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CJRC Feature Story: Prof. Saori N. Katada & Global East Asia Japan

USC Professor Saori N. Katada Leads Students to Dive into Japanese Culture through the Global East Asia Japan Program

By Xin Gu
Communications Management, USC Annenberg

CJRC student writer

Saori N. Katada, Associate Professor at the School of International Relations, is an associated faculty member at the USC Center for Japanese Religions and Culture.

            Professor Katada spent this past summer 2012 semester teaching a course, “Tokyo and Beyond: Global Forces and Economic Transformation” (EASC 360 Global East Asia), as part of the Global East Asia summer study abroad scholarship program. Sponsored by the Freeman Foundation and administered by the USC East Asian Studies Center, the program provides a limited number of USC undergraduate students the opportunity to study and travel in Japan for 4 weeks with their major expenses covered, including round-trip international airfare, basic housing and meals, travel within Japan, and local transportation and entrance fees related to the course. (The upcoming information sessions for summer 2013 semester will be held on October 23 and October 24.)

            The first three weeks of the program took place in Tokyo at Meiji University, the host institution, where Professor Katada gave lectures focusing on Japanese history, politics and economics. During this time, the lectures were combined with fieldtrips to Yamanaka Lake, Yasukuni Shrine and the Bank of Japan. For the last week, students traveled to Kyoto and Hiroshima, to see and experience more aspects of Japanese culture. (For more information, please visit the Global East Asia Japan Blog).

            Professor Katada described the “multi-dimensional” aspect as the uniqueness of the program.  In addition to lectures in class, students had opportunities to experience and learn about Japan in many other ways. Making friends with Meiji University students helped them exchange ideas with their Japanese peers and “feel” the Japanese culture through these interactions. Fieldtrips to other parts of Japan encouraged students to observe Japan from another perspective, outside of the classroom. “I contributed only a minor part of their learning,” said Professor Katada, “Tokyo, Japanese people, and all the things that happened around them were teachers for them.”

            The partnership with the host institution, Meiji University, is an important aspect of the program, as well. While Meiji professors gave lectures as guest speakers, Meiji students attended the retreat to Yamanaka Lake with USC students where they had open discussion on topics such as how to improve cross-cultural communication. USC students benefited from this seminar as they thought through cultural differences between Japan and America in discussions on various topics. “(Our students) really got to know people in their own generation, which was educational and fun,” said Professor Katada.

            Professor Katada explained her reasons for leading this program: “I enjoyed seeing students changing within four weeks, and (I enjoyed) contributing to their personal growth, which is different than the in-class experience.”  Since Professor Katada’s expertise is international relations, she found it interesting to get feedback on how American students perceive Japan. “I learn from their reactions to Japan (on) what is intriguing about Japan. If I observe Japan from my own eyes, I do see a lot of intriguing things. But looking through their eyes, Japan looks like someplace totally different,” she said.

Professor Saori N. Katada focuses her research on Japanese foreign policy, international financial and monetary relations. Her most recent book is titled “The Global Economic Crisis and East Asian Regionalism” (Routledge, 2011). Professor Katada teaches the course “Politics of the World Economy (IR 541)” for the fall semester of 2012.