Gibson Haynes

My name is Gibson Haynes, and I am a sophomore majoring in Linguistics and, prospectively, Asian and Middle East Studies. My first interaction with Japanese export was that ubiquitous commercial phenomenon Pokemon, which hooked me from the beginning. I found the films of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli soon after, and life thereafter contained on-again off-again touches of popular Japanese exports (Final Fantasy, Naruto, etc.).

Most of my experience in the study of East Asia has revolved around Chinese, however, and I have always heretofore studied Japan through the lens of China. Considering I have no extensive knowledge of Japanese culture, but plenty of interest in acquiring it, I signed up for the course.  I hope to gain a stronger understanding of Japan as it presents itself to the world.

Zachary Eller

Oscar Wilde’s observation that “the whole of Japan is a pure invention” seems apt when I think of my early impressions of the country. From a young age, Japanese products created for me a vast world of fantasy, an alternative world. As with most of my peers, the fascination began with an obsession for Pokemon, and soon included a broader circle of Japanese anime and video games. The “Japaneseness” of these cultural products became like a mark of authenticity, the Japanese Pokemon cards or undubbed episodes of Gundam somehow stirring my young imagination, revealing a world with which my parents were unfamiliar, a distant, fantastic land that offered an escape both comforting and vaguely threatening. Discovering Visual Kei in middle school, a style of Japanese rock featuring androgynous aesthetics, furthered my impression that Japanese cultural products presented something wholly “other.” Appropriating these products in my own life, often ignorant of their original sociological context, served as a signifier of outsider status. [Read more…]

Keenan Thompson

I wanna be the very best.

Boku wa Keenan desu. I’ve liked Japan and its exports since Pokemon. I captured them all, but they captured my heart. Since Pokemon I’ve indulged in an anime or seven. I’ve always had an interest in martial arts. I started with karate. At some point I think Taekwon Do happened too, but I eventually graduated to kung fu because it was prettier. Sorry, Japan…and Korea. I’m a pretty big fan of Japanese music, namely: Nujabes, The Pillows, and Asobi Seksu.

I’m in my second year of Nihongo now. I love it because it’s almost as malleable as English in regard to slang, and the senseis are pretty sugoi. Since entering college I’ve taken every Japan-centered course I could, and I’ve learned a good bit. I hope to study abroad soon, so I want to learn as much as possible as hayaku as possible. For those of you who read and clicked to the end, here’s a picture of me as Jigglypuff.


Arthi Aravind

Arthi Aravind

Posing with King Slime at Nintendo World in NYC.

Arthi Aravind is a sophomore planning to major in Literary and Cultural Studies. Ever since she discovered Pokémon and early Studio Ghibli films as a child, she has been fascinated with Japanese culture and is interested in learning more about it in an academic setting. Her specific interest is in visual culture, so she hopes to learn more about advertising, art, design, and media in Japan. She enjoy anime films and TV shows (most recently Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, and Paprika) and plays new Gameboy games on a regular basis. One of her favorite foods is inari sushi and she likes reading about kitsune myths.

Finding Japan to Find Yourself

Persimmon Wind:  A Martial Artist’s Journey in Japan by Nathan Traceski

Anthony Guzman

Born in Virginia during the infamously Orwellian year of 1984, my formative years were spent during the Cold War/Reagan/Thatcher/Bubble Era being exposed to the anime mish-mash of “Voltron” and the exploits of four adolescent, anthropomorphic shelled reptiles skilled in the Japanese arts of ninjitsu and American art of pizza consumption.

The cable boom of American television brought documentary channels into my home and with them histories of noble warriors in brightly brocaded armor, taking one another’s heads, dying for their loyalties (sometimes at their own hand), and taking the time amidst it all to fix a cup of tea and write some seriously emo poetry.  These images and tales were so much more arresting to me on a Saturday morning after the animation petered out than watching Zach Morris and rest of the Bayside Gang hang around The Max and bear witness to the peaking of Mario Lopez’s career.

