Story by Stella Childress, Contributing writer
Murray State was selected as one of the four universities in the U.S. to take part in a two-year Japanese Outreach Initiative (JOI) program.
The mission of the program is “to develop a deeper understanding of Japan by sending Japanese coordinators to conduct community outreach activities about Japan in the Midwest and South regions of the U.S.,” according to an informational flyer about the program.
“There is not much opportunity for people in this area to see Japanese culture firsthand,” said Yoko Hatakeyama, senior lecturer of Japanese.
However, Hatakeyama said Kentucky is a unique place for Japanese organizations. She said, for example, 70 percent of Toyota plants – a Japanese manufacturer – are in Kentucky.
Hatakeyama said JOI serves as a community outreach program and both parties involved benefit. She said Calloway County gets to learn about Japanese culture and the coordinator gets to learn about American culture.
Along with teaching the Japanese language, the coordinator will offer classes about cultural subjects such as calligraphy, tea ceremonies and how to wear a kimono.
They will also help the Japanese students at Murray State acclimate to American culture and will also help them with language learning.
The coordinator will arrive next fall and conduct programs at Murray State and in K-12 schools across Calloway County.
Students who wish to explore Japanese culture but are unable to enroll in Japanese courses may find other options through student organizations like the Japanese Club.
The club recently did a fundraiser for victims of the earthquake that hit Kumamoto on April 16, resulting in nearly 100,000 people displaced from their homes. A poster about the earthquake was displayed in Faculty Hall.
Haruka Kurosu, sophomore Japanese studies student from Kashiwa City, Japan, had the idea for the poster and fundraiser. She said she wants to help those who are suffering in Japan.
Japanese studies students at Murray State made origami cranes to give donors as a token of appreciation. Club members also collected emails from the donors to send thank you letters.
“The Japanese pay attention to details and kindness, that is the reason for the thank you emails,” said Kathryn Fisher, junior from Richmond, Kentucky.
This fundraiser was able to give Murray State students who may not have otherwise had the experience a taste of Japanese culture.
Amanda Schurk, senior from St. Louis, said every culture has something that makes them unique.
“There is always something to learn from every culture,” Schurk said.
Fisher said sharing the Japanese culture will make the United States more like a melting pot.