Thomas “Everything I Say Is A Joke” Barto.

Thomas Barto is, by and large, a boy who focuses on what he enjoys. What he enjoys, in this instance, is the anime-manga-game trinity of modern Japanese popular culture. However, he resists categorization as an “otaku,” which is frankly a limiting and blinkered worldview unsuited to the globalized informational environment of the 21st century. He attempts to subsist on an undifferentiated diet of media, scavenging what scraps of entertainment he can from the dust of the world like a vulture picking over a delicious, tentacles-and-schoolgirls-filled corpse.

That said, it’s not like he doesn’t know or care that there’s more to Japan than Samurai Champloo and Rurouni Kenshin. He finds the political history of the island fascinating; its culture and social norms are a wonderfully intricate puzzle with lots of shiny bits and moving pieces for him to mess around with and figure out. He wrote a four-thousand-word essay on the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in his senior year of high school.

Thomas’ interest in Japan can actually be traced back to when he watched Outlaw Star on Cartoon Network at his grandparents’ house when he was about 7. Nothing came of it until his friend loaned him a copy of Angelic Layer in sixth grade, at which point he was basically doomed for life. His interest in Japan past manga and anime, however, can be traced to James Clavell’s Gai-Jin, which was basically all kinds of interesting and provoked him to learn more.

In his free time he enjoys Minecraft and tabletop RPGs, especially White Wolf’s anime-inspired epic fantasy Exalted. He means no harm, and his only desire is to be your friend.

Kanako Matsuda


My name is Kanako Matsuda and I’m a freshman at the College of William and Mary. My plan is to major in either Chemistry or Biology, but that’s only because I have no idea what I want to do as a future career and majoring in the sciences seems like a safe bet. What I do know is that I like to dance, paint, draw, and add to my plethora of useless trivia knowledge by relentlessly surfing the web.

An important fact about me that I absolutely must get across is that I’m Japanese. This is pretty obvious from looking at my name, yes, but my love for Japan is something that can’t be communicated as easily. Growing up, Pokémon and Doraemon (the cartoon about the adorable robot cat from the 22nd century) basically were my Saturday morning cartoons, and natto (fermented beans) was what I considered the ultimate comfort food. Since then I’ve moved onto obsessively watching Japanese dramas, listening to obscure J-rock, and maintaining a constant supply of Pocky. Summer of my junior year, I was fortunate enough to visit my relatives in Japan. Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience.

Coming to William and Mary, I was eager to enroll in as many classes on Japan as possible since my high school fell tragically short in that department. Japanophilia seemed to be the ideal freshman seminar to take, and thus, here I am writing my bio for this web page at 4:30 am. Sleep-deprivation aside, I’m pretty pleased to be here. ^.^

Luis Madrid


Hello, everyone! My name is Luis Madrid and I’m a freshman intending to major in Global Studies at the College of William & Mary. As a 90s kid who grew up in the age of iconic animes (such as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon), I’ve been interested in Japan for some time now. While my curiosity extended only as far as the realm of anime at first, it soon expanded into a broader appreciation for Japanese culture, supplemented by the environmentalist overtones of Hayao Miyazaki’s films and well-publicized literature such as Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha. However, it wasn’t until after I attended the 2010 Virginia Governor’s Language Academy that my academic interests in Japanese began to take shape. Now studying the language at the 201 Level, I’m looking forward to further expanding my knowledge of Japan’s culture from both a classical and contemporary perspective.

Paul Atienza

Hey, my name is Paul Atienza and like everyone else in Japanophilia, I am a freshman at the College of William and Mary. Here, I plan to major in Accounting (granted that I get into the Mason School of Business) and I also intend to minor in English.

Like most kids in America, I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons while eating a gigantic bowl of cereal. For me, the cartoon block started with Yugioh at eight o’clock and ended with Pokemon at ten o’clock. The elements from the show that struck me the most were the overly animated expressions, the powerful, manly voice overs i.e. Yami Yugi from Yugioh, and the fantastical plots. I also remember that I would try to imitate Yugioh’s deep voice whenever I played the card game with my friends at school. I started to associate the characters from the shows with the essence of coolness. However, unbeknownst to me at the time, these cartoons were made in Japan.

So the reason that I decided to take Japanophilia was that I wanted to learn more about the culture of Japan besides the cartoons and what I learned in history class. This class is going to be legendary.

Isabel Bush

My name is Isabel Bush. I was born and raised in Washington, DC, though I’ve also lived in Texas and California. I like theater, and in my spare time, I play the baritone ukulele, try to teach my toddler cousin large words, and make things like clothing and food. At home, I work in a haberdashery, where I have learned the difference between a bowler and a derby, and the true cost of an excellent hat.

I’m currently a Freshman, and I’m considering majoring in Japanese. The summer after my junior year of high school, I traveled to northern Japan with a student immersion group, and I’d love to return to Japan to study further. My earliest exposure to Japan and its culture was the Japan exhibit in the National Children’s Museum, and Maira Kalman’s Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman.

