Students Explore Japanese Culture During ‘Maymester’ in Tokyo

Faculty and students are pictured at the Imperial Gardens.

HIGH POINT, N.C., June 27, 2017 – Though it’s not uncommon for Americans to eat sushi, most have not enjoyed a sushi dinner in the country where the cuisine was invented more than 500 years ago. A group of High Point University students got that opportunity while exploring Japanese culture and its impact through the Maymester course “Ganbatte! Adventuring in Tokyo.

Eleven students recently spent two weeks in Tokyo studying Japanese media and popular culture. Led by Dr. Stefan Hall, associate professor of communication, and Dr. Judy Isaksen, professor of communication, the students ventured to Akihabara “Electric Town,” the Harajuku fashion district, the Tsukiji Fish Market and more.

The goal of the course was to provide context to demonstrate how Japanese art, media and popular culture have influenced American culture.

“Students are drawn to the study of Japan for a variety of reasons,” said Hall. “Some like Japanese video games, others enjoy manga or anime, and many are familiar with some sort of Japanese food. No matter what the draw, this class attempts to extract the ‘Japan-ness’ of these cultural exports, and helps the students identify what is representative of Japanese culture as well as what its appeal might be to Western culture.”

Students practice playing Japanese traditional Taiko drums.

The students participated in a number of Japanese customs, including eating communal Japanese meals of sushi and shabu-shabu, observing a sumo wrestling match and attending the Sanja Matsuri at Asakusa Shrine, one of three great Shinto festivals that attracts 2 million people from around the world.

Students said they felt the trip helped them gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture and its influence.

“This trip to Japan was amazing,” said Riley Greer, a rising junior and video game design major. “I learned a lot in Japan, from their sense of ‘wa’ to the proper way to eat dipping noodles. This trip not only helped me to become better friends with my classmates, but I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation for Japanese culture.”

“My favorite part of the trip was going to the Meiji Shrine,” rising senior Will Toms said. “You’re right next to the most populated shopping district in all of Tokyo, and then as soon as you walk through its gates, you get transported to one of the most serene, quiet and beautiful places I have ever been.”

HPU Global Experience programs, also known as Maymester, are short-term study abroad opportunities that allow students to fulfill course requirements under the leadership of HPU faculty, while immersing themselves in a new culture. This year’s offerings included eight trips to 11 different countries.

Students enjoy cooking and eating “okonomiyaki” in a Tokyo restaurant.

Students learn the art of Japanese floral arranging, known as “ikebana.”

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