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April 24, 2012

About Us

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The NTSAF strives to encourage and support Topping Scholars in their academic achievements as well as their involvement in community service.  The ultimate goal of the Fund is to develop a sense of community within the university for all Topping Scholars. The USC NTSAF Summer Immersion Program (SIP) and its accompanying course (AMST 382) takes this goal to an international level to explore social issues, culture and community.

SIP aims to increase student understanding of social issues, culture and community through a month long immersion program in Los Angeles and Japan.  SIP participants have the opportunity to establish relationships and gain invaluable experience under the supervision of USC faculty and NTSAF staff. Dr. George Sanchez, USC Vice Dean for College Diversity, serves as the lead faculty adviser. Christina Yokoyama, NTSAF Director, and Felipe Martinez, NTSAF Assistant Director, serve as the lead staff adviser. SIP participants begin the Maymester program with five intensive days in Los Angeles that includes seminars and field trips in preparation for the two weeks in Japan. The two weeks in Japan are based in Tokyo with day trips and overnight trips outside of Tokyo. Seminars and trips are also conducted in collaboration with Japanese faculty. The program concludes with two days of debriefing in Los Angeles and final presentations at the NTSAF retreat in August.


The major theme of AMST 382: America and the World: Japan Case Study is the economic, historical and cultural exchange between Japan and the United States.  We hope to provide students with an introduction to some of the major transnational relationships, which have developed between these two countries since World War II, with an emphasis on those exchanges that have the most direct relevance to underrepresented minority and working class populations in the United States.  Since none of our students are Japanese speakers (and only one of our leaders speaks Japanese), the materials we will utilize are all in English or in translation.  But throughout the trip, we will develop the students’ abilities to be proficient participant-observants of social and cultural phenomenon, as well as require them to develop questions for each of our encounters with academic specialists, Japanese residents, and industry representatives.

We begin our research on May 14th in Los Angeles with an opening lecture by Dr. George Sanchez and supplemental talks with Doctoral Candidates Priscilla Leiva and Nadia Kanagawa. That week we begin looking at the economic relationship between the U.S. and Japan with a focus on the Toyota Corporation and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Port, meeting with company representatives in Torrance and touring the port facilities that bring in cars from Japan.  Once in Japan, we will visit a Toyota Corolla Plant in Nagoya, Japan, meeting again with representatives through the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce, a sister city with Los Angeles.  Indeed the USC Alumni Club in Japan is hosting a reception for our students in Tokyo and Hiroshima, and most are intimately knowledgeable about the business community in Japan and will take questions from the students.

The historical side of Japan and its relationship with the U.S. will start with a day spent in Los Angeles in Little Tokyo specifically, the Zenshuki Soto Zen Buddhist Temple and the Japanese American National Museum.  Not only will the students learn the tragic story of Japanese American internment during World War II, but also the broader history of Japanese Americans in Los Angeles through Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights.  The museum is also hosting a “cultural etiquette” luncheon for us presented by the Japan Cultural Foundation.  The day will end with a visit to the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles. Upon arrival, the students will meet with Consul General Niimi in a private meeting.  In Japan, we will follow up this historical introduction with a visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum in Hiroshima, to explore the Japanese side of World War II, and take time to reflect on that powerful experience with a collective sit-down discussion.  We will also visit various museums, shrines, and temples that will give us a broader understanding of Japanese history and culture in Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Tokyo.

The intricacies of cultural exchange between the two nations will not be ignored.  In Los Angeles, we will have presentations about the curious history of race and difference in Disneyland, with a visit to the Anaheim park to begin contemplating the role of tourism and global culture.  In Tokyo, we will visit Disney at Sea, a park at Tokyo Disneyland.  Students will explore how the Japanese view Americans, since Disney at Sea has an “American Land,” and will follow this up with questions to Japanese college students at two different universities, Nihon University and Doshisha University in Kyoto.  No visit to explore Japanese consumer culture can escape a trip through a department store in Ginza, as well as through the electronic section of downtown Tokyo.  In addition, we will have a presentation in Los Angeles from the current Japanese translator for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a scholar on globalization in baseball, followed by a trip to the stadium to see play the most popular Japanese ball player in the U.S., Hideki Matsui of the Los Angeles Angels.  In Japan, we will experience being a fan at a home game of the local Nagoya baseball team, as well as a broadcast game of the Japan national soccer team to the Tokyo Dome from the World Cup in South Africa.  These experiences will allow us to explore the role of nationalism in sports and entertainment, as well as cultural exchange through national competition.

One last area that already intrigues all of our students, given their backgrounds, as well as the instructors of the course, is the comparison of the relatively homogeneous Japanese, with the multiracial United States that we know so well.  Our students all want to know what the Japanese think of race, and throughout our trip, that will certainly be a point of conversation.  Clearly the excitement of the Japanese Consulate General in Los Angeles, the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce, and many of the faculty and industry representatives in Japan to our group center around the very diversity of our visiting group.  We will meet Latin American-born Japanese-heritage workers in Toyota plants in Nagoya.  Our readings include scholarship on the undocumented immigrant in Japan, as well as historical articles about undocumented workers, and other populations that are not traditional in Japan.  The students will certainly learn about the difference between the Japanese and the American, but will also theorize about what “difference” means in Japan itself.  And this should certainly inform them further about the meaning of “difference” in the United States upon their return.

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