Education About Asia

(culture, history, art, marriage, etc...)

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Feature Article

Entry into China and Market Intelligence: Machine Tool Exporters as a Case Study in Human Geography

By Dawn M. Drake and Ronald Kalafsky This article presents the case study method as a pedagogical tool to study the geography and economics of Asia in middle school and high school classrooms, as well as in undergraduate courses, using the case of United States machine tool manufacturers in China. The case study method is generally associated with undergraduate and graduate business courses, although it is utilized in many disciplines and increasingly at various education levels. Case studies...

Feature Article

Democracy in Japan: Foreign Stimuli and Domestic Leadership

By Thomas W. Burkman In 1860, a few years after Commodore Perry forced open the doors of Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent the first Japanese official mission to California. A member of the entourage asked his San Francisco hosts where the descendents of George Washington were living. He was shocked to find that the Americans had no clue. The Japanese could not fathom that the family of the nation’s founder had faded from public view. The Tokugawa Legacy In traditional Japan, the com...

Feature Article

Asia’s Turtle Crisis and Conservation: Environmental Education and Cultural Geography

By Bradley R. Reynolds and Thomas P. Wilson Turtles are heavily exploited in Asia, not only for the pet trade, but also as a food source and for use in traditional Asian folk medicines. Along with habitat destruction, increased urbanization, and pollution, such over-exploitation is driving what conservationists are calling the Asian turtle crisis, a precipitous decline in Asian turtle populations. Currently, over half of Asia’s ninety turtle species are classified as endangered or critically ...

Feature Article

Dean Worcester’s Photographs and American Perceptions of the Philippines

When the US acquired its overseas colonies in the aftermath of the Spanish American War, photography quickly established itself as part of the colonial project. Photographs in magazines and newspapers brought the war home to American readers. Postcards and stereographs were popular consumer objects. Illustrated travel books, detailing the landscapes and peoples of the new colonies, were bestsellers. Photographs could provide visual evidence of the supposedly backward state of the colonies, whic...

Feature Article

Ambassadors of Exchange: The 1860 Japanese Mission to the US

The 1860 expedition of the first Japanese ambassadorial delegation to the US presents instructional opportunities useful in a variety of courses. The 150th anniversary in 2010 of this official establishment of trade relations between the two countries supplemented the already-rich array of primary and secondary resources by adding a proliferation of new documents and websites. While the official purpose of the mission was to ratify the 1858 Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the Japanese entourage be...

Feature Article

Back in Time: Pictures Worth More than 1,000 Words

These photographs of Northeast Asia from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries give people today a window on the economic, environmental, and geopolitical context of the time. This essay introduces some of the early photographs from Japan, Korea, and adjacent lands—scenes that families in the US viewed with the aid of the right-eye, left-eye lenses of the viewstand, or stereograph, so they could enjoy a vivid 3-D experience—to learn about lands that were then unknown to them. ...

Feature Article

America and the Philippines: Modern Civilization and City Planning

The Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines on May 1, 1898, fundamentally changed the course of American history and America’s relationship with Southeast Asia. In the ensuing months, Spanish colonialism in the Philippines collapsed and was replaced by American sovereignty. As an upshot of this transition, the United States changed from being a republic based on the consent of the governed to, for the first time, being a ruler of a distant territory. Notably, too, its self-perception altered. ...

Feature Article

Spheres of Transaction in Thai Buddhism

If the diversity of religious experience and expression share anything, it is that they are both transactional: one offers something in order to receive something. Actions of sacrifice, prayer, devotional study, and even service are ultimately seeking a balance of some kind between self and other. But, while transaction in itself is universal, the manner in which transactions are carried out is particular, in that it is necessarily determined by a cultural context. Each one shapes the other: whe...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Will Japan Change?

Is Japan once again changing? Unlike 1868, when the newly empowered Meiji emperor moved to Tokyo to preside over a series of dramatic changes that became more generally known as the Meiji Restoration, or 1945, when the Allied Occupation allied with relatively progressive Japanese to create a new constitution and institute a set of major reforms, Japan has yet to see a truly dramatic leader or many public protests. Yet a less dramatic series of political, economic, and social developments, combin...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Democracy in Action in Japan’s Foreign and Security Policymaking

One stubborn belief common in other developed democracies is that the Japanese electorate is somehow passive or unengaged. Moreover, the belief that in Japan important political decisions are made by unelected bureaucrats against the wishes of elected politicians or the electorate at large has stuck in the minds of many, propagated by the oft-repeated dictum that Japan is a place where “politicians reign but bureaucrats rule.” (note 1) In the area of foreign and security policy, however, the...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Notions of Rights in the United States and Japan

COMPETING CONCEPTIONS OF RIGHTS Japan and the United States share some of the institutional infrastructure for “rights” such as written constitutions and independent judiciaries. Both countries are liberal democracies, and the US played a key role in remaking Japan’s institutions after World War II. Still, what the term “rights” means differs in the two countries. Japan has inherited competing conceptions of rights from the West at different points in its history. The concept of right...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Grassroots Democracy and Civil Society in Japan

The way that civil society connects to and supports democracy in Japan differs in important ways from what we find in the United States. Of course, the fundamental logic of the connection is essentially the same—in both countries, civil society groups support democracy and governance through providing services, ideas, and generating connections among citizens. However, the patterns or configurations of civil society in the two countries are quite distinct, and as a result, we find important di...

