Monday, July 18, 2011

Revising Plans for Japan

I am one of those people who has a very set idea of exactly what I expect to be doing in the next 5 years or so. However, the nature of life is that we must continually revise our plans and expectations for our future, either because we didn't get an internship or scholarship or get into the school we wanted, or simply because new and exciting opportunities present themselves.

I've been very busy over the last few months, which is why my posts have been sparse and few and far in between. But due to a few new opportunities, as well as rejections, I have revised my plans yet again. However, there are more things to look forward to than missed opportunities to lament. One such thing is my renewed focus on Japan.

I have been interested and at time obsessed with Japanese culture since I was 12 years old. Those in my age bracket might remember those after-school anime shows on Cartoon Network. Well, for me it all started with Sailor Moon. Being the overachiever that I am, I soon began teaching myself Japanese and I was often seen on the bus to and from school with flashcards of hiragana and katakana. A decade later, my Japanese skills are much improved and I was hoping to do fieldwork on cat cafes in Tokyo (or Osaka) in the pursuit of a master's degree at Sophia University. Unfortunately, my Japanese score on a qualifying exam for the MEXT scholarship was not as high as other applicants, so I did not make it to the final stage of consideration this year. However, there is more than one way to get to Japan, and I fully intend to re-apply to this particular scholarship next year after I've had another year of Japanese during my final year at Brown.

The MEXT scholarship is a really awesome scholarship that does a couple of things. First, it can be used to complete a graduate degree or to spend two years as a "research student". Second, you can use the scholarship to complete your undergraduate degree in Japan. Lastly, you can use it for special training for your career.

This scholarship not only pays for your tuition and fees, it also pays for your round-trip plane ticket and provides a monthly stipend of 150,000 yen for the duration of the program. Needless to say, this would be an amazing opportunity, and it would make getting a two year's masters degree in Japan not only easier, but actually feasible. Sophia in particular does not give a lot of aid, and you can't take out US federal student loans to pay for it. Add to that the limitations of a student visa in Japan (you aren't allowed to work), and it can be really prohibitive.

Another way to get to Japan is by teaching English. There are a lot of programs that will recruit you in the US and then send you to Japan for a year or more with a decent salary and subsidized housing. One of the most competitive (and with the best pay and benefits) is the JET program. This is a program also run by the Japanese government (specifically the Monbukagakusho). It's a long and grueling process, but I'm looking forward to applying this fall. You don't need any teaching experience, and while you don't need to be fluent in Japanese, you do need to show an interest in Japan.

If all goes according to plan (which it rarely does), after I graduate from Brown, I will go to Japan via the JET program for a year or two, then continue to the master's program in Sophia (hopefully with the support of the MEXT).

I'm really excited about the prospect of not only focusing my research more on Japan as my area, but also about living in Japan for a few years. Through immersion, I should be relatively fluent by the end of 2-3 years and I will be able to do better research for my dissertation, whenever that comes.


  1. Just stopped in to check out your blog. Love the title.

    Re: Japan anthro programs, I made up a list on my blog here:

    Hope this helps,

    Karen Nakamura

  2. Thank you for checking out my blog! You might be the first anthropologist to check it out, and certainly the first to comment. How did you come across my blog?

    I have also seen your blog, especially that page. It has been very helpful in my search. Actually, Yale University is my first choice for a PhD program in anthropology.


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