June 19, 2012 — The Asia Institute at the University of Virginia is one of five institutions nationwide named to participate in the Japan Outreach Initiative, a program that will place a Japanese outreach coordinator at the institute for the next two years.
Haruko Yuda of Kanagawa, Japan, will arrive in Charlottesville at the end of July. She'll spend two years working under the auspices of the Asia Institute to increase knowledge of Japanese language, history and culture through visits to area schools and community groups, said Rachel Stauffer, the institute's outreach director.
"She will go into classrooms and community venues to talk about Japanese culture and language," Stauffer said. "Haruko has expertise in origami and calligraphy, and is very knowledgeable about the Japanese school system. She's interested in finding out how it is different from American schools."
The program is sponsored by the Laurasian Institution and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, which cover nearly all of the costs associated with Yuda's visit and mission, Stauffer said. U.Va. is among four universities and one nonprofit selected to participate this year.
Via email, Yuda said the details of her work aren't yet set, and that she's preparing outreach materials.
"With these I would be able to introduce some parts of Japanese traditional culture as well as today's Japanese society," Yuda said. "I believe my main focus in Charlottesville is to get as many Virginians as possible interested in Japan. I will be exploring a lot to discover what point is attractive for people in Virginia, and try to find opportunities to provide as much information and activities as possible so that people can get to know Japan. I also want people know that we Japanese feel close to America these days, and I want people in Virginia feel close to Japan."
The program is a way to supplement the curricular offerings of schools that may not have the resources to spend much time on Japan and East Asia. Stauffer said she hopes the outreach efforts will be targeted toward rural and underserved areas.
Teachers or others interested in scheduling a visit from Yuda can email Stauffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yuda will also work with the teachers who developed winning lesson plans related to Japan through an Asia Institute workshop in February. The workshop, funded by a $5,000 grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, was the first step in a larger project that aims to create ready-made lesson plans about Japan that also meet Virginia's Standards of Learning.
– by Rob Seal