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News Travels Spring 2016 Home 2

Student Activities

With its two new majors scarcely six months old, the Japanese Program is thrilled to report that 15 students are now majoring in Japanese, and 64 students (certified and uncertified) are minoring in Japanese. 

Laura Abbott, an English and Japanese double major, recently received several honors. The WSU Honors College has awarded Abbott’s Honors Thesis, “SHOJO: The Power of Girlhood in 20th Century Japan,” the highest possible evaluation: “Pass with Distinction.” Abbott was also awarded a prestigious Gilman International Scholarship as well as a Bridging Scholarship from the American Association of Teachers of Japanese. This semester Abbott is studying at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan.

Aaron Kapral took several Japanese language courses at WSU as a Japanese minor and was admitted to the renowned Middlebury Summer Language School for 2015. He came back from the program with not only a higher level of fluency in Japanese but also heightened consciousness about social issues and what he wants to do about them. Here he shares with us his invaluable experience at the program.

Aaron Kapral (front row, second from right) at the Middlebury Summer Language School.
Aaron Kapral (front row, second from right) at the Middlebury Summer Language School.

“Starting in Fall 2016, I will be a fifth-year senior at WSU studying Digital Technologies and Cultures with a minor in Japanese. I have studied Japanese through self-study, formal study, and programs. One such program was Middlebury Language Schools at Middlebury College during Summer 2015.

“Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy has been teaching immersion languages for just over 100 years. They offer 11 languages for undergraduates and graduates taught between Middlebury College in Vermont and Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California ( and The school’s slogans, ‘No English spoken here’ and ‘Life doesn’t come with subtitles,’ reflect the immersive and dedicative atmosphere of the 6-8-week summer program. Students sign a language pledge agreeing to speak only the language they are learning during their intensive program.

“Studying Japanese at Washington State University could not have prepared me more for Middlebury. I had completed my Japanese minor in Fall 2014, and everything I had learned such as intricacies of the language, personal study style, and a critical perspective of culture was especially relevant and helped me excel at Middlebury. I also cannot thank my Japanese professors enough for helping me get there.

“My family and friends were skeptical about why I was going to Vermont to study Japanese, but my experience at Middlebury was more intense than any other period of my language studies as well as the most rewarding.

Aaron Kapral with some of his friends from the program.
Aaron Kapral with some of his friends from the program.

“I participated in the 8-week Japanese immersion program where I pursued the third level of five. This gave me a chance to review and gain a considerable amount of new knowledge through coursework, daily conversations with professors and students, interviews, connections with students from around the world, and participation in clubs and activities. As a result, I saw major improvement in not only my language abilities–fluency and confidence in self-expression in another language–but I gained new perspectives on social issues, even more appreciation for professors, close-knit friendships, and a sincere passion for learning.

“By the end of the term, my brain felt like an overflowing sponge. However, even almost a year after the program has concluded, I have been able to recall a majority of Japanese and remain in connection with students, professors, and professionals from the program.

“After graduation from WSU, I plan to apply to the Japanese Exchange & Teaching Program and the Fulbright’s National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship. Through this, one goal I plan to accomplish is gain a network in Japan and more countries to utilize my language, design, and leadership skills to provide better opportunities for people who are struggling to find lasting jobs and well-being. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at”

(by Aaron Kapral)

Japanese Language Proficiency Test

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is administered annually in 62 countries and recognized worldwide as the singular evaluative tool for determining and certifying proficiency in Japanese. In December 2015, five of our Japanese language students—Jiaju Gu, Jenwick Chiu, James Wang, Hengyi Xu, and Milly Xun—traveled to Seattle to take various levels of the JLPT. Congratulations to all five for passing this important test!

Originally launched in 1984, the JLPT is now offered in 150 cities worldwide by the Japan Foundation, an institution associated with the Foreign Ministry that administers cultural exchange programs overseas. It is the largest-scale test of its kind and widely used by Japanese offices and schools to screen, promote, and admit into school non-native speakers of Japanese. In our region, the test is held in Seattle in December every year. As the interest in Japanese grew at WSU in the last few years, a sizeable number of WSU students have been taking the challenge, in spite of the distance to Seattle and the rather unfortunate timing (just before the fall final exams). The test has 5 levels, with N5 being the entry level and N1 being the highest. N2 or higher allows a foreign student to enter a Japanese university and take courses taught in Japanese. Most of our students take N3 or N2 levels, but Jenwick Chiu from Seattle passed N1 in the last December’s test. While test scores aren’t always reliable indicators of one’s language ability, Jenwick has certainly proved himself to be a dedicated and outstanding student of Japanese in our classes. Here he shares with us his reflections on his study of Japanese and the JLPT. If you are interested in taking the test in the future, he has good suggestions!

