It was less than four months ago that Michael Amano finished his final exams on the 2016 JCMU Spring Semester Language & Culture program. Now, he is already using his Japanese language abilities to complete his own independent research in Japan.
Michael, an undergraduate student from Bowdoin College in Maine, returned to Japan this summer in order to collect information for an exhibition to be displayed at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. His research focuses on artwork that was exchanged between elementary schoolchildren in Hiroshima, Japan and Santa Fe, New Mexico shortly following World War II. This exchange between two groups of schoolchildren across the world was no coincidence: Hiroshima was devastated by the atomic bomb in 1945 and Santa Fe was located close to where that bomb was developed.
In helping him understand the art exchange and its broader significance on how opinions of the bomb developed in postwar Japan, Michael has been living in the Hiroshima area for the past few months. While in Hiroshima, he has located and interviewed six of the original Japanese artists that participated in this exchange as children, conversing entirely in Japanese with them. He spoke with them not only about the artwork itself, but also asked their opinions on the bombing. He has also researched how their views compare with opinions held in other parts of Japan and the United States.
Those he interviewed had just as many tough questions for Michael as he had for them. They were curious as to how Michael himself viewed the bombing, whether or not Americans believed the destruction to be justified, and so on. “It’s been a little bit of an emotional roller coaster… I was kind of perplexed about how my identity as an American, and particularly as an American of Japanese heritage, fits into this larger picture of the bombing and the war,” says Michael.
Michael credits JCMU for rapidly improving his Japanese language skills, allowing him to carry out these interviews: “Since January, my Japanese has gotten so much better… I think living with a host family through JCMU’s program has just been a phenomenal experience.”
JCMU further assisted Michael’s research by distributing questionnaires about the bombing to elementary school students in Hikone. This is an important point of comparison for Michael’s study: by analyzing the answers given by elementary school students outside of Hiroshima, he can learn how opinions of the bomb developed both within and outside the region directly impacted by the atomic attack.
Upon his return to the United States, Michael will translate the completed Japanese interviews while continuing to work on curating his exhibit. Though nervous, he is excited to share his research with others: “I think there are some really important messages that I want to send to people that come to see the exhibition.”
The exhibit will be held next year from late January through late May at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine. If you have a chance to view Michael’s research, we highly encourage you to check it out!
JCMU works hard to support alumni following the completion of their program! If you are looking to visit JCMU in Hikone or need our help completing your own research, then we encourage you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.