Current News

R-MC Now Offers Japanese Studies Minor

Apr 20, 2017


Sangaku japanese artThe Asian Studies program at Randolph-Macon College is pleased to offer a minor in Japanese studies.

A Comprehensive Approach
The minor, which was recently approved by the faculty, presents students with a comprehensive approach to the study of Japan and the Japanese language.

The Japanese studies minor prepares students to live, study and pursue employment in Japan by providing them with opportunities to speak, read and write the language in professional and daily settings; by requiring them to engage with a variety of topics in Japanese studies, including society, history, culture, cinema, and literature; and by providing opportunities for a study-abroad experience through travel courses, or at one of the college's approved partners.

An Important Niche
Professor Todd Munson, director of the Asian Studies program and the Japanese studies program, says the new minor fills an important niche at the college.

"Our Japanese courses have steadily increased in popularity throughout the past several years," he says. "In addition, Randolph-Macon has established exchange partnerships and relationships in Japan in the past five years, thanks in large part to grants the college received from the Japan Foundation and the U.S.-Japan Council TOMODACHI Initiative / Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund." The grants supported a variety of initiatives, including the development of six new January Term (J-term) travel courses to Japan; and a two-year summer research exchange between students at Randolph-Macon College and students at Ishinomaki Senshu University.

A Variety of Courses
Students who minor in Japanese studies can choose from a variety of courses to fulfill the minor requirements, including Folk Tales, Conversational Japanese, and Weird Japan—the latter of which, Munson says, combines many facets of Japanese study.

"Monsters, magic and horror have long haunted Japanese popular culture and can tell us much about Japanese society," he explains. "Starting with Shinto creation myths and traditional ghost tales, this course is an overview of Japanese conceptions of the strange and supernatural, particularly with reference to key points in Japan's history. Through fiction, film, and art, students can explore the 'weird side' of the Japanese experience."

Exchange Agreements + Travel Courses
The new minor also gives students the opportunity to study abroad. Randolph-Macon College has exchange agreements with three Japanese universities: Kansai Gaidai University; Nanzan University; and Ritsumeikan University. The agreements provide opportunities for students to study for one or two semesters abroad at a minimal additional cost.

"All of the exchange agreements combine intensive Japanese language training with a wide array of courses pertaining to Japan that are taught in English," says Munson. "This is an excellent way for students to enrich their Japanese studies and really immerse themselves in the Japanese culture."  

Students who minor in Japanese studies can also choose to travel during January Term (J-term).

"R-MC frequently offers J-term courses to Japan," says Munson, who has led five trips to Japan. "In 2018, students can enroll in Japan Past and Present, or Traditional Japanese Mathematics. Travel courses open up students to a 'living classroom'—travelers apply what they've learned on campus to what they are experiencing and seeing in real time."

Additional Resources
Randolph-Macon will host Professor Yasushi Maruoka, from the International Relations Department at Ishinomaki Senshu University in Ishinomaki, for the 2017-2018 academic year.

In addition, R-MC will host the Conference on Sangaku and Wasan at Randolph-Macon (SWARM), which will highlight traditional Japanese mathematics, on April 28-29, 2017. The conference will be held in honor of Hidetoshi Fukagawa, co-author of Sacred Mathematics: Japanese Temple Geometry and foremost expert on sangaku tablets—wooden tablets inscribed with Japanese geometrical problems or theorems.