Last spring semester, three students were selected by California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) Professor Dustin Wright to join him on his research trip to Japan the following summer. On Oct.10, those students presented their own research topics related to American military bases in Japan.
The three students selected were fourth-year psychology major Alo Wilson, Levi Mahler, a Japanese language and culture major and second-year Emma Crook who is also majoring in Japanese language and culture.
Levi Mahler was unable to be there in person, but had pre-recorded their presentation which was shown to the audience.
Around 40 students, staff and faculty had gathered in one of the classrooms in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS) building to witness the presentations. Professor Wright explained that he had secured funding from the Tyler Center for Global Studies to bring three students to Japan. Amongst the people in the audience was Tyler himself.
Wright shared with the group that their two-week trip had been anything but uneventful. “We had a scare of a missile from North Korea, where we woke up one morning to an emergency alert on our phone. Then the next day a typhoon came and we decided to go back to Tokyo early.”
Mahler’s project had a focus on the religions Shintoism and Buddhism, as well as how American bases have impacted the region in terms of its religious beliefs, practices and spiritual customs.
Wilson’s project focused more on the humanities aspect and the anti-base social movement in Japan and Okinawa. His research question asked how issues on American bases are perceived in Japan and its social movement.
Crook focused on the impact of American bases on women in Okinawa through ethnographic research. For her, the trip was a way to explore her research interests.
“I don’t know where I want to go with this research, but I want to continue with gender research because it’s a passion,” Crook told the audience.
During the Q&A, students were eager to know more about the groups’ experience being in Japan. One student asked if there were any prejudices from the locals.
“Yes, there were eyes on us from the locals, we caught people’s attention. I would reply in Japanese and they would ask me how I knew Japanese,” Crook shared.
Another thing Wilson noticed was the drinking culture of Japan. “It was their drinking etiquette. They have all these rules around drinking and how to pour, and who to pour for.”
Both students easily came up with their most rewarding part of the journey.
“The food,” Wilson said immediately, “Also very rewarding to see where my family was from. I have heard stories and it was exactly like they described.”
“For me it was the language and cultural knowledge. I’ve been learning Japanese so putting practice into play,” Crook said.
Following the presentation, Wright shared there was a possibility that he would receive more funding and have the opportunity to bring new students to Japan in the future.