Letter from the Asian Studies Program Director

Dear Alumni, Friends and Students,

It has been so nice to be mostly back in person this year, though we are still facing the challenges of the global pandemic and holding a number of events remotely. The one nice thing about this is that we have been able to invite speakers and participants from near and far to our Asian Studies Forum speaker series and Ohanami celebrations. Thank you all for making it another excellent year for our program.

Our Spring 2022 newsletter recaps our events from this past year and introduces our faculty who represent diverse disciplines and colleges across campus. It also highlights some of our outstanding students. I encourage you to learn more about the people and programs that make up Asian Studies at BGSU. 

Thank you for supporting our program and our students. I look forward to the coming year and hope to see many of you at our future events.  

Dr. Kristen Rudisill
Director, Asian Studies Program


Asian Studies Events

Ohanami: Cherry Blossom Festival


The 21st Cherry Blossom Festival was held on Sunday, April 10, from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. There were six performances, each 30-40 minutes in length.

We opened the 21st O-Hanami Festival with President Rodney Rogers’ welcome speech, followed by a video greeting from Hon. Yusuke Shindo, Consul General of Japan in Detroit, and remarks from Interim Dean Ted Rippey, College of Arts and Sciences. Akiko Kawano Jones, a representative of the Asian Studies Program, Japanese Program and Japanese Club, reviewed the history of the cherry trees on campus and expressed gratitude to the donors in Tokyo and Dowa THT, a Japanese company in Bowling Green, represented by President Hayashida.

A Taiko performance was presented by Kaze-no-Daichi, the group founded at BGSU. We learned the art of Taiko drumming. Ms. Mai Hirashita gave us direction to make a few things during the Origami for Beginners session, including how to make tigers, which is perfect for 2022 - the Year of the Tiger. It was fascinating to see Wagashi, colorful delicate Japanese sweets, created right in front of our eyes at the presentation by Ms. Toshiko Steffes. We enjoyed the tap dance by Ms. Shiori Yanase to go with a Japanese popular song, Look Up When You Walk (sukiyaki). The Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) performed by Ms. Sara Strothers gave us a calm, almost meditative, moment. We ended the event by learning about the martial art of Kendo, introduced by our student Caleb Lorenzen. He included the important philosophy of martial arts in Japan.

Because of the virtual format for this year's festival, the focus was geared toward performance, rather than hands-on activities. Sushi and Japanese snacks were missed by a lot of people. However, more people from other areas of the United States and Japan could also enjoy the programs. Please look forward to the 22nd O-Hanami in-person event on April 2, 2023.

View Cherry Blossom Festival Webpage

Global Virtual Speaker Series: The Rise of Asian Heavy Metal

On November 30, 2021, Dr. Jeremy Wallach, popular culture professor in the BGSU School of Cultural and Critical Studies, gave a talk titled "The Rise of Asian Heavy Metal" via zoom for the Global Virtual Speaker Series at the Michigan State University Asian Studies Center. He began with the suggestion that standard “cultural imperialist” explanations fail to account for heavy metal’s remarkable popularity in the region. While metal music is occasionally dismissed (even haughtily so) in the United States as nostalgic “dad rock” or marginal esoterica for self-selecting elitists, in Asia the genre has remained vital, and its popularity appears to be growing. Composed of tens of millions of avid enthusiasts, the Asian metal music scene is an increasingly interconnected territory that has forged ties to other world regions through its most successful, distinctive-sounding groups. 

The presentation focused on three of these groups: Chthonic from Taiwan, Babymetal from Japan, and Voice of Baceprot from Indonesia. Wallach discussed each band’s musical style and cultural significance, suggesting that the influence of Asian heavy metal bands on the international scene was just beginning. According to Wallach, while it would not be inaccurate to state that online platforms enabled the global conquest of these bands, such an assertion would also be incomplete—even facile. For the emergence of viable local music scenes and the culmination of a painstaking decades-long process of metal indigenization were also necessary prerequisites for this success.

In order to make an impact on the global scene, Wallach asserted, Asian metal acts also had to overcome western listeners’ entrenched resistance to Asian music, a dismissal rooted in long-enduring colonial and racist stereotypes. Among these stereotypes, as students of postcolonial theory are well aware, is the offensive notion that Asians are weak and emasculated compared to white Europeans. Thus the ability of Asian people, especially young Asian women, to master a music genre that extols strength and power is consequential within the larger history of hegemonic cultural representations.

Material from the presentation was incorporated into an essay on Asian metal music for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Metal Music, a forthcoming volume on Cambridge University Press in the UK.

53rd Nakama

The 53rd Nakama was virtually held on Monday, February 14. It was a great opportunity to introduce newly appointed Consul General Shindo to the participants.

Guest speakers:

  • Hon. Consul General of Japan Yusuke Shindo provided an update on Japan/U.S. business and relations  
  • Mr. Cal Bowers, Vice-President of Growth for RoBex, discussed automation in the U.S.A.