In my youth I graduated from blowing dust out of Nintendo cartridges to Super NES and N64, from coaxial to VGA, along side rest of the home entertainment industry.  Through the local video store I saw Bruce Willis allegorize World War II by tossing an evil German off of the top of an ultramodern Japanese monolith and defend a nation’s flagging cowboy pride in the process.  I sat with rapt attention as a teenager, watching the immortal and interminably scruffy Mifune swagger across Kurosawa’s quicksilver frame for the first time the same year the man himself died quietly in a metropolitan hospital half a world away. [Read more…]

Claire Dranginis

Me hanging out with some Japanese monkeys

Hanging out with some distant cousins in Arashiyama Monkey Park in Kyoto

Hello!  My name is Claire Dranginis and I am senior majoring in East Asian Studies with a minor in Management and Organizational Leadership.  My introduction to the Japanese language was in high school, when through the strange power of the internet I became a fan of the the “Visual Kei” band Dir En Grey.  I soon started listening to many other Japanese rock bands, and my interest in the language that all these groups were singing in grew.  I decided to give learning Japanese a shot, and started to teach myself.  My study of Japanese has led me to a greater interest in Japanese culture outside of the weird rock bands that I loved as a high schooler.

I was fortunate enough to be able to study at Keio University in Tokyo last spring semester, and my experience there both gave me greater insight into Japan and left me with more questions.  I look forward to thinking about the answers to those questions in our class this semester!


Dylan Reilly


Hey all, I’m Dylan Reilly in case you missed the title for some reason, and I’m a freshman here at W&M. As far as majors and such go, I’m looking into Global Studies, concentrating on East Asian and Hispanic Studies.

So…this would be where you all get to learn how Japan has influenced my life. Well, it’s definitely influenced it a lot. Like many, my first entry into Japanese culture would be through Pokemon at the age of 6; from then I was hooked. I watched many of the popular Japanese shows brought to the US, like Digimon and Yugioh, and played video games throughout my childhood, the majority of which were – you guessed it – Japanese. As I grew older, I discovered manga and the sheer multitude of anime that existed at the time, and my fascination only grew. Soon, however, I developed an interest in the language, food, and some of the culture of Japan. By age 13, I had learned katakana and hiragana as well as becoming more or less addicted to sushi. I would also find myself doodling characters in an anime style to the best of my eighth-grade ability.

I’d still say a lot of that interest has stayed with me – I still read manga, and watch the occasional anime, and certainly play games, but I’ve found myself more interested in the pop culture in general, some of its music, its food, and of course the language. I’d find it safe to say Japan doesn’t dominate my life as it may have in the past — but regardless, it’s continued to shape me in some ways even today.

David Ranzini

David RanziniAs a bookish kid in suburban Virginia, I grew up surrounded by the enduring influence of exported Japanese culture– albeit the 19th century Japan of ukiyo-e and samurai that had inspired Western artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as part of what might now be called a “First Wave” of Japanese National Cool. A reproduction of Mary Cassatt’s The Letter used to hang outside my room, and I recall my mother explaining the visible influence of bijin-ga woodblock prints, imported to Paris as the “cool decorative accessory” of their day, on the flattened picture plane and the stylized pose of Cassatt’s sitter.

At the library I read Japanese history, daydreamed about samurai, and occasionally turned in haiku for literature-class poetry assignments (motivated as much by their fleeting, transparent profundity as the form’s appealingly brief length).  Meanwhile, through friends willing to lend me their Game Boys on the bus ride to elementary school, I gradually began to become familiar with another Japan– notable, as it had been in the 19th century, primarily as a source  of New Things That Were Extremely Cool- chief among them the Nintendo 64 and the Tamagotchi. [Read more…]

Lauren Klaasse

Lauren Klaasse Lauren is a Senior at the College of William and Mary, majoring in Government with a focus on East Asian affairs. Her interest in Japan unknowingly started with her introduction to Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and, later on like most every child of the 1990’s, Power Rangers. The corky Americanized Japanese export later influenced her to pursue achieving a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. In middle school, it had transformed to a love of dubbed anime series like Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z along with their respective manga series. However, unlike many “otakus,” an interest in anime never really stuck and instead she took more of a liking to Japan’s video games exported to the states.

From a Government major standpoint, interest in Japan is nearly as political as it is cultural. With China becoming a dominate force in Asia, it is easy to ride off Japan as a “has been” power. Despite this, Japan remains a key ally to the United States and a cultural powerhouse that catches American interest on a daily basis; something China has yet to effectively achieve. She is fascinated as to how a nation that has seen better economic days can prove to be just as relevant today through soft power than it was in the 80’s.