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International learning experiences at home in Japan

The challenges and benefits of taking English-medium courses for Japanese students

Yukiko Ishikura

changing environment’ ( Knight 2008: 4 ). In Japan, the government has played a significant role in the internationalisation of universities since 1983 when it began its first project, the ‘100,000 International Students Plan’, which was followed by the

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Eric J. Cunningham

Introduction Japan’s verticality—its predominance of steep, forested hills and mountains—makes for a topsy-turvy hydrologic landscape. Waterways cut through the country’s mountainous interior in a netlike series of shallow, fast-running streams and

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Dividing Worlds

Tsunamis, Seawalls, and Ontological Politics in Northeast Japan

Andrew Littlejohn

At 2:46 pm on 11 March 2011 (known as 3.11), part of the Pacific Plate was forced under the Okhotsk Plate off Japan's Northeast coastline, resulting in an undersea megathrust earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1. People perceived the ground shaking

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‘Coming To Look Alike’

Materializing Affinity in Japanese Foster and Adoptive Care

Kathryn E. Goldfarb

It was the 2010 Japanese Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse conference. Many of the presenters—including Japanese foster parents, child welfare workers, and researchers—were overtly critical of the tendency in Japan to place state wards

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Ryôta Nishino

This article examines how middle school history textbooks published between 1951 and 1995 explain the origins of the Japanese as an ethnic group (minzoku). The analysis shows that despite the relatively long period from which the sample of textbooks was taken, these texts continue to emphasize two categories of Japanese identity: a biologically heterogeneous people through prehistoric immigration and a unified language. Building on the latter theme, the textbooks continued to treat the innovation of the kana as a quintessential development underlying the Japanese cultural achievement. The analysis reveals that the narrative tone shifted from being emotive in the early 1950s texts to somewhat muted in later decades.

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Joshua Hotaka Roth

Many Japanese workers in lower-paying positions were drawn to the growing trucking sector in the 1950s and 1960s, characterized by contingency and the thrill of risk and reward, in contrast to the stasis of lifetime employment guarantees emerging in other sectors of the economy. The gamified reward structure in trucking, however, led to a spike in traffic accidents and a backlash against “kamikaze trucks.” Only after regulations and enforcement limited the most dangerous kinds of incentives did meaningful forms of play emerge at work from the bottom up, rather than the stultified forms imposed by businesses from the top down.

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M. William Steele

Japan is one of the great bicycle nations of the world, ranking alongside the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark in terms of per capita bicycle ownership and use. This article reviews the history and characteristics of Japan as a bicycle nation. It examines the emergence of a distinctive bicycle culture that offered personal mobility to ordinary people in prewar Japan and traces the contribution of the bicycle to postwar Japan's social and economic development. It reviews postwar bicycle history in: the period of reconstruction and recovery (1945-1956); the period of high economic growth (1957-1973); the period of rapid motorization (1974-1991); and the period of raised environmental consciousness (1992-present). The conclusion seeks to offer reasons for the persistence of Japan's vibrant and pervasive bicycle culture.

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Apprenticeship and Global Institutions

Learning Japanese Psychiatry

Joshua Breslau

How is the knowledge embedded in a global institution such as psychiatry integrated into taken-for-granted understandings and everyday medical practice in a non-Western setting such as Japan? How can ethnographic research address this question without simplifying institutional complexity and cross-cultural variations? This paper argues that the ethnography of apprenticeship can resolve these tensions between global and local sources of cultural knowledge. Recent work in cognitive anthropology and practice theory has demonstrated the value of examining apprenticeship as a window onto dynamics of institutional production and reproduction. As an ethnographic strategy, the study of apprenticeship makes the processes through which knowledge crosses cultural boundaries accessible to research. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research on the training of Japanese psychiatrists, I describe the institutional structure in which psychiatric knowledge becomes embedded in newly trained psychiatrists. This system, known as the ikyoku system, reproduces many characteristics of Japanese organizational patterns. Examining the details of this system offers additional insight into the particular way in which psychiatric knowledge becomes situated in contemporary Japanese society. The theory of apprenticeship, however, has a much broader potential for informing ethnographic research strategies for studying contemporary global institutions.