In spite of the meeting being virtual again this year, it was well attended by 34 Japanese and American business professionals. Dr. Joe Whitehead, BGSU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, gave welcoming remarks. Akiko Kawano Jones, organizer for Nakama, opened the meeting and introduced each attendee with the Zoom spotlight feature. After the guest speakers’ talks, the attendees were divided into four breakout rooms and enjoyed socializing with each other.

Jones received several compliments on the event and hopes to hold the 54th Nakama in person in the fall.

K-POP Event

We hosted a fun K-POP event which introduced students to Korean popular music and dance.

Asian Studies Forums

The December forum topic “China under Xi Jinping – Does Pragmatism Still Rule Foreign Policy?” was presented by Mr. Joey Miller, a 2015 BGSU graduate who majored in Asian Studies with a minor in Chinese. He also received a language certificate in Mandarin at Shandong University in China while studying there through the Asian Studies study abroad program. In 2016, he moved to Canberra, Australia, to complete his Master of International Relations at the Australian National University, during which his thesis focused on the role of Xi Jinping’s public speeches in China’s Asia-Pacific diplomacy. In 2017, he moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where he currently resides and is finishing his Ph.D. in Asian Studies at the University of Auckland. 

His presentation re-examined the accuracy of pragmatic nationalism’s main tenets in the Xi Jinping era, focusing on Xi’s first term from 2013-2018 and offering analysis on the paradigm’s continued accuracy and relevance. 

It was wonderful to have a graduate back as a presenter, and it was great motivation for the current majors. 

Dr. Dinsha Mistree, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and in the Rule of Law Program at Stanford Law School, presented "Taking Stock of India's Democracy" on January 19 via Zoom.

Dr. Mistree argued that India is often celebrated as the world's largest democracy, but recent developments in the country are cause for concern. His talk examined the current state and trajectory of India's democracy. It drew on "The Troubling State of India's Democracy," a volume that Mistree is co-editing with Sumit Ganguly and Larry Diamond. The talk spurred questions and discussion about the nature of Indian democracy and the growth of illiberal democracies worldwide.

On February 23, Dr. Annika Culver, Associate Professor of East Asian History at Florida State University, gave a presentation titled “Otaku Culture: Consuming, Collecting, and Comics in Japan from the 1980s to the Present.” Dr. Culver discussed why fandoms appeal to people and what it means to be an Otaku (young person who is a fan of anime, manga, or other hobbies).

Dr. Culver began by discussing Japan’s “soft power” in regard to its branding via the products it chooses to purvey. Dr. Culver moved on to the idea of “Japan Cool,” a phrase appropriated by the Japanese government as a way to rebrand the country as a purveyor of pop culture and relatively inexpensive, yet high quality, items. Also discussed was Walter Benjamin’s treatise on how collecting plays a role in escaping stress and managing one’s world for neurodiverse people. A large portion of the lecture revolved around the global popularity of Hello Kitty and its relation to consumption, high fashion, and tourist culture (with the theme park Sanrio Puroland highlighted). Dr. Culver summed up her talk by recapping how Otaku Culture is composed of three elements: consuming communities, collectors, and fandoms, and by letting the lecture audience know that anyone can be an Otaku.

Dr. Culver’s talk was highly enlightening from both an Asian Studies and a Popular Culture standpoint. Shane Hesketh, the graduate assistant for Asian Studies (an FSU alumnus and former student of Dr. Culver), would like to thank Dr. Culver for accepting the department invitation to speak and for providing such a relevant and entertaining forum.

Our March Asian Studies Forum speaker was Dr. Dheepa Sundaram, Assistant Professor of Hindu Studies at the University of Denver, who presented the talk, "I have a folder on my laptop titled ‘Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail hate mail': How Scholar-Activists Navigate Terror in Social Media Spaces.”

Dr. Sundaram’s larger research project is interested in how online mechanisms of meaning-making like hashtags operate through the aggregation of capital, relying on power, privilege, and access to be successful. Her current monograph project titled Globalizing Dharma: The Making of a Global Hindu Brand examines how commercial ritual websites fashion a new, digital canon for Hindu religious praxis, effectively "branding" religious identities through a neoliberal "Vedicizing" of virtual spaces.

After she helped organize a conference that involved anti-racist/anti-caste issues, she was targeted by Hindu nationalists, receiving death threats, rape threats, and other hateful responses both to her campus email and to her social media. The talk involved her personal story and those of others she knows through the American Academy of Religion roundtable conversations on the topic in 2021. She discussed how she and her university have handled the hate directed at her and how it has affected her research, including the safety of her travel to India for research purposes. Sundaram argued that “online hate reverberates through digital networks amplifying their effect and impact through what Sara Ahmed called ‘affective economies’ or places in which emotion can stick to and shape bodies.’’ This emotion creates “hate solidarities” between different online groups and make it dangerous and difficult for public-facing scholars and activists. After the talk, Sundaram fielded questions and engaged in dialogue with audience members.

