For more than three decades, UT’s Japanese program has been enhancing students’ understanding of Japanese language and culture and the country’s strong political, economic, and cultural ties with the United States.
The program, housed in the Department of Modern and Foreign Languages and Literatures (MFLL), consists of a minor in Japanese language and culture as well as a major in language and world business with a concentration in Japanese. Minors and majors in these fields are led by Noriko Horiguchi, associate professor of Japanese and chair of both the Japanese and Asian Studies programs. She has been with the university since 2003.
Horiguchi—who teaches Japanese language, literature, film, and cultural history classes—is also the driving force behind Japan’s Consul-General Hiroyuki Kobayashi’s campus visit this week.
Kobayashi will give a free public lecture on US–Japan relations at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 5, in UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
“With the Asia initiatives launching at UT, there is so much potential here for our university to provide learning and research programs to prepare students to speak the language of global business, politics, and culture—and to provide opportunities for students to cultivate relations, activities, and careers in Japan and other Asian nations,” Horiguchi said.
Gretchen Neisler, vice provost for international affairs, agrees: “This lecture is a unique opportunity for our campus community to listen and learn from these private sector entities about what critical skills and knowledge our students and graduates should possess when they join the workplace. It illustrates the value of creating an Asian platform that connects the dots between academics, research, study abroad, and other university efforts.”
Horiguchi said nearly 450 students take Japanese-related courses over the fall and spring semesters.
“Many students in Tennessee grow up with knowledge and interest in the Japanese language and culture, and we are expanding on this interest through a wide range of classes that help students learn various aspects of Japan’s past and present,” she said. “Currently the Japanese concentration has the second-largest enrollment behind Spanish among the language and world business majors in MFLL.”
Professors from a number of departments across the UT campus provide classes in Japanese history, politics, religion, art history, architecture, and geography.
Many alumni of the program decide to participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, where they teach primary, middle, or high school students for one to five years. Through the program, UT sends more alumni to Japan than any other Tennessee institution.
The ties between Japan and the state of Tennessee extend beyond the classroom. The current US ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, is a businessman from Tennessee. UT alumnus Senator Howard Baker served as ambassador from 2001 to 2005.
Economically, Japan has invested nearly $17 billion in Tennessee—making it the top-investing foreign country in the state, according to Tennessee Economic and Community Development. The 193 Japanese-owned companies operating in Tennessee, which include Nissan, Bridgestone, and Denso, employ more than 52,000 people across the automotive, manufacturing, transportation, and energy sectors. Overall, 305,000 jobs have been created as a direct result of Japanese industry in the state.
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