Feature Article, Focus on Japanese Democracy: Part 2

Democratic Japan: The Rise of Local Women Politicians

It’s a muggy August evening in 2010, and I am enjoying dinner and conversation in a Ginza sushi bar with local politician Kyoko Nakamura (a pseudonym), a woman from one of Tokyo’s twenty-three ward assemblies. Ms. Nakamura is nearing the end of her first term. After initially losing her challenge for a seat on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government council a business partner encouraged Nakamura to run for the ward assembly as an independent “pinch hitter” when a Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ...

Feature Article

The Politics of the Thai Table: Food, Manners, Values

Many readers have probably wandered into a Thai restaurant somewhere in North America or Western Europe, ordered a plate of pad thai, and scooped it up with a fork held in the right hand. (note 1) They have probably viewed the offerings on the menu somewhat nervously and then perhaps tried a few other dishes—as long as they were not too spicy. Mouths on fire, they have ended the meal with a comforting Thai dessert, often mango and sticky rice or a sweet pudding, and washed the whole thing down...

Feature Article

Making Sense of Vietnamese Cuisine

“Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you who you are.” (Brillat-Savarine, a French gastronome) We live in an exciting culinary era. Food is not only extremely abundant in the West, but also more varied than ever before. Any Western metropolis features a huge array of ethnic restaurants from all corners of the earth, while the presence of Italian, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, or Thai restaurants in most American towns is almost taken for granted. Chinese food is so common in A...

Feature Article

Exploring Indian Culture through Food

Food and Identity Food (Sanskrit— bhojana,“that which is to be enjoyed,” Hindi— khana, Tamil— shapad) presents a way to understand everyday Indian culture as well as the complexities of identity and interaction with other parts of the world that are both veiled and visible. In India today,with a growing economy due to liberalization and more consumption than ever in middle class life, food as something to be enjoyed and as part of Indian culture is a popular topic. From a 1960s food e...

Feature Article

Globalizing Asian Cuisines: From Eating for Strength to Culinary Cosmopolitanism —A Long History of Culinary Globalization

Visit a restaurant or home kitchen in America or Europe today, and you inevitably find a salt and pepper shaker on the table or by the stove. While salt is a physiological necessity for human beings, pepper is a culinary necessity with negligible nutritional value. Its origins as a cultural necessity for Western peoples lie in very ancient patterns of culinary globalization. In 30 BCE Rome, under Octavian, conquered the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt. For the next five centuries, annual fleets of ov...

Feature Article

Culinary Controversies: Shark Fin Soup and Sea Creatures in the Asian Studies Curriculum

In 2010, scuba diver Phil Tobin came across a shark carcass lying on the Ambon Harbor (Indonesia) ocean floor. The captured shark’s highly valued fins, the key ingredient in shark fin soup, had been sliced off by its captors; the less valuable and more cumbersome body had been thrown back into the ocean. Without fins the shark, unable to swim, had sunk and starved to death. This shark was one of millions de-finned each year in order to satisfy the appetites of predominately Chinese consumers. ...

Feature Article

North Korea’s 1990s Famine in Historical Perspective

North Korea suffered from a horrific famine in the mid and late 1990s. The immediate cause of the North Korean famine was the widespread flooding in August 1995 that destroyed much of the nation’s rice crop. The summer monsoon rains that come each year were especially heavy. Starting on June 26, it rained for ten days, dumping as much as twenty-three inches on parts of the country. Satellite photos suggest that a quarter of the nation’s rice paddies were under water. (note 1) The dimensions ...

Feature Article

Pizza In Japan

As a lover of onsen (hot springs), I often frequented them during my five-year sojourn in Japan. Once, I went to Lake Kawaguchi to enjoy the onsen and the view of Mount Fuji. Arriving in time for lunch, I asked the hotel receptionist for food suggestions. It must have been because I am Italian, or perhaps because the hotel could just sense I was researching Japanese pizza, that rather than recommending a noodle shop, she suggested the pizza at the Mt. Fuji Smoke House, which was located in a nea...