Student Achievements

Congratulations to Lance Parker and Shelby Harshe, who have been nominated for membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

Student Award
Lance Parker Hiroko Nakamoto Japanese Studies Scholarship
Shelby Harshe Hiroko Nakamoto Japanese Studies Scholarship
Shelby Harshe Akiko Kawano Jones Study Abroad Scholarship
Eli Raymer Akiko Kawano Jones Study Abroad Scholarship
Killian Meade Seiko & Charles McCann Family Scholarship
Nicholas Roe Fujiya Kawashima Memorial Scholarship in Asian Studies
Shelby Harshe Asian Studies Research Award
Maya King Runner Up - Asian Studies Research Award
Rebecca Fossum Runner Up - Asian Studies Research Award

Alumni Testimonials

Joseph Benbella '17

BGSU’s Asian Studies program has been integral to my career and life as a whole. My experiences as a student at BGSU truly solidified my passion for learning Japanese and meeting others from throughout the world through the program’s various cultural exchange offerings such as study abroad, Japanese Club, an internship at DOWA, and countless other opportunities. Without these experiences I would not be the same person I am today, and they have become the foundation of my adult life.

Upon graduation, I was accepted and participated in the JET Program where I taught English and American culture to schools throughout the Miyazaki Prefecture. I loved my students, but realized that I did not want to be an English teacher forever, so I came back to the United States to study software engineering. I am currently working in Denver, Colorado as a Software Engineer. Today, I am active with the Japan American Society of Colorado and am maintaining my Japanese studies, so that I can make it back to Japan in this new field. Since participating in the Asian Studies Program, Japan has always and will always be a major part of my life. And I am eternally grateful to the wonderful faculty and students it houses for providing me such a deep lifetime passion. 

Joseph Miller '15

I graduated from the Asian Studies program at BGSU in Spring 2015. I served as an officer in Chinese club, loved my experiences abroad in Japan and China, and have many fond memories of teatime chats with Akiko Sensei.

After some work as a Chinese liaison for the Rubber Division of the American Chemical Society, I moved to Canberra, Australia, in 2016 to study a Master of International Relations at the Australian National University. There, I researched China’s diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific, took far too many photos of kangaroos and cockatoos, and met my amazing partner, Jeff. In 2017, I moved to Auckland, New Zealand, to complete a Ph.D. in Asian Studies, researching the connections between Chinese nationalism and foreign policy. After four and a half years of research (and many trips around the gorgeous landscapes of New Zealand), I have now submitted my thesis and am awaiting defense and final revisions. Jeff and I also moved back to Canberra in April, having fallen in love with its many circles and lakeside sunsets.

Sage Panter '14

I was an Asian Studies major and tried my best to take advantage of everything it had to offer. I took both Japanese and Chinese language classes, as well as several memorable history, literature and film classes. I managed to study abroad in both Japan and China and had wonderful experiences in both places. I was also president of the Japanese Culture Club for two years where I helped organize and facilitate a number of fun events. I have so many amazing memories from my time at BGSU. I experienced a lot, and I grew a lot, and I was able to create so many life-long friends and connections. I can’t talk about my time at BGSU without mentioning one connection - Akiko Jones, who was my Japanese teacher, but also a source of guidance and support. I owe so much of my success to her. 

I have done a lot since I graduated from BGSU. I have worked in several different places, and I went to graduate school at Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado. My focus was post-conflict societies, which is a subject I was inspired by when I studied abroad in Hiroshima, Japan while I was still a BGSU student. Today, I live in Hiroshima, and have since 2018. I teach ESL at a small foreign language school called Eiglobe. I also am heavily involved in the city’s tourism industry where I help educate both Japanese and foreign nationals about Hiroshima’s history. 

Matthew Thome '17

I was an Asian Studies and AYA-ILA Education dual major. I studied abroad at Nanzan University, in Nagoya, Japan for one year at the recommendation of Akiko Sensei. This experience abroad allowed me to gain so much confidence and deepen my passion for international education. Without Akiko Sensei's encouragement to go abroad, I would have missed out on experiences and relationships that are still a major part of my personal and profession life today. Being an Asian Studies dual major gave me the keys to joining a kind and open-minded international community I would have never found otherwise. I simply can't recommend it enough.

Since graduating from BGSU, I have taught in a variety of contexts from Denver, Colorado to the countryside of Hiroshima Prefecture, from non-profit programs, to public and private schools. Today, I live in Hiroshima City proper and act as a Head Teacher for Interac company while facilitating lessons for the advanced international course at Funairi Public High School. Outside of this, I am very involved in a local Hiroshima Kagura troupe. Kagura is a performance art similar to Noh and Kabuki that uses masks and is often performed at festival celebrations. I perform in small shrines and act as a cultural liaison to connect the visiting foreigner community with the rich history of Japan's beautiful country villages.

Briana Travis '20

As a BGSU student, I was given so many unique experiences, and I was able to broaden my world perspective. As an Asian Studies major, I was given the opportunity to study abroad and learn more about foreign languages and cultures. My love for Japan has only grown since my first year at Bowling Green. It’s led me back to Japan through the JET Program where I’ve been given the chance to share my culture and be further immersed in Japanese culture. 

This exchange has placed me in a little port city in Kagoshima Prefecture where I have been assisting teachers in teaching English at several elementary and junior high schools. Every day is a learning experience, a give and take, and a curve I’m hoping to keep enjoying.

Updated: 05/16/2022 02:04PM