Professor teaches American culture in Japan

A prestigious award was sent to a Northern Kentucky University professor to teach in Japan. Dr. Michael Washington, director of Afro-American studies, applied for and won a Fulbright Fellowship Award.

Applicants could choose one of three places they wanted to go and provide their services. Washington’s first choice was to go to Japan and lecture at two universities. He replied that he had accepted the award and went to lecture in Japan the fall semester of 2001-02.

After winning the award Washington said, “I was elated.”

Washington taught at Tokyo Woman Christ University, also know as Tokyo Joshi Daiagaku. He lectured under the British and United States Department. He taught two classes; African American History and African American Culture. He taught all of his classes in the English language.

Washington also taught at Kyoritsu Woman University, also know as Kyoritsu Joshi Daiagaku. He lectured in the International division of the college. Here he taught in an African American Culture class. Washington’s son, Junior, sent the class some contemporary rap music to listen to.

Washington was the first African American to teach at both universities. He said that his students were fascinated by the experience and they really enjoyed the class.

“I learned a lot about the Japanese University system,” Washington said. “It is very difficult to get into college in Japan.”

Washington said that once you are in college it is not considered to be as difficult as college in the United States. Japanese students are only in class one day a week. Classes last 90 minutes and one student may take up to 15 classes. The average student usually takes 10 classes, Washington said. Students have to take these classes all year.

Washington was only with the class one semester but the class will continue all year. The universities receive four Albright professors during the year.

Washington was one of out the four professors who taught those classes.

Washington also traveled throughout Japan to lecture at other universities. He lectured at the Japan Women’s University, Hitotsubashi University and Ivanzan University, which is a Catholic university. He was also hosted,along with four other Fulbright winners, at The U.S. Embassy in Japan. The host was the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Howard Baker. Washington showed a documentary he produced. The title of the documentary was, “We are all citizens of the world.” This film was about how Black people are represented in the media and in popular and contemporary culture in Japan.

Washington was invited by the Embassy to speak at several universities in Thailand, but was unable to because he had to come back and teach at NKU.

Of his experience, Washington said, “I have great admiration for the Japanese culture, the Japanese process of education, and the high expectations that the students have for learning and their strong work ethic. Also I have profound appreciation how receptive the students were despite the negative stereotypes they may previously held because how the media protrudes of blacks.”