“When I began studying Japanese in high school 7 years ago, it was more like a hobby. Two years ago, I took Japanese 307, the speaking class, at WSU with Professor Kota Inoue, as well as Dual Language Immersion programs. I had much more opportunities in using my Japanese in these classes and realized what was lacking in my language. Around the same time, JLPT was also announced in class, and our professor invited us to try ourselves in challenging this exam. I decided to take the N2 level, and some of our classmates formed a study group to meet up every week to prepare for the JLPT. We studied past exam questions using learning materials, and sometimes we also found Japanese exchange students to practice with us. At the end, I passed N2. On the very next year (December 2015), I also took the JLPT N1 exam, and I am thankful I passed it. Last semester, thanks to my professor and peer influences, I also decided to take Japanese as my second major.

“Japanese-Language Proficiency Test separates into grammar, reading and listening parts. The N1 & N2 exams that I took were really different from exams we took in regular Japanese classes. It requires an exceptional amount of practice using Japanese in order to understand exactly what is said and asked in the JLPT. In my case, I would say I could not fully understand the questions asked sometimes. A few of my observations about the test are:

  • In the reading section, articles are generally from news, novels, and other literary work. Most of them are not as straightforward as the articles we usually read in the textbook. Plus there are usually some new terms and Chinese characters that you wouldn’t have learned yet. To understand the articles and questions reasonably well, skills that I learned in class, like finding the pattern of words in a sentence, are useful toward encountering unfamiliar phrases in the text.
  • In the listening part, there are not only daily conversations between two people, but also news announcements, tutorials, radio programs, seminar’s talks and different scenarios, practicing and experiences. In part of the listening section, you don’t get to see the questions printed on the paper at all—-you only hear them after a conversation etc. is played. There are a lot of tricky questions in this part, and in my opinion catching keywords would not be too helpful. Understanding the overall message the speaker wants to deliver was my strategy for this section.

“My practice of Japanese is not much different from many other students, which are also reading manga, watching TV shows and anime without subtitles. I also use twitter for news in Japanese and I read magazines. For the listening practice, I usually listen to radio broadcast of anime voice actors from Japan every week, and I also watch game event streaming too. In addition, I also went to a couple of live concerts in Japan during my vacations! All these daily practices build my foundation in Japanese little by little.

“In the coming fall semester (2016), I am planning to go to Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka as an exchange student, in order to put my Japanese into real life and experience the culture that I usually read in textbook. I have hospitality business management as my first major, and getting a job in Japan at a hotel will be a possible future for me. So I am excited to experience the culture of hospitality in Japan. I also see myself traveling to Japan a couple of times more. I will continue to use my Japanese and make many new Japanese friends!”

(by Jenwick Chiu)

Faculty Activities

Assistant Professor Kota Inoue presented his paper, “Nationalism and Money in Swallowtail Butterfly,” at the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association held at Harvard University in March. His panel examined how neoliberal economy and its attendant ideology shape the affective aspects of contemporary culture in Japan and other East Asian nations. Inoue’s essay “Postwar Japanese Fiction and the Legacy of Unequal Japan-US Relations” will appear in The Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, scheduled to be published in May. The essay is a critical examination of the way in which postwar Japanese literature articulated, even through silence at times, the asymmetrical power relations with the United States, most explicitly symbolized by the US military bases in Japan.

Associate Professor Puck Brecher has received a contract from the Harvard University Asia Center to publish his new monograph: Honored and Dishonored Guests: Westerners in Wartime Japan. The book investigates the experiences of Westerners living in Japan during World War II. Brecher is also in the process of co-editing a volume titled Japan’s Asia-Pacific War as Lived and Remembered: New Interpretations. His chapter “Being a Brat: The Ethics of Child Disobedience in the Edo Period,” has been published in Values, Identity, and Equality in 18th– and 19th-Century Japan (Brill, 2015).


Meet #GnomieHomie Kacie Kubosumi! Kacie is a Freshman majoring in Marketing and Psychology with a minor in Japanese. She came to WSU from her hometown of Caldwell, Idaho.

Kacie posing with the Department's mascot, Tomás.
Kacie posing with the DFLC mascot, Tomás.

In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit of learning another language?
“It sets you apart against other international job candidates, and exposes you to new culture.”

What are your plans after WSU?
“I either want to go on to graduate school for neuroscience, or get involved with professional athletic marketing.”

What is one of the things on your bucket list?
“Travel to Asia and Europe.”