Peers, Faculty Cheer K Student to Third Place at Japanese Speech Contest

Japanese Speech Contest Participant Uyen Trinh next to a cherry blossom in Tokyo
Uyen Trinh ’21 finished third in February at the Japanese Speech Contest conducted by Detroit’s Consulate General.
Grace Frazier '23
Grace Frazier ’23 watches Uyen Trinh participate in the Japanese Speech Contest.

For the third consecutive year, at least one Kalamazoo College student has placed among the top three finishers in a prestigious Japanese Speech Contest organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan.

Uyen Trinh ’21 was K’s only contestant in the 25th annual event on February 20, finishing third overall, in an opportunity she’s sought for a few years, especially since returning from a study abroad experience at Waseda University in Tokyo.

“I’ve been taking Japanese courses since my first year in college, and I’ve been attending the contest in Novi since my sophomore year,” Trinh said. “I had planted in my mind the idea that I wanted to compete myself, and that desire had only gotten bigger.”

Contestants from Michigan colleges and universities drafted their own speeches in Japanese to present in front of the judges. Trinh’s speech, titled “Freedom in the Family,” discussed her family in Vietnam and her host family in Japan, while comparing the relationships between the parents and children.

Josseline Vazquez '22
Josseline Vazquez ’22 watches Uyen Trinh participate in the Japanese Speech Contest.
Anexy Koizumi '22
Anexy Koizumi ’22 watches Uyen Trinh participate in the Japanese Speech Contest.

“I really wanted people to feel my experience because it included a lot of personal encounters, things I witnessed in Japan and situations I have back home,” she said. “I was thinking a lot about the best ways I could read the speech aloud for people to understand what I want to communicate. My goal wasn’t really to place. I was just really happy when I finished my speech because I felt like I delivered it how I wanted it to be.”

Despite a virtual format for the contest this year, many of Trinh’s K peers and professors helped her prepare before the event, which was streamed live through YouTube. Kanase Matsuzaki ’23 organized a special lab before the contest, inviting Trinh to attend as a guest speaker. Students from two Japanese classes attended, hearing the English translation of Trinh’s speech in advance, and then asking Trinh questions in Japanese. Several attended the contest remotely to cheer her on, including three peers who watched despite personally experiencing the ongoing winter weather emergencies happening in Texas and Mexico.

Visiting Student Beatriz Contreras
Visiting Student Beatriz Contreras watches Uyen Trinh participate in the Japanese Speech Contest.
Angela Hernandez '23
Angela Hernandez ’23 watches Uyen Trinh participate in the Japanese Speech Contest.

Faculty members, including Associate Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori, listened meticulously to Trinh recite her speech in advance and offered synonyms for the most difficult words if her pronunciation wasn’t perfect.

“I’m very grateful to Sugimori Sensei and all the Japanese faculty who helped me, along with the other Japanese students,” Trinh said. “Their support made the speech possible.”

Spinning her experience forward, Trinh said she hopes to return to Japan this summer to work at Summer Olympics events, especially after COVID-19 cut her study abroad plan short. She then will graduate from K in fall and plans to work in the finance field after graduation.

“There are so many things I still want to do in Japan,” she said. “The program cancellation was announced only about two days before my departure from Japan. I hope I can relive that memory and meet my host family again.”

Faculty Member’s New Book Examines Disability Sports in Japan

Disability Sports Book Author Dennis Frost with family and two Japanese Paralympians
Wen Chao Chen Associate Professor of East Asian Social Sciences Dennis Frost has released a new book More Than Medals: A History of the Paralympics and Disability Sports in Postwar Japan. He’s pictured here with his family and two Japanese Paralympians.

When most sports enthusiasts are thinking about the Super Bowl, a new book from a Kalamazoo College faculty member is focusing on a different kind of athletics competition and how it relates to creating a barrier-free society for those with disabilities.

Wen Chao Chen Associate Professor of East Asian Social Sciences Dennis Frost has unveiled More Than Medals: A History of the Paralympics and Disability Sports in Postwar Japan. The book addresses the histories of individuals, institutions and events that have played important roles in developing disability sports in Japan. Such events include the 1964 Paralympics in Tokyo, the Far East and South Pacific (FESPIC) Games for the Disabled, the Ōita International Wheelchair Marathon, the Nagano Winter Paralympics, and the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games.

Frost’s first book, Seeing Stars: Sports Celebrity, Identity and Body Culture in Modern Japan, traced the emergence and evolution of sports celebrity in Japan from the 17th through the 21st centuries. The new book, he said, is an outgrowth of that project.

