Isabel Bush

My name is Isabel Bush, and I’m a sophomore here at the college. I am majoring in Gloriously Undecided, but I’m considering an AMES/Theater double major. Last year I took “Japanophilia” as my freshman seminar, which really piqued my interest in the academic study of Japanese culture, and its reception throughout the world.


I decided to take “Gross National Cool” because the course feeds two of my foremost passions. Firstly, it centers on cultural narratives, how those narratives are consumed, and what can be understood about a culture from its narratives. Secondly, this course studies all of that by examining Japan, a country whose culture I have studied since before coming to college. I did a cultural and linguistic exchange program in Hokkaido before my senior year of high school, and I aspire to return one day.


When I’m not studying Japan or its language, I am interested in theatrical costume and millinery, and I enjoy cooking and sewing, and just generally making things. I use my free time to teach my toddler cousin to fist bump.

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!


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…]

Contributor bio : Eugene Park

 Japanese | Englishback of my head

Hi, I am Eugene (or Jin-Sung) Park, a Junior in William and Mary. I am planning, meaning I still haven’t decided, to become an Economics major, and unfortunatly, I seem to be slightly more talented in Japanese than in Economics. I was born and grew up in Busan, South Korea, until 6th grade, and spent 2 years in Pennsylvania. Then, I came to Alexandria, Virginia and enrollyed in Episcopal High School, which was streotypical prep school. My high school did not offer Japanese language course, so I started to study Japanese after comming to W&M. Honestly, I prefer city so much more over suburb, so I am considering about applying for exchange student to Keio next year.

Eugene Park

 Japanese | Englishback of my head