Asami Nakano likes to learn new things about America and when she returns to her native Japan, she enjoys sharing her knowledge. It delights her when Americans are curious about the culture of her home country.
For the next two years, Nakano has been appointed the Japan Outreach Coordinator in the UTC Asia Program. UTC is one of five universities in the United States recently awarded this fulltime position by the Japan Outreach Initiative, made possible by a partnership with the UTC School of Education, The Creative Discovery Museum, the Hamilton County Department of Education, and the Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence.
The Japan Outreach Initiative aims to promote US-Japan understanding at the “grass roots” level. Rather than taking this cultural outreach to large US cities, smaller communities across the country benefit.
In addition to UTC, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Valdosta State, University of Alabama and a non-profit organization were selected to receive a Japan Outreach Coordinator.
“Japan is a major economic and political power, and has a culture that is more than 2000 years old. People are interested in both traditional Japanese culture and increasingly, contemporary Japanese culture. We now have a cultural outreach expert on our campus who can educate both the University community and the metropolitan area,” explains Dr. Lucien Ellington, Editor of Education About Asia and Director of the UTC Asia Program.
Nakano grew up in Okinawa. She is a graduate of Nagasaki Prefectural Women’s Junior College (English) and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin:
She has been a public school English teacher in Okinawa and Nagasaki Prefectures. Nakano speaks fluently in Spanish as well as English. She has been interested in international exchange since she was a Lion’s Club high school exchange student to Australia in the 1990s.
Ellington and Nakano have developed a list of topics for presentations for students at UTC as well as appropriate activities for high school, middle school, and elementary school students.
When she is asked to speak to a class at UTC, she will first visit the classroom and observe. Her presentation and time for questions will last a total of 40-50 minutes. Topics could include “The Life of a Japanese Student” or “The Life of a Japanese Teacher.” Nakano’s art background is helpful with presentations on Calligraphy, E-tegami (creating pictures and letters with a calligraphy brush), Kamishibai (Japanese Picture story telling) and Origami (traditional paper making). She can also offer information about holidays and festivals and the traditional tea ceremony.
With the modest budget Nakano is given for supplies, she has purchased the materials for calligraphy with the hope of also taking it to high school students, engaging them in both the language and the art of Japan.
Then there’s the “Chop Stick Challenge” she’ll also offer to high school students.
“They will learn how to break and use the chopsticks. I can give a presentation on Japanese cooking, an introduction to Japanese food, even Japanese etiquette at a restaurant,” Nakana said.