Japanese-Language Program for Specialists in Cultural and Academic Fields （6-month course）
Period: October 4th 2017- April 4th 2018
The unforgettable 6 month
LIU, Run (China/USA)
This has been the most unforgettable six months in my life. Soon after we arrived in Japan in October, we were greeted by the wonderful autumn colors, and now, right before we have to leave, the cherry blossoms are reaching their peak in time to say goodbye. In between, we enjoyed the warm winter in Osaka with beautiful illumination events and occasional snow; we also celebrated Christmas and New Year's in Japanese style. We have been immersed in Japanese culture and life during every minute of our stay, and our Japanese language ability has improved painlessly.
My dissertation is a comparative cross-national study of education policies and gender differences in math and science performance and attitudes, and Japan is one important case in my study. In order to complete the case study of Japan, it is necessary for me to be able to quickly read Japanese academic papers, newspapers, and goverment reports. I also would like to introduce my research to Japanese researchers and get feedback. Therefore, one of the most helpful classes during this program has been the academic grammer and writing class. It quickly helped us to develop our reading and writing skills in academia. Before joining this program, I had never imagined myself being able to present my study and write a research report in Japanese witin such a short time.
Besides textbooks and homework, travelling has been an indispensable part of the program. During the two intensive periods for academic activities, I travelled to Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and many other places in order to attend academic conferences in my research area, to visit well-known professors and researchers with the same research interests and receive from them helpful comments on my own research, and to visit libraries with needed materials. The center not only provides compensations for the travelling, but also helps us to build connections in the Japanese academic community.
Everyone at the Center has been making every effort to ensure the best condition for us to focus on our research. The teachers are patient, experienced, and fun; they provide specialized study plans for us based on our own research projects and Japanese language ability levels. The librarians are friendly and knowledgeable; with their help we can find any book or paper we want. The staff at the center has been like family, and now we really don't want to say goodbye. I will definitely keep my research interest in Japan and I am sure someday I will come back to the Center!
An Impact That Will Continue for Years to Come
OBERMEYER, Amy C (USA)
As these six months quickly draw to a close, I'm struck both by how quickly the time has raced by, and also by how my Japanese language abilities have grown. I know such growth in such a short time frame would have been impossible without the help and instruction of the teachers and support staff here, all of whom were incredibly kind, patient, and skilled. The benefits of this program are evident not just in the great strides I've made in my own Japanese language abilities, I hear it every day in the speech and expression of every other participant.
While certainly the entire program has been helpful in my development as a scholar of Japanese literature, two aspects particularly stand out, the individualized lessons and the research support. As my research focuses principally on early-twentieth century literature, I have often found traditional classroom instruction doesn't cover all of the varieties of grammar and syntax necessary to understanding the texts I work with. Trough one-on-one weekly meetings with my tutor, I've been able to fill in these gaps and vastly increase my comprehension. Before coming to the Japan Foundation, I wasn't comfortable reading literature in Japanese without an English translation to reference. However, after reading Tamura Toshiko's 1914 work Miira no Kuchibeni (Lipstick on a Mummy) with my tutor and reviewing the materials together during our weekly sessions, I feel much more confident taking on similar works independently in the future.
The research support was also invaluable towards further developing my scholarship.Through the generosity of the Japan Foundation, I was able to travel around Japan to gather research materials, deepen my understanding of cultural and historical context of my primary texts, and attend various conferences and workshops related to my work. This photo, taken at Meijimura Museum, shows the home and writing desk of Koda Rohan, the author to whom Tamura Toshiko was initially apprenticed. Prior to our two week-long specialized research periods, we were given in-person introductions to the Kansai branch of the National Diet Library as well as the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken), and beyond that, the center's deeply-knowledgeable library staff were always on-hand to offer additional recommendations and assistance. I wouldn't have known the scope of resources and opportunities available to me, much less had access to them, without the guidance of the Japan Foundation staff. Many of the materials I am returning home with are those whose very existence I was previously unaware of, and which I believe will prove central in developing many of the arguments of my dissertation. Moreover, during these research periods I was able to forge new relationships with scholars within my field working in Japan and around the world, and I am excited for the potential for further collaboration and discussion these relationships may offer. For all of these reasons and many more besides, the benefits of my participation in this program will undoubtedly reverberate for the duration of my academic career.
Specialized Research Activity and Research Presentation
REYES, Maria Corazon Corre (Philippine)
Specialized Research Activity
One of the main purposes of taking part in the six-month course is to effectively conduct our specialized research here in Japan. The Japan Foundation Language Institute has a well-planned schedule of activities and gives the training participants the opportunity to conduct their own research outside the Institute. This could mean fieldwork, participating in academic conferences, or conducting interviews and other research-related trips in order to gather data as well as to widen each researcher's academic network.
The first specialized research activity period ia in December, which is shortly after the first term ends, while the second specialized activity period was in February. During these two periods, individual research activities can be conducted, but first, careful and detailed preparation is a must. Consultation with the assigned tutor is also necessary to help or guide each researcher in formulating interview questionnaires and politely contacting desired professors or interviewees.