“Before I taught at K, I was a teaching fellow at my undergraduate alma mater, Wittenberg University, where I taught a class on sports in East Asia,” Frost said. “Students were working on presenting a project about the Nagano Winter Olympics, and one asked if she could do her part of the presentation on the Paralympics. The student found a few media reports, but neither one of us was pleased with the limited information available on the Paralympics. So that was my first inspiration for this project.”

Disability sports book photo from the 2016 Oita International Wheelchair Marathon
Dennis Frost includes this photo of the Ōita International Wheelchair Marathon in his new book, More Than Medals: A History of the Paralympics and Disability Sports in Postwar Japan.

Frost’s interest piqued further when his youngest son, who was born with spina bifida, began taking an interest in sports.

“He’s played wheelchair tennis and sled hockey up in Grand Rapids, so I get to see some adaptive sports from his perspective, and then I’m doing my research more on the institutional side while talking about bigger scale events in Japan,” Frost said. “In some senses, it’s a project that has combined my personal and academic interests.”

For More Than Medals, Frost conducted interviews with athletes such as Suzaki Katsumi, who participated in the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games, the first event of its kind in Japan. Suzaki started training in disability sports just a few months before the Games using therapeutic hot springs baths at his rehabilitation facility in Ōita, Japan. As a result, he was surprised that the pool water at the Paralympics was so cold.

Disability Sports Book cover More Than Medals
Dennis Frost has released his new book, More Than Medals: A History of the Paralympics and Disability Sports in Postwar Japan.

Such anecdotes show that in their early history events like the Paralympics were less about competition. Even today when the focus is more on elite-level competition, the significance of the Paralympics extends well beyond the playing field. Those were ideas echoed in recent years by Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko, who recognized Japan’s aging population when discussing her city’s preparations for the Olympic Games.

“The success of the Paralympics is really the key to the success of the overall Games here,” she said. “I believe putting weight on hosting a successful Paralympics is more important than a successful Olympics.”

“Part of what I was interested in with this project is understanding how you go from a situation in the 1960s, where very few people in Japan actually knew what the Paralympics were, to a point where they’re almost mainstream in Japan,” Frost said. “In preparing for 2020, the Olympics and Paralympics were treated as a perfect pair, and everybody talked about both at the same time. In 60 years, they’ve undergone a pretty dramatic shift.”

In general, Frost’s research focuses on modern Japanese history with emphases on sports, disability, militarization, and urban development. At K, he teaches courses on premodern, modern and contemporary East Asian history with a particular focus on China, Japan and Korea. He also teaches first-year and sophomore seminars in the College’s Shared Passages Program, as well as senior seminars for the History Department and the East Asian Studies Program. More Than Medals represents a Fulbright grant and a couple of National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants that supported the project, several working trips to Japan, months spent in Tokyo with his family, and interviews with athletes, citizens and reporters, to compare a culture more adaptive to the needs of the disabled than what we traditionally might find in the United States.

“In Japan, in recent years there’s been a lot of attention more generally even beyond the Paralympics, to how we create a society that is barrier free,” Frost said. “That’s both in terms of the actual physical structures like having curb cuts and escalators and elevators instead of stairs, and also in attitudes toward people that are different in whatever way from others. There’s a lot of discussion about that in Japan. Some of those things are happening in some places in the United States, but in Japan, I think it’s become much more widespread in recent years.”

The book is available now through Cornell University Press.

Two K Students Among Top Three Finishers in Japanese Speech Contest

Japanese Speech Contest
Xiu Cai ’20 (middle) and Shane Spink ’20 (right) finished second and third respectively out of dozens who represented colleges and universities across Michigan in a Japanese Speech Contest organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan. Cai and Spink are third-year Japanese students of Visiting Instructor Masanori Shiomi.

For the second year in a row, two Kalamazoo College students placed among the top three finishers in a prestigious Japanese Speech Contest organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan.

Xiu Cai ’20 and Shane Spink ’20 finished second and third respectively out of dozens who represented the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University and Lansing Community College at the 24th Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest. Cai and Spink are third-year Japanese students of Visiting Instructor Masanori Shiomi.

Contest participants drafted their own speeches in Japanese to present in front of three judges and an audience Feb. 9 at Michigan State University. Cai’s speech, “My Life with Accidents and Coincidences,” shared her unlikely foray into studying Japanese and how she came to love it. Spink’s speech, “How to Use Soft Power,” detailed Japan’s use of pop culture in diplomatic relations, contrasting it with the use of hard power in the United States.