Matt Rigsby

Matt Rigsby here! I am a freshman with the intent of majoring in International Relations or Linguistics. After watching Lost in Translation (hence the picture), I became more aware of the Japan aesthetic (as the movie is set in Japan) but I must fully admit that I am I have just begun my exploration of Japanese Culture. Participating in many Japanese video games and being a Nintendo disciple, I was largely unaware of the Japanese influence. While I played Pokémon as much as the average child, that is about the extent of my foray into Japan. Being a soccer player and an avid fan, I witnessed Japan’s participation at both the male and female World Cups with the interest of more closely following their domestic league and their high profile players, such as Keisuke Honda. Having always had an interest in other cultures but no experience in the realm of Asia, this class is here to expand my cultural awareness and interests into previously unexplored territory. With new found enthusiasm about Japan, I can only hope to broaden my cultural and social knowledge beyond video games and soccer, into territories such as film and literature.



Greg Kirwin

Greg Kirwin is mostly ignorant of Japanese culture and its relations to the rest of the world… for now. He has had relatively little exposure, outside of the often Americanized products that find their way to the states, like Pokemon, or any of the plethora of Japanese shows that aired on TV sometime in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s (which he doesn’t think count much anyways). The Last Samurai was one of Greg’s favorite movies as a child; looking back on the film’s depictions of the land and culture in the 1800’s, it is easy to see where some stereotypes need to be broken.

Greg’s interest in Japan has piqued recently after he learned some part-Japanese relatives were moving to Tokyo this year, and after he found himself helpless in trying to understand his bilingual cousins (taking care of a two-year-old bilingual in Japanese and English is difficult) or much of the Japanese culture they attempted to douse him in. At the moment, there are no plans to learn the Japanese language… but four years of college leaves a lot of time to consider whether he wishes to take up another language! He loks forward to understanding the culture this portion of his family will be embracing, as well as the history Japan has had with the West and their mutual influences on each other.

This fits nicely into Greg’s intentions to major in Economics (possibly with a double major in sociology), as the global economy is now more connected and interdependent than ever; with the US and Japan sitting in #1 and #4, respectively, for the world’s largest economies, it will be important to understand the myriad ways that we depend on each other for trade. William & Mary is a great school to learn about the economy; 319 years of experience have served it well.

Greg spends his time outside of the Japanophilia class running (lots and lots of running), playing his bass, and browsing The Economist and Adweek in order to stay up-to-date on both the global and domestic markets we are all a part of.

Me and my bass


Jenny Lee

こんにちは !

My name is Jenny Lee, and I’m currently an English major at the College of William and Mary. As a child, I had always been exposed to Japanese merchandise and cartoon shows, which ranged from magical heroines like Sailor Moon to the adorable electric mouse Pikachu from Pokemon. However, I was never aware that all these things were Japanese – or Asian, for that matter.

Back in middle school, I used to be an avid fan and collector of anime goods like most American otaku do today. Though nowadays, I consider myself a “closet” anime fan. I also admire acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, particularly for his adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle by British author Diana Wynne Jones, and also for his own enrapturing fairytale, Spirited Away.

But besides cartoons, the reason I decided to join this class was in hopes of wondering how Japan became such a dominant cultural superpower in such a small amount of time – and in a highly efficient way. Additionally, I hope to learn more about the ways in which the Western views of Japan continue permeate our society today . . . and also to know how other people perceive this super ‘cool’ and ‘kawaii’ country!ヽ(● ω ●)ノ

Jordan Cheresnowsky

Hello! My name is Jordan Cheresnowsky and I am planning on being an East Asian Studies major with a minor Japanese at the College of William and Mary. My general interest in Japan began in eighth grade when a friend of mine threw a volume of manga at me, claiming that I would like it because of the pink and girly cover. Obviously I did, but not for the story. Growing up in a small town I did not experience foreign cultures too often. To be holding another country’s art form, their literature, in my hands and be able to see how lives were different overseas drastically changed my life. I could not get enough of the Japanese culture, reading everything from manga to light novels, online blogs to travel books, and even the occasional historical account. The summer of my junior year I dove headfirst into the Japanese language by attending the Virginia Governor’s Japanese Language Academy for three weeks. By the time I went home I realized my dream of becoming a Japanese translator, so I could one day bring to the English-speaking world the books and works that changed my perspective so drastically.

(Of course my mother would tell me years after my general interest in Asia began that when I was younger she kept me away from Japanese animation, like Sailor Moon, because the eyes freaked her out. It seems to have backfired just a bit.)

Robyn Neill

Robyn NeillRobyn Neill was born in Santiago, Chile, South America, as a nameless child in the foster care system, until her mother, Nancy Neill showed interest in adopting her, where she then became Nancy Carol Magariata. After a long and tedious legal process that spanned over a year, Nancy Carol Magariata was adopted at age 2 into a family of 3. At that time she became Robyn Butler Neill, legal citizen of the U.S. Her new family consisted of her mother, Nancy Carol Schmidt Neill, her father, Scott Granville Neill, and her new little sister from Columbia, Lesley Rose Neill previously known as Louisa Fernanda Schavaria. They grew up together, experiencing the loss of both a grandmother, and a grandfather. Then, when the two were 6 and 7, their Father, Scott, died of liver cancer. Nancy was a well-paid businesswoman, and often had to leave on business trips, so after the death of her husband, she decided to go back to college and get a degree to teach students. She moved the family to a small costal town, where Robyn became exposed in middle school, to the world of manga. Through manga, she met her best friend, and was pulled into the amazing world of Japanese pop-culture. Years later, Robyn had become a manga-style artist, manga collector, and anime-obsessed. She continues to love the stuff, and even though she lost her final grandmother this past christmas eve, she lets her sadness become the strength she needs to push herself to reach even greater heights. She currently attends the College of William and Mary, learning many things, and following her dreams.