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

Andy Henderson



This faceless, WordPress-decapitated guy is Andy Henderson — a senior English and Literary & Cultural Studies double major. He enters this class wearing my LCST hat, and began this semester with nearly blank slate with respect to Japanese culture.

The material thus far has been fascinating. We live in a small world, and culture in one place can quickly take hold elsewhere.  When this happens, the cultural expressions themselves rarely tell the whole story; a vast nexus of interrelated political and economic ties and influences are necessary to support any cultural exchange. For an LCST major who is used to looking at cultural texts within US borders, it has been great to change perspective for him a little bit and focus on the relationships between Japan and the US.

And then of course there’s Yatta! That’s the other reason he’s here.

Jessie Hollimon


Hiya! 🙂 I am a senior at the College. I first became interested in Japan when I learned Sailormoon came from Japan. Since then I have branched out from just watching anime to learning about Japan’s history, culture, politics, language etc. Currently, I am really interested in Japanese pop culture because I consume so much of it. In addition, I want to get past the 2D representation of Japan, that Westerners and the Japanese endeavor to create. I also want to master the language some day but for now being able to understand the past and current culture will do.

Maximilian Brumby

I was ten years old when I arrived in the United States. Upon arriving, I was glad to learn that Americans also collected Pokemon cards.  This was exciting because I had spent the last two years trading anything I could get my hands on for Pokemon cards from my Japanese friend, Shun.  They were all in Japanese, and I could not tell what any of them meant, but it didn’t matter at all to me, I was obsessed.

Now that I have lived in the United States for eleven years little has changed.  I’m a Junior at the College of William and Mary, and a film studies major.  Instead of having an obsession with collecting Pokemon cards, I now have an obsession with watching Japanese film.  Nothing is more exciting and entertaining to me then the gorgeous animation of Studio Ghibli, or the extreme sensationalism featured in films like Ichi the Killer and Battle Royal . Maybe it was effective marketing, or maybe I felt a legitimate cultural connection with those Pokemon cards when I was younger, but either way loving those cards as much as I did created an interest in the culture of another country, an interest that I have kept with me for the last decade.


Japanese version of Chamander Pokemon trading card.

Maybe it was effective marketing, or maybe I felt a legitimate cultural connection with those Pokemon cards when I was younger, but either way loving those cards as much as I did created an interest in the culture of another country, an interest that I have kept with me for the last decade.

Poster for the film "Ichi the Killer"

Poster for the film "Ichi the Killer"

Nathan Revere

The Pursuit of Language

My name is Nathan Revere and I am currently a senior at the college of William and Mary. A linguist by training, I am fascinated by the intersection of language and human experience. My love for language, however, did not start academically – as a high school student I had the opportunity to live for a year in Kumamoto, Japan. Ever since, culture and language have been inextricably bound for me. The pursuit of understanding how these balance is the focus of my research.

Japan has been central to this passion of mine, and as such I have worked as a Japanese TA, worked to provide translations for the Future Shock art exhibit which visited William and Mary in 2009, and participated in summer research under Professor Hamada Connolly where I combined looking at food culture and communicative practices.

I hope to continue with these interests by becoming a professor of Linguistic Anthropology.

Katie Johannes

During elementary school, Katie Johannes would wake up before dawn, creep down to the other end of the house, turn the television on low volume and watch Sailor Moon on Channel 7 before getting ready for school. She would then hurriedly get dressed and run to catch the bus, jealously eyeing her sister’s small Hello Kitty backpack as she ran out the door. She would draw doodles of Keroppi, Hello Kitty’s amphibian friend, when she was bored during math. She would run home to make sure she did not miss the beginning of Toonami, the three hour block of anime programming on Cartoon Network. She then would figlunaht her little sister for first dibs on Pokemon Snap, since it was only rented from the video store and the time to reach the level with Mews in outer space was limited. Around dinnertime, she often begged her mom and dad to take the family out to eat at the Sumo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, her favorite restaurant.

She was never the quickest thinker, but it took Katie years before she realized that all of these favorite programs and products were Japanese in origin. Katie, now considering a minor in East Asian Studies, knows that desperately wanting long hair (and secret lunar celestial crystal tiara powers) like Sailor Moon when she was seven may have played a small role in her decision to take Japanese 101 in her freshman year. It allowed her to understand parts of her old favorite shows in their original language and, more importantly, taught her more about the country that was able to permeate her childhood without her knowing it.

Eugenia Hannon

Truly, Eugenia was inspired to take “Gross National Cool”, because, well, she thinks Japan is pretty cool, and wanted to know much, much more about “it”–the people, culture, place. And, while she’s equally charmed by Sanrio and everything kawaii! , she really thinks the picture below represents her much more fully. As a 22 year old college senior, her nights are often full of terror, so she and the Obake have become really good friends!

Nightly Visitors

Sanami Takasaki

Sanami Takasaki was born in Yokohama and grew up in Tsukuba, Ibaraki.  It was when she was 18 that she left her hometown and moved to Yokohama.  She lived with her grandmother to go to Keio University.  During her freshman year, she experienced the Den’en-Toshi Line’s packed trainfor the first time in her life.YouTube Preview ImageFor a girl who spent her whole life in the country, this was not the only thing that scared her.  The place where her heart beat fastest was ‘Hachikou-mae’, the most famous meeting spot in Shibuya.  There, she was ‘lost in translation’, and devoted herself to working on her cellphone just for turning her eyes away from the ’emptiness’.
Hachiko-mae, Shibuya

Hachiko-mae, Shibuya

In 2009, she finally realized her long-cherished dream to study abroad in U.S.  ‘The place this timid girl chose for becoming brave was William and Mary.  Things she has introduced so far: okonomiyaki, tempura, drinking games, slang and suikawari (watermelon smashing).
Sanami’s blog (in Japanese):  William and Mary and Sanami

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

Adam pic


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–