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Diasporas without a consciousness

Japanese Americans and the lack of a <i>Nikkei</i> identity

Takeyuki Gaku Tsuda

English abstract: Some scholars have recently suggested that the concept of diaspora should be regarded as a type of identity or consciousness instead of as a transnational ethnic community. While it is undeniable that some dispersed ethnic populations identify as diasporic peoples, older “economic diasporas“ sometimes have lost their transnational social cohesion and do not have a diasporic consciousness. I illustrate this by examining the experiences of Japanese Americans, an important part of the “Japanese diaspora“ of Japanese descendants (Nikkei) scattered throughout the Americas. Because they have become assimilated in the United States over the generations, they no longer maintain any notable diasporic identification with the ethnic homeland or to other Japanese descent ethnic communities in the Americas. Even when they encounter Nikkei from other countries, national cultural differences make it difficult for them to develop a diasporic identity as Japanese descendants with a common cultural heritage or historical experiences.

Spanish abstract: Algunos académicos han sugerido recientemente que el concepto de diáspora debe ser considerado como un tipo de identidad o conciencia en lugar de una comunidad étnica transnacional. Si bien es innegable que algunos dispersos grupos étnicos se identifican como pueblos en diáspora, las diásporas económicos más antiguos a veces han perdido su cohesión social transnacional y no tienen conciencia de diáspora. Este artículo ilustra esta situación examinando las experiencias de los estadounidenses de origen japonés, una parte importante de la diáspora japonesa de los descendientes de japoneses (Nikkei) repartidos por todo el continente americano. Debido a que se han asimilado en los Estados Unidos a lo largo de las generaciones, este grupo ya no mantiene una notable identificación de la diáspora con el país de origen étnico o con las otras comunidades de descendientes de japoneses étnicos en las Américas. Incluso cuando se encuentran con gente Nikkei de otros países, las diferencias nacionales-culturales hacen que sea difícil para ellos desarrollar una identidad de diáspora como descendientes de japoneses con un patrimonio cultural común o de experiencias históricas.

French abstract: Certains chercheurs ont récemment suggéré l’idée que le concept de diaspora devrait être considéré comme un type d’identité ou une forme de conscience, et non plus comme une communauté ethnique transnationale. S’il s’avère indéniable que certains groupes ethniques dispersés soient parvenus à s’identifier en tant que peuple de la diaspora (peuples diasporiques), il n’en demeure pas moins que les « diasporas économiques » plus anciens ont perdus dans ce processus leur cohésion sociale transnationale traditionnelle ainsi qu’une part de leur conscience diasporique. J’illustre cela en examinant les expériences des Américains d’origine japonaise, particulièrement celle de la descendance des Nikkei qui représente l’une des franges de la diaspora japonaise la plus répandue à travers les Amériques. Bien qu’ils aient réussi leur assimilation aux États-Unis au fil des générations, ces derniers n’ont toutefois pas su conserver l’identité diasporique qui les reliait avec leur région d’origine ou à d’autres communautés ethniques d’origine japonaise présentes dans les Amériques. Même quand ils rencontrent les Nikkei en provenance d’autres pays, les différences culturelles nationales qui les séparent font qu’il leur est difficile de développer une identité diasporique qui permette de les distinguer comme des descendants japonais partageant un patrimoine culturel commun ou une expérience historique commune.

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Euphoric Anomaly

Matsutake’s Elusive Elusiveness in 2010 Japan

Lieba Faier

Elusiveness can itself be elusive. This article considers why matsutake draw over-the-top excitement as an elusive commodity even in years of prolific harvests. In 2010 Japan, an unexpectedly copious domestic matsutake harvest prompted a precipitous drop in the mushroom’s price and made the mushroom readily accessible. The article traces the sources of consumer excitement that year, showing how matsutake commodity elusiveness is itself produced through contingent coordinations among trees, fungi, weather, pickers, mycology, popular media, and consumers. It suggests that, in 2010, media outlets and consumers resolved the contradictions of this elusiveness—celebrating matsutake’s elite status as an elusive commodity while enjoying its accessibility—by treating the bumper harvest as a euphoric anomaly.