Jan-Plan 2004 in Aomori, Japan
John Jones and Tu-Quyen Nguyen carried out research projects related to everyday life in Japan. John investigated the latest trends in video and computer games in Japanese youth culture, while Tu-Quyen studied the place of religion in contemporary Japanese society. Living with a homestay family in the countryside, John was moved by the richness of the local culture. When asked about her trip, Tu-Quyen said,
"Witnessing Japan at such close proximity allowed me to begin to understand their [Japanese people's] lifestyle. Even though I wasn't doing a study on something that was specifically related to the traditional Japanese way of life, I was still able to gain a deep appreciation for their culture."
Jessica Chan and Ryan Holben tried their hands at teaching in the local school system. Jessica stayed with Tu Quyen in the Takada household (which was connected to a Buddhist temple), and when she was not busy immersing herself in the ways and customs of traditional Japanese life there, she spent her time researching the English curriculum at Kosei High School. She was accompanied by Ryan Holben, who worked in the Mathematics Department. Ryan says that he was impressed by the friendly atmosphere of the school, and he notes that the students were "very eager to teach us about their country, just as they were eager to learn about ours."
Jun-Wei Hew and Sara Hamada both took on internships. Jun-Wei spent his January working for a professional studio photographer, while Sara studied ikebana, flower arrangement, and shiatsu, Japanese massage. Sara says that practicing ikebana and shiatsu was "a very nice way to experience Japanese culture, rather than just read about it. It was an amazing experience, and I hope to return [to Aomori] someday." Both Jun-Wei and Sara were lucky enough to be able to attend a Japanese wedding - Jun-Wei as a working photographer, and Sara as an invited guest!
Finally, Alex Kozen, one of the budding guitarists of our class, spent the four weeks of Jan-Plan learning to play the shamisen, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. For Alex, the shamisen was something new, yet not entirely unfamiliar. While Alex explains that he was able to draw upon certain similarities between the shamisen and the guitar, he also says that the shamisen turned out to be "a very challenging instrument." (Click on instrument for sample)