As an Associate Professor in the Department of Language & Culture, Faculty of Liberal Arts at Tohoku Gakuin University, I am in the fortunate position to teach a variety of classes focused on both language and cultural topics. As for language courses, I regularly teach Conversational English, Business English and English Writing. And on the cultural side, I am currently overseeing Cross-Cultural Communication, Foundations of Language and Culture, Japanese Culture, a third-year folklore seminar and advisement for fourth year students working on their graduation thesis (Interdisciplinary Studies for Graduation).
Cross-Cultural Communication (異文化コミュニケーション). This is a lecture course which compels students to reflect on how they view the world around them and question their own cultural beliefs and perceptions. Students learn about the field of anthropology: its history, theories, and research methods. But different from an ordinary lecture class students are tasked to put the knowledge they glean from lectures into action by performing “fieldwork” in the form of practical exercises. These exercises allow students to hone their own anthropological skills. The course is conducted in English with supplemental explanations in Japanese.
Foundations of Language and Culture (文化基礎論). The theme of this lecture class changes from year to year as does the language of instruction. Presently, I alternate between a course on Rites of Passage, which is presented in English, and a course on Japanese Religious Material Culture, which is taught in Japanese.
Japanese Culture (日本文化論). The current theme of this lecture course is Illness in Japan. I talk about the history of illness (sickness) in Japan from a cultural perspective. Beginning with a look at what it means to be “healthy,” we question the idea that being “healthy” is perhaps not as normal as it seems. As no one can escape illness completely, illness is more the rule than the exception. Unlike being “healthy,” illness is a fact of life. The course lectures are presented in Japanese.
3rd Year Seminar (言語文化学演習). The seminar for third-year students centers on the study of folklore. We ask “What is folklore?” In this seminar which is primarily conducted in English, students read through an introductory English language book written about the study of folklore (Lynne S. Mcneill, “Folklore Rules: A Fun, Quick, and Useful Introduction to the Field of Academic Folklore Studies”, Utah State University Press). As we progress through the year, we engage in various activities in which we gather and share folklore from our daily lives. We also supplement our study by reading a textbook introducing Japanese folklore studies written in Japanese.
Reading of Original Texts (原典購読). The subtitle for this class is Japanese Folklore Literacy (日本民俗学リテラシー). In this seminar-style class we are reading through a Japanese language text significant to the study of Japanese folklore. This year’s text is Prof. Tsunemitsu Tōru’s 『うわさと俗信―民俗学の手帖から―』 (Uwasa to zokushin ―Minzokugaku no techō―)[Gossip and Folk Knowledge: A Folklore Studies Notebook]. Additionally, students are presented with various in-class and out-of-class tasks to further illustrate the significance of the folklore that we read about.
English Theme Writing. In this class students will study the writing process. Students will learn to write in the same way as students in English-speaking university classes. First, we begin by learning how to choose a topic, gather ideas, and then edit those ideas. Then we will focus on the “paragraph,” learning its parts and uses, and how to construct it effectively. Our goal is to improve our ability to write in English.
Interdisciplinary Studies for Graduation (総合研究（卒業課題）). The graduation thesis is the culmination of four years of study. It represents the student’s ability to think critically. And importantly, it signifies a student’s will to persevere (gambaru). I advise fourth-year students in researching and writing their graduation thesis. A requirement for the students that I advise is that they must conduct “fieldwork.” Students perform interviews, conduct questionnaire surveys, and observe groups or individuals in order to better understand a cultural activity or phenomenon which captivates their interest. Often students begin with a simply question of Why? or How?