Cai’s second-place finish tied Amanda Esler ’19 for the highest-ever finish for a K student in the contest.

The event “offered me a chance to meet new people and make friends with more Japanese students,” Cai said. “These intellectuals helped me learn more about the diverse perspectives of the world. However, I want to say thank you to my amazing Japanese teacher for being one of the most helpful and thoughtful teachers.”

Spink’s third-place finish was the best in the contest’s history for a K student who didn’t study abroad in Japan. Spink, a Kalamazoo native, said he believes he could have done better, but added “many of the other contestants have had far more experience with learning and practicing Japanese.” He plans to work in Japan after he graduates.

“Though it was nerve-wracking to perform a memorized speech in front of a large audience with far greater knowledge of the Japanese language than myself, it was a rewarding experience,” Spink said. “Events like these are important milestones and I will never forget this speech contest.”

K Nets Two Place-Winners in Japanese Language Speech Contest

Japanese Language Speech Contest Participants
Four finalists representing Kalamazoo College and a supportive contingent traveled to the Novi Civic Center in February for the 23rd Japanese Language Speech Contest organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan. The group included (back row, from left) Brian Drenth, Craig Esler, Natalie Quist, Uyen Trinh, Michael Smith, Hannah Pszenica, Professor Tyler Walker and Demi Grivas; (second row, from left) Ploen Villvalin, Caryn Drenth, Professor Noriko Sugimori and Pam Esler; and (front row from left) Elayna Moreau, Lydia Drenth, Amanda Esler, YoungHoon (Richard) Kim and Molly Brueger.

Out of dozens of college and university students who applied this year, four Kalamazoo College students were invited to participate in the 23rd Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest, a record for any college or university in the competition’s recent history, with two finishing among the top three competitors.

The contest, organized by Detroit’s Consulate General of Japan, offered 10 students from Michigan colleges and universities the opportunity to showcase their language abilities in the finals through self-made speeches delivered entirely in Japanese at the Novi Civic Center. K’s representatives have all been students in Associate Professor Noriko Sugimori’s third-year Japanese language class.

Sugimori noted a snow day prevented Amanda Esler ’19, YoungHoon (Richard) Kim ’19, Molly Brueger ’19 and Elayna Moreau ’21 from having their final dry run for the event. However, “the students worked hard and other students of Japanese also supported them in various ways,” Sugimori said, crediting her second-year Japanese language class, which developed questions about the speeches for the competitors to answer. Some even went to Novi to support their peers. “I am proud of everyone,” Sugimori said.

No K student had ever finished higher than third in the Japanese Language Speech Contest, until Esler finished second with her speech titled “The Importance of Friends.” The speech described how she turned a difficult study abroad experience into something special through the help and encouragement of her friends.

Japanese Language Speech Contest Participants 2
Amanda Esler ’19 (second from left) and YoungHoon (Richard) Kim ’19 (second from right) gave Kalamazoo College two place-winners for the first time in the finals of the Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest.

“Personally, I love public speaking,” Esler said. “The fact that through your words you can inspire or encourage someone is amazing. And in this contest, it wasn’t in English, but rather Japanese, a language that I have spent nine years of my life learning. It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to compete and share my thoughts and experiences in Japanese.”

Esler said her K experiences inspired her speech, including the support she received from Sugimori and a close friend, Naori Nishimura, who was a visiting international student from Japan.

Without them, “I wouldn’t have studied abroad in Kyoto and none of the events in my speech would have occurred. So, this is really thanks to K. … I hoped to show just how much that bond [with Nishimura] meant to me.”

Kim delivered a speech titled “Shape of Japan” and won third prize, giving K a second representative among the place-winners for the first time. He spoke about his study abroad experience in Japan and articulated his deep appreciation for the country. In his view, his appreciation for Japan can’t be fully expressed in words.

“It was an honor for me, as a student who studies Japanese,” to participate in the contest, Kim said. “It meant that I am able to perform a public speech, openly expressing my thoughts and remarks on a suggested topic, through using a language that I did not know before. … It was only possible because I had an amazing faculty member and brilliant students who spent time with me.”

Brueger, in her speech titled “Breaking Barriers,” talked about how soccer empowers participants to break language barriers and make new friends, leading to greater cross-cultural understanding.

“This was an opportunity for me to feel confident about my Japanese language skills and to compete in a fun environment with other students who share an equal love for Japanese language and culture,” Brueger said.

