Video Night in Kathmandu: Perfect Strangers For Perfect Anxieties

by Charles Fliss

This baseball driven journey through Japan finds something more foreign than angels in the outfield.

Traveling to Japan as the last of many stops throughout Asia, Time writer Pico Iyer visits everything from “American Spirit” stores to Zen temples, finding a land both entrancing and ominous.  Tension seems to be a hallmark of Iyer’s narrative:  between tradition and westernization, perfection and crudity, and between Japan and the U.S. Baseball becomes the lens through which Iyer ultimately views Japan, and his conclusions are more indicative of his own American unease than of Japan itself. [Read more…]

Nich Schools

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When I was young, I was fascinated with cultures other than my own. I caught glimpses of China, of Russia, of Italy with every step I took. Little china dolls and pizza shops advertising authenticity seem to pervade every city, every town, every square mile of inhabited land in this melting pot called the United States. But what’s melted into this pot is no more than bits and pieces, generalizations and stereotypes. And when I realized this a few years ago, it ignited a desire in me to seek the truth of these cultures. [Read more…]

Nathan Traceski

Nathan’s life changed when he was 7. A genetic mutation allowed him to develop a superpower…the ability to become a Pokemon master! Or so he thought. This virtual world enthralled him and he spent a grandiose number of hours staring at a 2D screen, with his thumbs twiddling to no end. Cast all illusions aside; he did have a life in the real world as well. OK, you’re right. He did spend most of that time with friends who also lost themselves in the phenomenon, working toward the ultimate goal of catching them all. How he wished he could sick his Lv. 100 Mewtwo and Dragonite on the bullies at school. Hyper Beam would have demolished them! Nathan’s parents admired the imaginative spirit of their son. He had fun.

Reality check: Middle school – angst, puberty, first crush, friendships lost and found. Pokemon moved to the backseat as a hobby; no longer a lifestyle. Other passions emerged including art, baking, poetry, and mathematics. He had indeed become more learned as he matured. Success in school was easy. He could regurgitate facts to please his teachers. High school was another level to beat in the fickle game Nathan played. He realized that at this age, innocence gets tossed out the window like a cheating ex’s junk. Sexual awareness kicked in, clicks formed,  and the world turned against those who weren’t, heaven forbid, cool. Nathan cowered on the sidelines, ate lunch alone, and kept waiting for the 3 o’clock bell to ring. What did he truly appreciate of the immense world around him? He couldn’t even answer that. Was he happy? No.

Out of complete and utter boredom, he once took a Pokemon Personality Quiz. This was the result:

Evidently, something was wrong. How did a feverishly giddy child end up so lame? So normal. College was next. Hold up, what?! Nathan was pessimistic and apathetic. College is the land of freaks who want more of life. They seek understanding and don’t need approval to be content. Passion is the smell of the air. This was no place for someone who used up his childhood in a fantasy, and regarded everything else in vain seriousness. During the fall of 2009 after Nathan graduated, he boarded a plane and flew for 20 hours across the Pacific Ocean to a little island called New Zealand. He spent the next 2.5 months in an apartment with four strangers, and spent his days as a zoo volunteer. Where did this courage come from? It emerged from the necessity for Nathan to find clarity. Soul searching can begin at any age, and is a perpetual experiment. Nathan was introduced to fresh perspectives and he was able to interact with real-life Pokemon: the animals of the Wild Kingdom. When he returned home, his family could sense immense growth in him. He even wanted to do more and more. Next destination: Puerto Rico. Deep in the jungle he sweat out the two best weeks of his life. He aided in the research of indigenous frog, lizard, and tree species with a dynamic group of individuals. He loved it so much that he did the same thing in New York!

So you think Nathan is ready for anything? Not hardly. But now he can be one of those passionate kooks who goes to college and has the desire to be a part of something bigger than himself. All right, so what the hell does this have to do with anything? Some cheap way to give an inspirational pep talk? Nah. Expressionistic catharsis.

Nathan still plays Pokemon. Yet Nathan doesn’t know much about Japan. He knows that people are fascinated by its futurism and that it has created abstractions of empirical status such as anime, Hello Kitty, pop art, and Pokemon. He would love to know more. He has faced both relatable and unique circumstances thus far in his life. He is ready to soak up what he can. Japanophilia is new and exciting to Nathan, so bring it on!

They are out there!

