localized, for as far as his memory can reach, being raised with easy access to not only the typical video games and anime, but also samurai movies and zen texts.

Localization vs Censorship: Fansubbing and the Search for a “Real Japan”

Adapting multimedia works from one culture to another is by no means a simple task. Beyond the obvious considerations of how best to deal with linguistic differences, the translator must engage with disparities in cultural norms. This can be anything from how a story constructs meaning and is represented visually, to the moral sensibilities of the viewing audience.  This process has been termed localization, and is defined by the Localization Institute as:

The process of creating or adapting a product to a specific locale, i.e., to the language, cultural context, conventions and market requirements of a specific target market. With a properly localized product a user can interact with this product using his/her own language and cultural conventions. It also means that all user-visible text strings and all user documentation (printed and electronic) use the language and cultural conventions of the user. Finally, the properly localized product meets all regulatory and other requirements of the user’s country/region. [Read more…]

Sara Caudill

Spirited Away

In 2002, Sara cut class on Halloween, got stuck in DC’s very typical, round-the-clock gridlock traffic, and showed up forty-five minutes late for the last showing of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away in some dingy art house theater.

She went into the theater thinking it was going to be pretty, weird, and different.  She came out of the theater thinking all the same things; plus, she wanted to learn more about this ‘Japan’ country that made the phenomenal film.

That experience brings Sara to where she is today—an East Asian Studies major with hopes of studying abroad in Japan next year.  She still loves Miyazaki, and she still wants to learn everything she can about Japan.