Murray, KY – Japanese and Kentucky continue to strengthen relationships. Reports show Japanese corporations have over one-hundred and fifty facilities with more than thirty-five thousand jobs. This growth in the commonwealth is reflected in Murray State University's development of a Japanese Major. The study of Japanese Language and Culture is becoming more popular among students, increasing enrollment among Language and Exchange programs. Paco Long-Mendez has more.
Murray State University Senior Lynn Robertson has been intrigued by Japanese culture since childhood.
"As a kid I loved hokey Godzilla movies and the anime, and that was just like that little mirage that you thought Okay that is what everything is there.'"
Lynn was partly motivated by this to choose Japanese as his general studies language requirement.
"I was like Well, I have to pick something. I hate Germen and didn't do well in Spanish in high school, so I picked Japanese. Miss Hatakeyama, who was the director of the KIIS program, was obviously pushing the study abroad the whole time and she kept advertising it and I just thought it'd be a good idea to go there."
The summer trips to Japan are run through the Kentucky Institute for International Studies. Lynn says the KIIS programs would have been more difficult without prior language experience.
"You just learn to listen to people's hand gestures a lot faster than you learn the language. It helps to have at least had a year or more of the language before you think of going off into that trip but it's still fun."
Since the KIIS program Lynn has developed a desire to improve his language skills and look into careers that will take him back to Japan.
"Feelings that make me want to return at another time maybe I'll just use it to pick up a Japanese girlfriend one day and we'll move there and I can buy milk in the morning and ask for it proficiently."
This desire aligns with The Japanese Exchange Teaching program (JET). The Japanese Government sponsored program allows students to teach English to K-12 students in Japan. If accepted they will receive a stipend for their work.
"If anything, I would plan to use my skills and try and get a job like that."
The Consulate General of Japan in Nashville promotes exchange ideas and strengthening relations with the United States. Mis Hatakeyama met staff from the Consulate General.
"I asked them to come to Murray State. Then they actually came."
They also met with University officials and were very impressed that MSU was developing a Japanese Major, a degree path that may have opened more job opportunities to Lynn if he had the chance to do it all over again.
Doctor Ted Brown, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, says creating a major is a two step process.
"One, you apply to the council on post secondary education, which is the governing body for higher education in Kentucky. You have to get them to approve offering a new major because they have to make sure that things are distributed across the commonwealth, what they think is appropriately and so forth"
The major is currently awaiting the approval from Murray State's academic council. In preparation, the university has hired Dr. Masayo Kaneko, an Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature, to develop the major. She feels language and cultural understanding is an asset in an increasingly global society.
"Therefore, it is very important to recognize and understand diverse culture and engage in active communication with members of other communities as a responsible and well informed citizen."
A responsible and informed citizen that may experience an increase in career opportunities, such as Toyota, Hitachi or teaching English in Japan. Mis Hatakeyama agrees.
"If we create a lot of graduates of the students who can read, write and speak fluently in Japanese, I'm very sure that they'll have many opportunities to get a good job in the United States and in Japan."
Lynn is scheduled to graduate in May. Newer students will have the option of this Japanese major next semester, along with Murray State's extensive exchange programs.
For WKMS news, I'm Paco Long-Mendez.