Gregory Ranzini

Gregory Ranzini

As a child, I largely missed out on the prominent expressions of Japanese soft power around me- rather than memorizing Pokemon or watching Dragonball Z, I spent the bulk of my time reading and absorbed in the invention of progressively more ill-advised rubber-band guns. When I was eleven my (normally pacifistic) mother, apparently in the throes of a temporary bout of insanity, [Read more…]

Max Reiter

こんにちは。 私はマックスレイテです。My interest for Japanese language and culture was sparked in large part by my discovery of the anime series Naruto and Bleach roughly six years ago.  I enjoyed watching the development and maturation of Uzumaki Naruto and Kurosaki Ichigo, while also enjoying the twisting and turning plotlines that always kept me coming back for more.  At the same time, I connected musically (I am a classically trained pianist) with the shows’ opening and ending theme songs.  I would, and still do, listen to the full versions of these songs, embracing the natural (as in about nature) themes that run through their lyrics.  My interests in anime, manga, nature, and music were all coming together to shape my passion for Japan.

During high school, my fascination skyrocketed to include anything and everything Japanese.  Academically, I applied for and was accepted to the 2008 Virginia Governor’s School Japanese Language Academy.  There, I learned the basics of Hiragana and Katakana, read numerous literary selections from renowned Japanese authors, and immersed myself in a cultural experience I will never forget.  I have studied the art of ancient and modern Japan through my AP Art History class.  I have visited multiple Japanese Gardens, exposed myself to new foods and customs, and participated in an authentic Matsuri.  Today, I am as passionate about the Japanese language and culture as ever before.  I watch many anime series, most notably: Naruto, Naruto Shippuuden, Bleach, One Piece, Death Note, Claymore, Mai-HiME, Rosario + Vampire, Rosario + Vampire Capu2, and Hunter x Hunter.  I also read such manga series as: Bleach, BoBoBo-Bo Bo-BoBo, Buso Renkin, Claymore, D. Gray-Man, Death Note, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Drive, Fullmetal Alchemist, Gestalt, Gun Blaze West, Hikaru no Go, Hoshin Engi, Hunter x Hunter, MAR, Naruto, One Piece, The Prince of Tennis, Ral & Grad, Rosario + Vampire, Rosario + Vampire Season II, Shaman King, Slam Dunk, Togari, Ultimate Muscle, WaqWaq, Yu-Gi-Oh GX, Zatch Bell!, and Zombie Powder.

Right now, I am a first semester Freshman at The College of William & Mary.  I am currently enrolled in Japanese 101 with Kitamura Sensei and Japanophilia with Professor DiNitto.  I am planning on becoming a History major, with a focus in American history (an area which I am also deeply passionate about), and then advancing forward to Law School.  However, I want to work in International Law, specifically, doing work associated with Japan.  Someday, I wish to travel to Japan and experience, first-hand, its culture, landscape, and people.

Thank you for taking the time to read about me and my passion for Japan!  I thought I would leave you with my eleven favorite Japanese songs.  I hope they give you the same peace of mind they give me:

1.“Wind” = Akeboshi  2. “Soba ni Iru Kara” = Amadori 3. “Yura Yura” = Hearts Grow 4. “Blue Bird” = Ikimonogakari 5. “Closer” = Inoue Joe 6. “Kanashimi wo Yasashisa ni” = little by little 7. “Change” = Miwa 8. “Seishun Kyousoukyoku” = Sambomaster 9. “My Answer” = Seamo 10. “Utakata Hanabi” = Supercell 11. “D-tecnolife” = UVERworld 

どうぞよろしくおねがいします。

Anna Carter

Hello! My name is Anna Carter and I currently attend the College of William and Mary. Interestingly, my hometown in southwest Virginia has fewer people in it than the class of 2014 that I recently joined. I’m not certain what academic path I may take; right now, college is a new adventure that I’ve not quite figured out, and I’m excited about the challenge it represents.

Although I definitely did not realize then, my first encounter with Japanese anything was Hello Kitty; I remember being in elementary school and owning random items such as erasers and rubbery pencils bedecked with the iconic, oddly ambiguous face of Sanrio’s marketing giant. Like many members of my generation, I later became entranced with Japanese entertainment through contact with anime and manga (the addicting gateway drugs to Japanese culture) like InuYasha, Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, Fullmetal Alchemist and many others. This developed into an interest in Japanese music and films.

My repeated (though relatively limited) exposure to these various forms of media eventually led me to research different facets of the Japanese culture. My knowledge of this fascinating society is still fairly narrow, so when I spotted a course titled “Japanophilia” during registration I signed up immediately. I hope this course will help me broaden my awareness of the many unique aspects of Japan.

Chris Shea

If you’d asked for my name in second grade, my reply probably would’ve been, “I’M ASH KETCHUM, AND I CHALLENGE YOU TO A POKEMON BATTLE!”

 My Pokemon Journey, Part 1

It’s actually Chris Shea, for the record, and pop culture in general has always played a larger role in my life than my parents would have liked. However, I’ve only recently taken a look back to find that it wasn’t just America responsible for my brain-rotting hours of television and video games. Pokémon, Godzilla, Mario, Hole in the Wall, and even Sailor Moon were just a few of my unintended early encounters with Japan.

