My name is Chris Young, and I’m a senior Geology major at the College. I transferred in from Thomas Nelson Community College last fall. I plan to head off to a graduate program in Natural Disaster Prediction and Mitigation after graduation, and I’d eventually like to work with natural disaster response in lesser-developed regions of Asia.
My background in Japanese language and culture is entertaining. I was first introduced to Japanese cuisine as a kid–my dad was a chef with a penchant for tempura and wasabi. As a teenager I became interested in anime and manga of the 1990’s–Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, to name a few. My interest focused on a few specific database elements: giant mecha, space colonies with no discernible applicability to modern physics, paramilitary organizations, war, and an appalling lack of cohesive plot. In order to understand the context behind many of the customs presented in these mediums, I began researching Japanese culture. Once it became apparent that I’d have to wait weeks for new volumes of manga to be translated by fans during the heyday of 56K dialup and AOL, I began learning hiragana and katakana. I founded the first Japanese Culture and Language club at my high school before graduating, and I still consume a frightening amount of J-Rock and J-Pop in addition to manga and assorted imported Japanese snacks. I proudly consider myself a second generation otaku.
In addition to learning about Japanese language and customs, I think a coherent understanding of the historical context behind the culture produced in Japan is critical to fully appreciating how it reflects national identity and values. My interest in contemporary Japanese culture is specific to how it translates across language and cultural barriers, and I’m quite intrigued with the way in which we as Americans consume and internalize memes of Japanese culture and give them a Western spin. We can learn quite a bit about our own digital anthropology in studying Japan’s technoculture.