Whatcom offers classes on Japanese culture

By Cailean McLeod

This quarter’s series of Japan Studies Seminars welcomes students who are interested in Japanese cultural issues.

The seminars are facilitated by Japanese Language and Society teacher, Setsuko Buckley, as part of her project for Western Washington University’s Community Engagement Fellows Program.

The Western Community Engagement Fellows is a group of Whatcom County teachers whose mission is to improve the livelihood of Whatcom County’s citizens and its environment through faculty teaching, grants, field trips, and enrichment classes.

Robert Marshall, an anthropology professor emeritus at Western, the lecture speaker for the April 28 seminar, said that he became part of Buckley’s project mainly because Setsuko’s husband knew Marshall. Since she knew that Marshall had studied Japan in the past, she invited him to speak at the seminar.

Marshall’s topic for the latest seminar session called “Women’s Status, Family Formation, and a Boy Named Jiro,” was about Japanese women and the connection between their family relations and participation in society.

“There are a large number of issues that are placed upon the Japanese women,” Marshall said, “one is the rates of reproduction, another is the inability of society widely to develop the talents of women other than child rearing.”

He explains further, “There is a great deal of concern that Japanese women do not participate in all aspects of public life, on the other hand, Japanese women have the highest levels of personal autonomy in the world, and so the question is why don’t we really find that Japanese women are not participating in the highest levels of society.”

Buckley said, “Students need an awareness for the need for studying other countries,” adding that American and Japanese relations depend on the understanding of each other’s cultures “in order to ensure positive attitudes” towards them.

“There are hardly any classes about Japan save for a few,” said Buckley.

The seminars are being held 4 to 5 p.m. at Heiner 101 on Wednesdays. Marshall’s talk was half an hour of lecture and half hour of question-and-answer.

“The United States plays an enormous role in the world, and it appears that the U.S. and Japan are similar in many ways, and there are also differences that are very deep, it is easy to be misled by similarities,” Marshall said, “When people do not look deeply at a culture they are likely to behave in a way that leads to misunderstandings where no one wants them.”

There will be two more seminars this quarter. On May 12, environmental studies professor Patrick Buckley will speak on environmental issues in Japan and on May 26 attorney Richard Pritchett will talk about the history of Japanese immigration to the United States.




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