 <- My Idol, Age 8

Now a freshman and possible Chemistry major at W&M, I enjoy playing cello, badminton, and being an “asianophile” in general 😉

 

 

Kat Young

Hello Stranger. My name is Katherine (Kat) Young. I’m a freshman at the College of William and Mary (Class of 2014) and I intend to major in East Asian Studies.

I was first exposed to Japanese culture through different anime that were shown on TV while I was growing up (Toonami!). Both of my older brothers really liked to watch anime and I would sit down on the couch with them and watch shows like Dragon Ball Z, Gundam Wing, and Outlaw Star. They never let me watch Sailor Moon (to this day I have never watched it).  I feel like there hasn’t really been a point in my life where I haven’t been watching an anime or reading a manga.

Anime had not only affected the the TV I watched but, my art as well. In 5th grade I started to learn to draw in an anime/manga style. Over the years I had to move on from drawing in an anime style in order to build a better portfolio for myself as an artist but, even today, almost everything I doodle is in anime style. Japanese culture in general though has had an influence on some of the other art that I do outside of my doodles, such as a painting I made of a Geisha.

Anime is what really sucked me into the Japanese culture. I really wanted to learn to speak and understand the Japanese language that I heard in every show I watched or Japanese song I had listened too. As I started learning more about the language I began to want to learn and understand more about the Japanese culture and not limit my knowledge to what I had learned from anime.

I feel so lucky that in 2009 I got to attend Virginia Governor’s School Japanese Language Academy for three weeks. Not only did I get to learn more of the language but I also learned so much about Japanese culture, history, customs, food, traditions, literature, film, and even social problems. It was so intense to have so much information thrown at me in such a short period of time but, I loved every minute of learning it.

I’m pleased to say that my knowledge of the language and culture has grown over the years but I know there is so much more that I need to learn. I still like watching anime, I like reading manga every week, and yes I like going to cons and dressing up in dorky costumes for a weekend but, I really want to be more than that. I want to be an informed and educated person on the Japanese culture and lifestyle and not have a limited view through the narrow lens of anime. I’m really hoping that Japanophilia will help me grow in such a way.

Cosplays I’ve done.

I like to cook Japanese food with my friends too. We made this once. It was super yummy.

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Jamie Chen

Hi this is Siliang(Jamie) Chen. I’m a freshman this year at College of William and Mary. I want to major in Mathematics and finance.

My reason for enrolling Japanophilia is probably a little different from most of the other students. I took this class not only because I am interested in Japanese culture, but also because that I want to give up the prejudice I used to have against Japan and learn about it more objectively.

 Having spent my childhood in northeast China where the Mukden Incident took place, I have heard many stories about the cruel invasion of the Japanese soldiers and the damages they have done to my city. Even my middle school history teacher emphasized on the Japanese slaughter and the tragic stories that happened to the Chinese victims. All of these, which led to my dislike of Japan as a young child despite the fact that I watched sailormoon almost every day after school and always dreamed to have a robotic cat like Doraemon.

After spending my high school years in the States and meeting people from all over the world, my attitudes towards many things have changed, including my dislike of Japan. I have gradually learned to appreciate and respect the Japanese culture and the more I learned about it, the more fascinated I became with it. From the Japanese TV shows, movies, pop music to the Japanese products Sony, Casio and even the delicious Japanese food Sushi, I’m turning into a big fan of Japan. Now I just wish to learn more about its development in the previous centuries and I am really glad to take Japanophilia as my freshman seminar class:)

Austin Lahiff

I, Austin Lahiff, am an 18 year old Freshman currently attending The College of William and Mary. I am originally from Fairfax, Virginia and last year attended W.T. Woodson High School. I hope to enter the Mason School of Business here at The College, and aspire to study abroad for a semester or more.

I do not consider myself to be a traditional “Japanophile” by any means. Though I, like any Elementary School kid worth his salt from the late 90’s and early 00’s, was of course obsessed with Pokemon for a time, I do not have any pressing interest in any Japanese area of culture at the present. Rather, I am more curious as to how Japan was able to, so seamlessly, Americanize itself while Japanizing the West. We seem to have cultivated a mutually beneficial cultural relationship that has taken a firm foothold in each nation and stayed relevant for a half-century or longer.

I feel that through this intensive study of Japanese history and interaction with the West, I’ll better be able to understand the evolution of Japan beyond the lacking historical attention it is afforded. While ignorance may be expected or even encouraged of me as an American, I feel that it is my duty to combat this stereotype and better understand the world around me.