CSUN students recount cultural exchange with Japan

Jeff Ishuninov

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CSUN’s deaf studies department organized a cultural exchange and community service trip for students to Japan 2011.

From Jan. 5 through Jan. 22 deaf studies professor Yoko Kobayashi and four deaf studies students traveled to study the culture and history of the country. The trip was possible with major funding provided by the Freeman Foundation, the Japan Foundation and CSUN.

Besides sightseeing, the group attended multiple educational workshops and gave presentations about CSUN and the history of deaf studies in the United States.

The trip began in Tokyo with a visit to the Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD) and Japanese ASL Signers Society (JASS), where students were introduced to the history, culture and art of deaf people in Japan. They learned some Japanese calligraphy and how to wear a Japanese traditional garment, the kimono.

Jiyoung Jou, a junior at CSUN, said she learned about the differences between American and Japanese deaf studies education.

“What impressed me was how different their education system is from ours. For example, I would say American deaf education system is more encouraging to learn sign language. In Japan, some students don’t learn sign language until high school,” Jou said.

The next stop was Osaka, where they hosted an American Sign Language (ASL) class that included a question and answer period about  CSUN, American history and culture.

Students then went to the city of Ayabe in Kyoto Prefecture where they visited a senior citizens center for the deaf. Junior Carmen Beal said Ayabe was rural.

“I saw snow over there for the first time in my life and was excited as a kid,” Beal said.

They were shown items that residents crafted to raise money for medicine and other essentials. CSUN’s students were also introduced to Japanese traditions.

“We enjoyed different activities that included a green tea ceremony and Japanese spa,” Beal said. “We slept in the local house instead of a hotel, which made the experience even more authentic.”

The next stop was Hiroshima, where the group attended an educational workshop presented by deaf community leader of Hiroshima Deaf Association.

Sheree Usher, a CSUN grad student in deaf education, said it was a very moving experience. Students also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and saw remainders of structures that were left as memorial.

“I met Holocaust survivors before and it was interesting to compare their experience with  a Hiroshima bombing survivor.So in the future if any one of us wants to become a teacher, we can pass on what we experienced here to our students,” Usher said.

Jiyoung Jou (left) and Carmen Beal discuss their experience while abroad in Japan. They participated in discovering dynamic deaf Japanese culture, deaf education and society of deaf people in Japan while volunteering in the deaf Japanese community. Photo Credit: Marina Sandoval / Staff Reporter

The last stop was Tsukuba, in Ibaraki Prefecture, where students visited National University Corporation, Tsukuba University of Technology.