Moreau delivered a speech titled “The Power of Communication” about their experiences working at Osaka Suisen Fukushikai’s Work Center Hoshin, a day care center in Osaka, Japan, for adults who have intellectual disabilities. The speech focused on how staff and clients communicated and how their experience can help interactions between people in general.

“When I worked with them, I got to experience their efforts to communicate and understand each other firsthand,” Moreau said. “No matter what mistakes I made or how troublesome it was for them to try to talk to me, staff and clients alike always made the utmost effort to include me in their conversations, events and work. They were so patient with me even when they didn’t need to be, and I quickly grew to admire everyone at the Work Center. I wanted to express this admiration in my speech, to express how amazing everyone at the center was. In some way, I wanted this speech to be some small ‘thank you’ to them.”

Five Faculty Members Receive Tenure

With specialties ranging from the psychology of adolescents to Victorian literature, five Kalamazoo College professors have achieved tenure.

The milestone recognizes the scholarship and teaching they have completed to the point of tenure, and it is also a sign of confidence in the contributions they will make during their entire careers. The College’s Board of Trustees, meeting in March, voted to grant tenure to:

Kyla Day Fletcher, Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Psychology

Ryan Fong tenure
Ryan Fong
Kyla Day Fletcher tenure
Kyla Day Fletcher

Fletcher holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Michigan. Her scholarly work focuses on the role of culture, socialization, and decision-making on sexual health and substance use outcomes among adolescents and young adults.

Ryan Fong, assistant professor of English

Fong holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Davis. He teaches a broad range of courses in 19th- and 20th-century British literature, as well as courses in women, gender and sexuality. His research focuses on Victorian literature and culture and, more specifically, how the Victorian novel has shaped and been shaped by contemporary fiction, film and popular culture.

Tenure Amy MacMillan
Amy MacMillan
Marin Heinritz tenure
Marin Heinritz

Marin Heinritz ’99, assistant professor of English

Heinritz holds a Ph.D. in English from Western Michigan University. She teaches courses in journalism, creative nonfiction writing, and literary theory. Her scholarly and creative work includes feature and arts reviews in journalism and memoir and flash essays in creative writing.

Amy MacMillan, L. Lee Stryker Assistant Professor of Business Management

MacMillan holds an MBA from Harvard University. She teaches courses in marketing and management. While she comes to academia from the corporate sector, she has developed research interests in marketing-related areas as well as in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Noriko Sugimori tenure
Noriko Sugimori

Noriko Sugimori, assistant professor of Japanese

Sugimori holds a Ph.D. in applied linguistics from Boston University. She teaches intermediate and advanced Japanese language courses, as well as select courses on Japanese culture and society taught in English. Her interests span multiple disciplines including sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, language ideology, oral history, integrating technology into teaching Japanese, and bilingualism.


East Asian Studies Students Earn Boren, Fulbright Honors

Three East Asian studies students at Kalamazoo College have earned prestigious competitive grants, allowing two to study abroad in Japan in the 2017-18 academic year, and a third to serve in an English teaching assistantship in Taiwan. Ihechi Ezuruonye ’19, of Southfield, Mich., and Molly Brueger ’19, of Arlington, Va., secured Boren Awards. Dejah Crystal ’17, of Standish, Maine, has earned a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award.

Boren Award Winner Ihechi Ezuruonye
Boren Award honoree Ihechi Ezuruonye will study for 11 months in Kyoto, Japan.

Boren Winners to Study in Japan

Boren Awards are worth up to $20,000 depending on the student’s financial need and how long the student stays overseas. Ezuruonye and Brueger were granted the maximum. The grants are funded by the federal government through the National Security Education Program, which focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields deemed critical to U.S. national security.

The awards are named after former U.S. Sen. David L. Boren, the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program. Boren Scholars (undergrads) and Fellows (graduate students) study in countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. The winners commit to federal service for at least a year after graduation. Ezuruonye and Brueger will study from September 2017 to August 2018 in Kyoto, a former Japanese capital, at Doshisha University.

Ezuruonye, an international and area studies and East Asian studies double major with a Japanese concentration, sees similarities between Asian and African cultures, prompting her interest in Japan’s language, history and food. She hopes to work at the U.S. Embassy in Japan as an ambassador or deputy ambassador after graduation to fulfill her federal obligation. The study abroad program first attracted Ezuruonye to K.

Boren Award Winner Molly Brueger
Boren Award honor Molly Brueger will study for 11 months in Kyoto, Japan.

