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Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / My new view of Japan — from Long Island

Courtesy of Karen Matsumoto
Karen Matsumoto, left, with the university’s mascot

By Karen Matsumoto (Stony Brook University) / Special to The Japan NewsThis column features reports by Japanese students studying overseas about their life on and off campus.

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Some may say that studying Japanese literature in the United States is not a wise decision. I say it’s a wonderful experience.

This year, in my second year of college at Stony Brook University, I chose to add Asian and Asian American studies with a Japanese studies minor on top of my first major, business management. After choosing business management, I happened to take a Japanese literature class, and it was the best class I have ever taken. It didn’t take me long to decide to do a double major.

So why do I think that learning Japanese studies at an American university is worth the experience? At the university, non-Japanese professors teach most of the Japan-related classes, except for Japanese language classes. This is one perk of learning Japanese literature in America — which Japanese university offers a Japanese literature class taught by a non-Japanese?

Another advantage is the fact that classes consist of people who are interested in Japan and its culture. Since my university is really diverse, hearing all sorts of opinions about Japan is really interesting. For example, someone mentioned how the Japanese chronicle Kojiki is very similar to Greek mythology. This was eye-opening for me.

Another good thing about being a student majoring in Japanese studies is meeting people who love Japan. I found out how happy you can become when a non-Japanese person tells you the good things about Japan, like how people in Japan are polite and how everything in Japan is clean and kawaii.

I used to hate being Japanese because being unique is not a positive thing in Japan, and I always felt uncomfortable being just like everyone else. However, my friends helped me realize the good things about Japan and that I should be proud of being Japanese.

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Surprisingly, a lot of the literature used in my classes are books I didn’t read back in Japan, like “Vita Sexualis” by Ogai Mori and “The Soil” by Takashi Nagatsuka. Besides business management, cultural differences and English, I’m learning what’s really important to know as a Japanese: the beauty of Japanese culture that made me fall in love with my home country. I have no clue what I want to do with my future yet, but I’m super excited about where my life is going to take me, and for now I just want to study and enjoy my life at Stony Brook with all my precious friends who I met here.

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Stony Brook University

Founded in 1957, Stony Brook, on the north shore of Long Island, N.Y., is in the top 1 percent of higher education institutions worldwide, according to the Center for World University rankings.

In partnership with Ryugaku Fellowship

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