AUGUSTA, GA. – For the first time, the Georgia Regents University College of Education will, in conjunction with the Pamplin College of Arts and Social Science, host a study abroad trip to Japan. In late May 2015, students from GRU will leave Augusta and trek to Tokyo and Kyoto for 10 days.
Lead by Dr. Misato Yamaguchi, Assistant Professor of Education, and Matthew Buzzell, Assistant Professor of Communications, the dual program will focus on history and culture of Japan with elective focus areas of Japanese education or Japanese cinema international education and Japanese cinema; and will give students an opportunity to travel, to immerse themselves in cultural and educational experiences and to earn course credit.
Students in the class – SABR 4930/6930 – History, Culture, and Education in Japan – will work with Yamaguchi to observe operations in K-12 schools and teacher education program in a university, and to become more knowledgeable about education practices and school cultures in Japan. Japanese schools differ from schools in the United States in a number of important ways. For example, Japanese schools take a unique role cultivating students’ understanding about social responsibilities and importance of collaboration with others by commonly assigning them to clean their schools daily and taking turn serving lunch from the kitchen to each other. There are numbers of other unique cultural practices GRU students will discover during the school visits.
“Over there,u there, education emphasize common virtue, and ethics education is a big part of school curriculum. They prepare students to become productive citizens in a collective society, as opposed to a more individualized approach used in the United States,” Yamaguchi said.
Students in the class – SABR 4930 Japanese Cinema – will examine the rise, influence and legacy of a number of genres of Japanese cinema including kaiju, samurai, and yakuza cinema of Postwar Japan. Buzzell, an award-winning, Emmy-nominated filmmaker is particularly suited for this tour as he has previously filmed three documentaries in Japan. Buzzell will also draw upon his years of research experience for The Criterion Collection, which catalogs and publishes a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films.
“This course will most definitely touch upon the acknowledged masters of Japanese cinema – Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu – but its primary goal is to expose students to journeyman filmmakers such as Ishiro Honda, Shintaro Katsu, and Seijun Suzuki. These are cinema artists who largely worked under the confines of the Japanese studio system creating genre fare – gangster, swordsman, and science fiction films – and yet they were often able to transcend genre with groundbreaking avenues of visual expression, technical innovation, and meaningful thematics. Their work resonates still. If one were to draw a line from the work of contemporary filmmakers such as Guillermo Del Toro and Quentin Tarantino it undoubtedly would lead back to these Japanese genre masters.” Buzzell said.
Students will enjoy excitement and incredible convenience in Tokyo, a city of 30 million people, with a dynamic culture, exciting nightlife, fascinating heritage and world-renowned cuisine. Temples, gardens and castles are only minutes from ultra-modern skyscrapers, electronics stores and haute couture.
“Japan is one of the most modern and Westernized countries outside of the United States,” Yamaguchi said. “We’ll be in the heart of the capital city, in a modern, high-tech, youthful area, and also close to the center of government and embassies.”
The reserved hostel is near the Ikebukuro station, central to traveling the city. Popular Japanese cultural hotspots, shopping, and entertainment – like Shinjuku, Ginza and Roppongi – can be reached within 20 to 40 minutes.
The group will also trek to the old imperial capital of Kyoto, where Yamaguchi and Buzzell have arranged for the group to stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, with a modern flair.
Both Yamaguchi and Buzzell have years of experience with navigating Japan and appreciating it authentically from insider perspectives. Yamaguchi is a native of the island nation. Buzzell has traveled extensively in the country. Both have lead newcomers to discover the country’s rich educational and cultural offerings, holistically. They will take students beyond the stereotypes or surface understanding of the country and guide them to the meaningful journal of cross-cultural understanding and discovery.
“Culture is more than just film or food,” Buzzell said. “And students who experience cultural differences personally can better understand the differences and similarities between people.”
Only four percent of U.S. undergraduates study abroad, which puts American students at a distinct disadvantage in an increasingly collaborative global economy. Yamaguchi, who has now spent half of her life in Japan, and half of it in the United States, says that many first hand international cross-cultural experiences push people to go beyond their comfort zone and expand their cultural frame of references including the perception about others and self.
“Meaningful exposures to the differences increase a person’s appreciation toward diversity and helps him/her to practice open-mindedness and cultural sensitivity in a multicultural and globalized society we live in,” Yamaguchi said. “Study abroad is the great step toward a teacher who are worldly minded and model their student what does it mean to think globally and act locally in the 21st century.