Honors students head to Japan's northern-and southern-most prefectures

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Jennifer F Custodio, (808) 956-8391
Educational Specialist, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Posted: Mar 1, 2013

UHM Honors students and Professor Lonny Carlile
UHM Honors students and Professor Lonny Carlile

On March 3, twelve UH Mānoa Honors students and UH Mānoa Asian Studies associate professor Lonny Carlile will be heading to Japan’s northern- and southern-most prefectures to immerse themselves in the cultures, societies, and natural environments of Japan’s two indigenous minority populations.


The week-long excursion is part of an Honors seminar and a unique implementation of UH Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi, Pacific and Asian Studies (HAPS) General Education focus requirement that entails connecting the Native Hawaiian experience with counterpart experiences in Asia and the Pacific, made possible by a $32,500 special grant for course-connected field work offered by the Japan Foundation, New York, and $5,000 grant from the UH Mānoa Honors Program.


The group will be visiting a variety of Ainu-related sites in Japan’s northern-most main island. The culmination of the Hokkaido portion will be a visit to Nibutani, a predominantly Ainu village in south-central Hokkaido that was not only the home of Japan’s first Diet member of Ainu descent and key leader in the movement for Ainu rights, but also the site of a legal dispute over the damming of a traditional fishing area that resulted in the Japanese government’s legal recognition of Ainu indigenous rights.


Following this, the group will fly almost 2,000 miles to the south to Okinawa where they will work with scholars from the local Ryukyu University and visit a variety of historical and contemporary sites, including Shuri Castle, Battle of Okinawa memorials, and local performance venues that “represent” contemporary Okinawan culture to both tourist and local residents. Once home, the group will re-examine their discoveries in Japan in light of the experiences and outlooks of Native Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi with the aim of coming to an understanding of the ways in which similarities and differences in the historical experiences and contemporary situations of indigenous groups lead to commonalities and divergences in the status and identities of indigenous populations in the Asia-Pacific.