I spent the last academic year at Temple’s campus in Japan, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I enjoyed learning about Japanese culture by taking classes like Prejudice and Discrimination in Japan, which centered around societal issues in the country, like how women are treated in the workplace.
While in Japan, there were many other classes I wanted to take, but I didn’t have the time. I was hoping to take them once I returned to Main Campus, but the university doesn’t offer them here.
I couldn’t find any classes that more deeply explored aspects of the Japanese language, like oral intensives, classes in which everyone is required to speak only in Japanese, or courses that studied Kanji, Chinese characters adopted by the Japanese.
Main Campus lacks variety in the types of Japanese classes offered in the Asian Studies program, and it lacks a Japanese major altogether. Temple should consider creating a Japanese major because it has a campus located in Japan — the first American university to do so — and students have a desire to study the language.
“There’s a very strong interest in studying Japanese, if you just look at the number of sections of Japanese that run on this campus,” said Louis Mangione, director of the Asian Studies program and an associate professor.
There are currently 10 language, two special topics and three independent studies sections of Japanese on Main Campus. In total, there are 160 seats currently filled in Japanese-related course this semester.
Mangione said there’s no single reason why the university hasn’t yet created a Japanese major.
A Japanese major would also help students prepare for their time abroad at TUJ. They would have the opportunity to take more classes about Japanese culture and learn the language before they leave Main Campus.
Students who plan to study abroad in Rome don’t face the same lack of programming. These cultural classes are already offered for students looking to study abroad at Temple Rome. Students can take classes like Italian Culture through Film or Italian Cinema and Literature, and there is already an Italian major on Main Campus.
Even though Temple has campuses in both Rome and Tokyo, there are more classes offered in Italian than there are in Japanese. It seems unfair to favor one campus over the other, especially when students studying abroad at either campus could benefit from cultural classes.
Florin Evanko, a 2016 Asian Studies alumna, studied at TUJ for a semester. She said many of her fellow students at TUJ came with some misconceptions about Japanese culture.
“When they go in they don’t necessarily know, unless they’ve been studying Japanese culture, and they have no clue,” Evanko said. “Like, ‘Yay Japan! It’s an amazing fantasy land where everything is perfect!’ There are a lot of people who go to TUJ from Main Campus or from America who have that attitude.”
Many students also lack practical knowledge of Japanese culture, like how to use chopsticks or the common Japanese protocol of standing on the left side of escalators so others can walk past.
In order to combat misconceptions about Japanese culture and to provide students with practical knowledge before studying abroad, Japanese culture classes should be developed by the Asian Studies program.
These classes — focused primarily on cultural awareness — could be added to the Japanese curriculum if a major were developed.
“While I would like to take some more non-language classes for Japan, there’s not a lot offered here,” said Michelle Park, a senior psychology and philosophy major with a Japanese minor.
There is also room to improve the Japanese language classes offered on Main Campus. Japanese is a hard language to learn, and more practice is always helpful, Evanko said.
“I hardly ever tried as hard for any of my other classes as I did for Japanese,” Evanko said. “For any other class that I had to take I was like, ‘Well, this takes a backseat because Japanese is the one class I really have to study for to be able to pass.’”
Students shouldn’t have to go to TUJ to access more Japanese classes.
A Japanese major should be offered on Main Campus to give students the opportunity to learn about Japanese language and culture. I hope the university will consider investing its resources in a Japanese major. Students have already demonstrated their interest, and now the university should be responsive.
Erin Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.