|Special Semester Feature:
Ms. Toshiko Ito
Interview by Todd Kohlman
Professor Ito is new to the University this year. She taught English in Japan for around 33 years at Kassui High School in Nagasaki, Japan. In fact, she was Dr. Fukuta’s (of the language department) teacher. She was born in the Hiroshima prefecture. Her father was a ship engineer and her mother was a housewife. Unfortunately, she passed away when Professor Ito was thirteen years old. Professor Ito has lived in Nagasaki for most of her life. She is a graduate of Kassui College. She came to the United States and studied to get her masters degree at the University of Northern Iowa from September of 1975 until December 1976. Professor Ito traveled to the United States many times to visit her friends. She used to be a singer in the church choir in Nagasaki. Her husband currently is an English speaking tour guide all over Japan. Professor Ito plans to go back to Japan after this school year. She likes Oshkosh and is impressed with the cheerfulness and out-going manners of her students.
My short stay in Japan this summer was much more than a lesson in linguistics
and customs. Even after only six weeks, I felt a new familiarity
with some of the tiniest facets of the nation's pop culture; the kind of
familiarity you normally don't feel until after you've lived somewhere
My hopes that I could escape certain things (which I had hitherto considered "western" elements of pop culture) were dashed away soon enough, as I discovered that Japan is just as poisoned by Ricky Martin and the Backstreet Boys as the USA. In one afternoon of shopping in Nagasaki, I was bombarded three times by “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Once in English, and twice in Japanese (interestingly, the Japanese version is not sung by Ricky Martin, and does not even contain the words "Vida Loca"). What's more, Japan seemed at the time, to have an even worse case of Star Wars fever than the USA; everywhere I turned were signs advertising “The Phantom Menace,” which was just opening in many Japanese cities when I arrived, not to mention the news footage showing the masses of fanatic enthusiasts who flooded theaters on opening day in Tokyo.
I was fascinated by Vibe and Space Shower IV (Japan's cutting-edge music TV networks), which showcased many interesting Japanese musicians, as well as some very obscure non-Japanese personalities which I would never have seen on American TV. After a couple days of watching, however, it became apparent that Japan too, has its overplayed pop songs.
Just a few more weeks there, and I would probably have been driven insane by repeat broadcasting of bands like Snail Ramp and Curio. But I must confess that one such band, L'Arc-En-Ciel, had a different effect on me despite their overexposure; I bought two of their CD’s before returning home.
In other news, it would appear that any person in Japan who doesn't already own a tiny, cutesy cellular phone is planning to own one soon. At one CD shop, I partook in an atari (instant win game) which netted me my own handy-dandy plastic phone carrying wrist strap. Phones are advertised there the same way soft drinks and basketball shoes are here, with celebrity testimonials from people like "commercial queen" Fujiwara Norika, Japan's attractive answer to Cindy Crawford.
Indeed, I left Japan with the stuff that comes expectedly with cultural immersion. But it's the bonus stuff, the little things you don't read about or get taught in school, that really stick with you. After a few years, I will probably forget the dollar-yen exchange rate and the price of a subway ride in Fukuoka, but I will remember the theme song from Mitokomon and TV ads for cram schools.
Last October, our club organized a one-day trip to Yaohan,
the biggest Japanese shopping center in Chicago. Many people viewed
this trip as a great opportunity to experience Japan. As a result,
about 30 people, both club members and students taking Japanese classes,
went on the trip.
The center consists of a large grocery store, food court, bookstore that has a wide selection of CDs from Japan, and a large number of small shops selling everything from souvenirs to clothing. We had enough time to visit all of the stores, have lunch at one of the Japanese restaurants, buy groceries, and just roam around the center and look at people. I have never been to Japan before, so I got really excited to see so many Japanese people at one place. I saw many families with small children, groups of teenagers, and many retired people, who all came to Yaohan to buy food, chat with friends over lunch, or just spare a couple of hours in the familiar atmosphere.
I learned a lot about relationship among people in Japan, got a chance to see what traditional Japanese stores, products, and services are like, and experienced a little bit of Japan. This trip convinced me even more that someday I should visit this fascinating country.
This past summer, 10 Oshkosh students had the opportunity to travel to Japan for 6 weeks. They taught over 600 students ranging from Kindergarten to 11th Grade. What follows is one counselor’s experience in Japan.
In July of this past summer, I hopped on a plane and headed for Japan.
It was an experience that I will never forget. Being one of the camp counselors
was challenging but rewarding at the same time. It was fun working with
Japanese kids of all ages and teaching them English. The camp experience
seemed to be as rewarding for me as it was for them.
When you are at camp, you are busy almost 24 hours a day. I think the 6:30 am exercises were about the only thing that woke me up some days. The food was interesting, and if you like rice, you are in business. I certainly recommend this trip to people who love to work with kids and are enthusiastic about learning about the Japanese culture.
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Come join us in April for Asian Heritage month. There will be events
planned for every day of the month. This is Club Nippon’s tentative schedule
for Japan week:
4/17 Monday – Culture Night with food, calligraphy, origami and a skit.
4/18 Tuesday – Movie Night
4/19 Wednesday – Guest speaker and panel discussion on cultural
differences in business, education, etc.
4/20 Thursday – Karaoke Night