(A featured story from the April 12 Spring Research Fair)
From Franklin & Marshall College, the path to the Asian East is through the Americas’ West, which is the route senior Anton Arapin, a computer science and a mathematics major followed to reach his destination, Tokyo.
With a longtime interest in the culture, the Ukraine native, who has studied Japanese at F&M the last few years, flew into the setting sun for a two-week academic experience in the land of the Rising Sun, where he attended an immersive experience at a language school.
“The school is called GenkiJACS and it is located in Shinjuku, right in the Tokyo downtown,” Arapin said. “I chose this school due to its reputation, since the first two years of Japanese language classes at F&M are taught by the book Genki publishes.”
Shinjuku, a special municipal ward, is a major commercial and administrative center for the Tokyo government. Arapin said he chose to visit the city during the New Year to experience the holiday, which the school organized various events around, from cultural and food to musical performances and tours of historic locations.
“Besides the traditional culture and history, I was also curious about contemporary Japanese culture,” Arapin said. “Luckily, Tokyo is the center for Japanese pop culture, and I was able to observe many interesting and bewildering customs and cultural phenomenon at Ikebukuro, Akihabara, and other vibrant places.”
Ikebukuro is an entertainment district and Akihabara is a shopping area well known for its electronic retailers, vast department stores and venues for anime and video games.
The high-level language class this Marshall Fellow attended each day consisted of three students and usually lasted about five hours. Their studies included many conversations, lectures, readings and listening assignments.
His research was observational. He found some cultural differences to compare with the West, such as how Japanese society lives in dense urban areas.
“Western cultures purse discrete ideals in terms of personal or professional development that clearly distinguish between what is good and what is bad,” Arapin said. “In Japan, imperfection is embraced and considered normal—'wabi-sabi,’ which means something close to ‘beauty in imperfection.’”