2011 Student-Faculty Fellows: University Of Findlay

Mentor: Hiroaki Kawamura
Students: Caitlin Adkins, Shawna McAllister, Craig White

Search for Ethnic and National Identity among Contemporary Japanese:
Through the Window of kyosei (Coexistence)

The Findlay team at the Historical Museum of Hokkaido

Project Abstract

The Findlay team at the Shiraoi Ainu Cultural Center in Hokkaido

This project was a great success. Its goal was to give three University of Findlay students, during a four week period in Japan, the opportunity to experience ethnography first-hand. It was meant to be primary research, and the students conducted interviews and participant observation with limited assistance from the faculty mentor. Each student’s understanding of Japanese society greatly improved with more attention to the subtlety and complexity existing in Japan. The students’ language skills also improved noticeably. Most importantly, their level of interest in Japan and Asia significantly increased through the fieldwork experience. The primary means of data collection was open-ended ethnographic interviews, and we conducted 67 interviews in six prefectures in Japan, focused on three topics, each related to the other. We recorded all interviews for later analysis which is now being undertaken as we prepare a presentation for the Ohio Association for Teachers of Japanese, for the University of Findlay community, and finally for the ASIANetwork conference next spring. We are also working together to produce a co-authored manuscript for a peer-reviewed journal.

Caitlin Adkins

Hokkaido farmer being interviewed

My contribution to the research study conducted by our group from the University of Findlay is to study the kyosei (coexistence) of different genders and focus on the identity of young Japanese women and their career choices. During our month long study we interviewed a total of 67 Japanese men and women ranging in age from the early 20s to the late 80s from a broad range of economic backgrounds to inquire about their professional career choices and the choices in marriage. I discovered during this research that there is little if any ambivalence for women about their role in Japanese society which is defined by having and caring for “children” and the role of supporting and respecting others (tateru) that comes with this. Going to Japan and participating in this experience turned out to be the single most significant life experience I have ever had. My language abilities increased significantly and I learned much about myself in terms of strength and abilities.

Shawna McAllister

Japanese man being interviewed in his home in Ibaraki Prefecture near Tokyo

The research I conducted in Japan this past summer focused upon kyosei (coexistence) across generations, more particularly on how the elderly perceive themselves and fit into family structure and society as Japan changes. I discovered that many Japanese still believe that the three generation household (grandparents, parents and children all living under one roof) is the ideal. It serves to better communication between family members, and grandparents can assist in the raising and disciplining of grandchildren. However, such close proximity can cause tension and conflicts. Moreover, aging parents are often better able to support themselves without the aid of their children, and choose not to intrude in their children’s lives.

Craig White

A visit to Minsai Center in Tokyo, a non-profit organization supporting children’s education in rural Asia

My research focuses upon kyosei (coexistence) between Japanese and non-Japanese and changing perceptions of self and others in multicultural Japan. More particularly, I seek to discern what Japanese attitudes are towards internationalization and multiculturalism. I have discovered that “internationalization” can be and is defined in many different ways, and that allthough most Japanese feel pressure to interact more with other nations/peoples or better understand what is foreign, they do not have a clear understanding of how this can be achieved. Moreover, most are not prepared and do not expect their society to fundamentally change or be influenced by things foreign. I am also studying issues of racial difference and how the Japanese concept of uchi (inside) and soto (outside) play a role in determining how well people from different backgrounds are able to join Japanese society.

A visit to Tokyo University where graduate students did a presentation on the internationalization of Japan (“Ainu People in Tokyo” and “Pilipino Women in Japan”) for the Findlay group
Another Hokkaido farmer being interviewed
The Findlay group celebrating the successful completion of the fieldwork in Japan with a sushi dinner