The Countdown to Japan Begins!

By: Isabel Linder

In just three days we will be headed to Japan. It will be my first time in Asia, let alone Japan so I am feeling excited, overwhelmed, and everything in between. For the past week we have been examining Japan’s history, economy, and political structure. As one of a handful of students with no prior knowledge of the region, this has been a jam-packed week. Between a fair bit of reading and an five hour lecture, I have learned about so much. My personal academic interests are within political philosophy and Middle East studies, but this class has really sparked a new interest for me. I have personally found the “wa” culture the most interesting thing to study. It functions almost like a religion in that it is strictly observed. It entails such a deference to tradition and perhaps archaic values, that is strikes me as very similar to how most organized religions function today. I appreciate how it focuses on making yourself as little a nuisance or disturbance to others as possible, and to have a society that focuses on respect and community, as opposed to individual needs, has clearly contributed to Japan’s success in all its endeavors, whether that is their military, low-crime rate, or quick recovery after 3/11.

My beautifully half-packed suitcase


Besides class, I keep finding myself sitting on the floor of my room trying to decide what to pack for all the amazing adventures. We will be going to Kyoto, Yamanaka Lake, Tokyo, and a few other places. In some of the previous blog posts, some of the students went on a morning run, which I certainly will not be partaking in so that lightens my load. However, I am anticipating endless walks through Tokyo’s amazing parks. Our class has created a shared google document that has a list of places to go for each of our respective mini-trips. We put our names down on which ones we are interested in so those who signed up can plan to go together. It is an amazing resource because everyone adds things that they would like to do, so you learn about so many different areas to visit in Japan that you may not have known about before.

In anticipation for our trip, our professor is giving a basic introduction to the language. She will teach us key words and phrases so we can at least be polite! Some of the other students have also suggested Japanesepod101. It is a podcast that offers basic language skills, so I have been listening to it casually while I pack or run errands to prepare. My biggest concern is just being respectful. I think trying to speak Japanese when saying please and thank you or when ordering food goes along way in having people know you are trying to respect their customs. However, I will definitely be learning how to say “I don’t speak Japanese.”

My research partner, Amanda, looking at a dauntingly large book on research methods

Lastly, our research groups are going to give a preliminary presentation on our topic, methods of research, and what we hope to find. My research partner Amanda and I are focusing on casual female gamers in Japan. Originally, I had intended to study the changing food landscape with increased diversity and globalization of their economy, but Professor Katada wisely suggested to work with someone who spoke Japanese and had greater knowledge of the country. Our topic hopes to look at how women, who actually dominate the gaming realm in Japan, who casually play games are perceived in society and reflected in games themselves. We hope to examine how new game development teams are addressing Japan’s changing culture, specifically in regards to women’s roles in the country.