“Learning the language and the culture helps us understand the people,” Ezuruonye said. “If we’re more willing to talk and we’re learning the same language, it brings us one step closer together.”

Brueger, an international and area studies major with Japanese and Chinese emphases, first learned of K through the “Colleges That Change Lives” book by Loren Pope. Pope is a higher-education expert and former New York Times education editor, who describes 40 dynamic colleges, including K, that excel at developing potential, values and initiative in students, while providing the foundation for success beyond college.

Brueger wants to serve abroad in the Peace Corps as an English teacher to fulfill her federal service requirement. She credits East Asian studies Professor Dennis Frost, International Programs Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft, Adviser and Assistant Professor of Chinese Yue Hong, and two of K’s previous Boren winners – A.J. Convertino and Amanda Johnson – for a combination of encouragement, recommendations and essay assistance.

“I was surprised because (Boren scholarships) are so competitive,” Brueger said. “I’m really honored to receive the maximum. I’ll definitely put it to good use in becoming proficient in Japanese.”

Brueger will intern at the Chengdu Consulate General in China’s Sichuan Province this summer before heading to Japan.

Fulbright Recipient Traveling to Taiwan

Crystal is graduating in June with a degree in East Asian studies on a China track after just three years at K. Her study abroad experience took her to

Fulbright Winner Dejah Crystal
Fulbright winner Dejah Crystal will serve in a teaching assistantship in Taiwan.

Capital University in Beijing, although she will serve in an English teaching assistantship for 11 months beginning in August on the small Taiwanese island of Kinmen. After this opportunity, she would like to continue teaching in East Asia or seek a graduate degree there.

Crystal agrees she has found her professional calling in teaching because she has loved working with children through K experiences such as Community Advocates for Parents and Students (CAPS). CAPS is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization, which provides tutoring opportunities to Kalamazoo Public Schools students from kindergarteners to adults.

Crystal’s Fulbright-application process began as a first-year student when she heard another student was applying for a similar opportunity. After a couple of years of reviews from K’s Fulbright Committee, essay assistance from faculty, and general support from family, she thanks people such as her mom, stepmom and dad, Frost, Hong, Wiedenhoeft, K Global Health Director Diane Kiino and Professor Madeline Chu.

“I’m incredibly honored and excited,” Crystal said.

The federal government created the Fulbright Program in 1946, naming it after U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other countries through education, culture and science. Crystal is one of about 1,900 U.S. citizens who will study, conduct research or teach abroad through the program in the coming academic year.



K Students and Faculty Present at ASIANetwork

K Students Present at ASIANetworkThe 25th annual conference of the ASIANetwork in Chicago drew a K presence from Kalamazoo, Tokyo and Toronto. ASIANetwork is a consortium of some 160 North American colleges that strengthens the role of Asian Studies within the framework of liberal arts education. Three Kalamazoo College Freeman Foundation Student Fellows (Frank Meyer ’18, Emerson Brown ’17, Hannah Berger ’18), one former student fellow (Dalby-eol Bae ’18, who transferred from K to the University of Toronto), and Dennis Frost, the Wen Chao Chen Associate Professor of East Asian Social Sciences at Kalamazoo College, presented a poster on the role of Okinawan identity in the protests against U.S. military bases on the island. That presentation was based on a research trip the five made to Okinawa last summer. Frost flew to the Chicago conference from his sabbatical in Tokyo. Other K presenters at the conference were Bailee Lotus ’17 and Assistant Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori. Lotus discussed her Senior Individualized Project, “Moving Forward of Standing Still: Black Women in South Korea.” Professor Sugimori talked about the Oral History in the Liberal Arts, a project that has produced for widespread classroom use the world’s first bilingual (Japanese and English) synchronizations of interviews Sugimori conducted that focus on the World War II memories of various Japanese individuals. Pictured (holding an Okinawan newspaper “Ryukyu Shimpo”) are the K attendees (l-r)–Noriko Sugimori, Dalby-eol Bae, Hannah Berger, Bailee Lotus, Emerson Brown, Frank Meyer, and Dennis Frost.

