Due to Michigan State University‘s strong relationship with Shiga University, the two institutions often host each others’ scholars. This year, Kenichi Idehara, an Shiga University instructor of English language and linguistics, and his wife Eiko Idehara traveled to MSU on an academic sabbatical. JCMU caught up with both of them to find out what life as a Japanese visiting scholar in Michigan is like.
Can you please introduce yourselves?
Kenichi: I am Kenichi Idehara. I teach English at Shiga University in Japan. My major is in linguistics.
Eiko: I am Eiko Idehara. I am with Kenichi Idehara as his wife while he completes research at MSU.
When did you both first arrive in Michigan?
Kenichi: I came to MSU in 2000, and I fell in love with the state. We then came back to MSU in March of 2016.
What will you be doing during your stay in Michigan, Kenichi?
Kenichi: I am doing research on free indirect speech, utilizing the literature MSU has as my primary sources of information. I am able to do this because Shiga University and MSU are affiliated with each other.
How did you become interested in doing such research?
Kenichi: I read a book on linguistics when I was in high school, and I found it very interesting. I then decided to go to college and major in it, where my passion then continued on to my time in grad school.
What are you hoping to accomplish while at MSU?
Kenichi: I want to make a presentation to bring back to an academic conference in Japan.
Eiko: I would like to enhance my English language ability and learn more about American culture/subculture.
How has your time in Michigan been thus far for both of you?
Eiko: Great! I now know my way around the East Lansing area.
Kenichi: I’m getting used to it. It is becoming more fun! I love the Hopcat restaurant near MSU’s campus, it is like my second home!
How has life differed in America compared to Japan?
Eiko: Everything in America is bigger than in Japan, the people here are very kind to me, and the cost of living in Michigan is lower than in Japan. I was surprised that grocery stores are open so late here – it is very convenient!
Kenichi: So far, I am confused by some of the cultural differences. For example, in Japan I can get most things I need at convenience stores (konbini), but in the U.S. such stores are far less common.
Kenichi: My tip to Holland with the members of the JCMU East Lansing office!
Eiko: So far, my favorite place has also been Holland – it is so beautiful!
What would you say to other Japanese people looking to study or work in Michigan, Kenichi?
Kenichi: First, study English well. Then come over!
The journey can be quite different for family members coming to America. What advice do you have for other wives/family members traveling to Japan, Eiko?
Eiko: Most wives want to rely on their husbands, but most husbands are very busy. Therefore, you should first learn English, then support your husband’s independence.
JCMU would like to thank both Kenichi and Eiko for talking to us about their experiences in Michigan thus far. We hope that their adventures encourage other Japanese scholars to consider completing research in Michigan! Please visit the English homepage for Shiga University to learn more about their foreign initiatives.