An orientation was held to give details as to how we could efficiently plan our research activity and to explain the two forms required, to be submitted before and after. First, the specialized activity plan must be submitted 1-2 weeks before the scheduled period of activity to allow the Institute to provide the necessary assistance in conducting said research activity. Then, after conducting the research activity outside the Institute, each researcher is required to submit a specialized activity report that details the outcome or results achieved in said specialized activity.
This opportunity for individual research outside the Institute is obviously one of the most important measures of our improvement in speaking the Japanese language. Each of us had to use our full command of the Japanese language be able to communicate properly with our interviewees, professors or co-researchers. It was certainly an important activity wherein each participant could demonstrate their grasp of the grammar patterns and conversation skills learned in class. This specialized activity indeed helped each of us improve our Japanese language conversation skills.
Then there is also the research presentation wherein each participant must present an overview of their individual research. This is also done twice, first in December and then in March. The research presentation is an overall exercise wherein each of us must be able to demonstrate Japanese language skills, not only in explaining our research but also when answering in Japanese questions pertaining to our research.
The culmination of the program was the last research presentation held in March. I remember how each and every one of us prepared so diligently for the presentation, which eventually made the 2-day final presentation event successful.
I am deeply thankful for this opportunity to conduct my research, specifically the fieldwork, which was so vital for my thesis. All of the assistance from the teachers, the library and the administration was truly helpful to every one of us.
Overall, the Japan Foundation Language Institute had provided a complete set of activities for us to learn the Japanese language as well as to help us with our individual research. Surely the next researchers to participate inj this program will also benefit from this Japanese language training experience.
Community of young researchers at the Kansai Kokusai Center
PARZNIEWSKI, Szymon Zbigniew (Poland/UK)
The Japanese-Language Program for Specialists in Cultural and Academic Fields 6-month course offers a unique opportunity for young researchers coming from a wide range of cultural and disciplinary backgrounds to tailor their language and academic skills for their research activity in Japan. This diverse community of motivated young individuals makes it a vibrant and refreshing environment to study and enjoy Japanese culture at the same time. Participants are guided by a professional and dedicated group of teachers, librarians and support staff. The facilities at the Kansai Kokusai Center are perfect for language study and academic research. The teachers are always very supportive and provide detailed information during the specialised language classes. The library staff is extremely helpful and the available collection includes a large variety of books, periodicals and other related material, such as access to some of the main archives in Japan.
The program itself is challenging but well-structured, offering an optimal preparation for the two specialised research activity periods. Participants can engage in a range of research activities including interviews, meetings and discussions with practitioners and experts in their respective fields. In addition to the research activities directly linked to our projects, we also had an opportunity to strengthen existing research collaborations and build new ones, including through participating in a range of seminars, colloquiums, conferences and research-related events all across Japan. The final research presentations offered a great chance to share the key points from our work and reflect on what we have been able to achieve thanks to the program. These opportunities established research links in Japan that can contribute greatly to our future research careers.
Beyond the great environment to conduct research, this program gave us a unique opportunity to partake in a wide range of Japanese cultural activities, including among others: calligraphy, a tea ceremony and Japanese flower arrangement (Ikebana) class. Moreover, toward the end of the program we had a chance to experience the cherry blossom (sakura) season. Through participation in the events organized by local volunteer groups, we had an opportunity to practice our oral communication skills in a friendly environment. The Kansai Kokusai Center gave us a once in a lifetime chance to contribute to the academic and cultural bridging between Japan and our overseas nations.
Reflections of 6months' experience
MALO, Mario Sanz (Spain)
When I think about my academic experience as a researcher, I would say that one of the most important things that the six-month program has offered me is the possibility of doing fieldwork related to my research. Thanks to this, I have come to better understand how some of the most important nonprofit organizations (NPOs) in the Fukushima and Iwate area are articulated socially. It has been a privilege to be able to make use of two separate research periods in order to move my work from a bibliographical approach to a more ethnological one.
Moreover, if we talk about life in the center, the different cultural backgrounds of the participants are the basis for a rich intellectual exchange. To put it concisely as there are several programs, participants are able to make friends that come from a variety of academic fields. In my case, I have shared very important experiences with my own group of researchers as well as with the foreign service program participants.
On a more personal level, I would like to say that also in Tajiri Cho there is a very special synergy between the volunteers of the area, such as the Izumisano Cross-cultural Association (ICA), the conversation partners, the "SAYUKAI" for Kumatori Cho International Cultural Exchange etc, and the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute. Thanks to these groups, I could appreciate much better how volunteering works and how it is structured around the international community at the language center. I especially feel great gratitude for the ICA volunteers, who've made a great effort to teach us various aspects of Japanese culture. I am also especially grateful to the three wonderful retired teachers who generously instructed us in the iaido of the Mugai Ryu school.
In the end, I can say that the experience is hard but it is really rewarding. If you follow the guidance of the teachers, you will make great progress.