K Students Excel in a Japanese Speech Contest

K Students Study JapaneseThe heritages of sophomore YoungHoon (Richard) Kim and senior Jie Xu are rooted in Korea and China, respectively. Both students are also fluent in English. And both recently excelled in a competition featuring the language of fourth country–Japan. YoungHoon won the Consul General Special Prize in the annual Michigan Japanese Speech Contest, held at Wayne State University last week.  His speech was titled “I Don’t Like Him.”  In it, he expressed his ambivalent feelings about Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, considered by many a potential winner of a Nobel Prize for literature. YoungHoon’s extensive knowledge of modern Japanese literature impressed the audience. Jie was a finalist in the speech contest. In her talk, “Preserving Traditional Chinese Art,” she discussed how a pottery class she took at K in her first year provided her an opportunity to rediscover the pottery and the tea ceremony that are part of her Chinese heritage. That renewal, in turn, led her to expand her interest, geographically, to include the pottery and language of Japan.  Also of note, Jie passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) 2nd Level, a significant achievement for someone who has not participated in study abroad, according to assistant professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori. K’s success in the speech contest was surely a team effort. Said Professor Sugimori: “We are particularly grateful to our Japanese teaching assistants—Yoji Hayashibe, Kaoru Ishida, and Reika Murakami—for their insightful feedback on the early drafts of YoungHoon and Jie’s speeches.” At K YoungHoon is majoring in East Asian studies and in philosophy; Jie is majoring in art. Pictured after the contest are (l-r): Ms. Takako Shibata, Japan Society of Detroit Women’s Club; Jie and YoungHoon; the Honorable Mr. Mitsuhiro Wada, Consul General of Japan in Detroit; and Professor Sugimori.

K Professor and Students Use Grant to Breathe Life Into Oral History

Oral History Researchers Noriko Sugimori (left) and senior Christa Scheck
Noriko Sugimori (left) and senior Christa Scheck, who is majoring in studio art and earning a minor in Japanese

Assistant Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori will use a three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to contribute her research to the Oral History in the Liberal Arts (OHLA), a project of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA). In a collaboration that also involves the Japanese department at Albion College, Sugimori and her K students are producing the world’s first bilingual (Japanese and English) synchronizations of interviews Sugimori conducted that focus on the World War II memories of various Japanese individuals.

The origins of those interviews trace back to Sugimori’s doctoral work. She researched the relationship between imperial honorifics and the concept of lèse-majesté (the crime of violating the dignity of a reigning sovereign or state) in Japan prior and during World War II. For that work she talked with several score of Japanese civilians born before 1932. The interviews were powerful, and the people with whom she spoke often deeply wanted to share their stories.

After completing her doctorate Sugimori began an oral history project that focused on war memories. Audiotaping was the cutting edge technology when Sugimori first starting interviewing subjects. Later she adopted digital videotaping. And in 2010 she became aware of Oral History Metadata Synchronizer technology, which provides a platform to show simultaneous English translation of video recordings in Japanese.

“That changed everything,” said Sugimori. “I am videotaping people who were teenagers during the war who are giving untold accounts of their experiences. These tapes can convey a whole different message to future generations about the war, and this is considered a unique contribution to the linguistics field.”

The videos and simultaneous translations have pedagogical implications for K students of Japanese. “They get to see the interviewee’s facial expressions,” said Sugimori, “which provide much more information about what is being said in a cultural context. This goes way beyond trying to learn the language from only grammar exercises.”

Because simultaneous translation allows for a more flesh-and-blood and nuanced entry into a recorded interview, students gain a more comprehensive understanding of history. “Students learn much more than political history,” said Sugimori. “They also see, as well as hear, how people were affected by the political actors.”

Today, digital technologies are making oral histories very popular among the general public. Sugimori and K students are among the pioneers helping to make that happen.

Text and photo by Olga Bonfiglio

K Shines in Japanese

Students Compete in Japanese Language ContestKalamazoo College students dominated the 2016 Japanese Language Speech Contest held at the Novi (Mich.) Civic Center in late February. Christa Scheck ’17 won third prize for her speech, “Translating Japanese Into English: the Problems of Literal Translation.” Senior Jamie Heywood took home the Consulate General Prize for her presentation, “Experiences of a Homosexual.” And junior Ke Sheng was cited with an honorable mention for his speech, “Japanese Cellphones.” K’s participation this year was marked by two firsts: the first time in K’s history a student placed in the top three; the first time K students won multiple prizes in the same year, taking three of the total of five! Pictured are (l-r): front row–Yilang Qiu ’18, Jie Xu ’17, and visiting international student Naori Nishimura; back row–Assistant Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori, Ke Sheng, Crista Scheck, Jamie Heywood and Consul General Mitsuhiro Wada. This contest is organized by the Japanese Consulate General of Japan in Detroit and is sponsored by, among others, Delta Air Lines, the Japan Business Society of Detroit and the Japan Foundation.