Activities in Fall Semester, 2013

Activities in Fall Semester 2013

Eleven student participants

The students broke up into three groups and conducted surveys on the changes that had been taking place in the local society and environment of the Arawa district in Yuwa, Akita City, Akita Prefecture.
The results of the surveys by the students and comments from the local residents of Arawa can be viewed in the reports.

Learning Process
1. Survey Method

The students learned how to gather and sort data using textbooks on the quality survey methodology.

2. 1st Session of Fieldwork
Scenes from the 1st session of the fieldwork

Scenes from the 1st session of the fieldwork

The 1st session of the fieldwork was conducted in the Arawa district on October 5th-6th, 2013. The students were able to discover about the history and current circumstances of Arawa over the course of the two days, and all groups decided on their respective survey theme.

Day One

(1) Information Exchange between Students and Local Residents:

The students and residents of the Arawa district introduced themselves to one another and subsequently exchanged their opinions on the course objectives, etc.

(2) Lecture on the History of Arawa:

In groups, the students discovered the history and current issues of the district from the residents of Arawa with the use of a chronological table.

(3) Yuwa Furusato Center:

The students viewed a number of local folk artifacts, such as farming and fishing equipment, easting and cooking utensils, daily clothes and farm work clothes, from which the lifestyle of Yuwa residents from bygone eras could be inferred. The students who picked up the textbooks used at an elementary school from the old education system recalled the textbooks they used and made comparisons between them with keen interest.

(4) Walk around the Arawa District:

The students took a walk around Daishoji Elementary School, Arawa Shrine, the local shopping street, Fumon-in Temple, etc.

(5) Data Sorting and Examination of the Survey Themes:

The students stayed at a cottage near Arawa for a night, sorted the gathered data and examined the survey themes in groups. At the cottage, the Japanese students were assigned as cooks and prepared curry rice and rice balls. The experience of living together also provided the students with extra learning opportunities.

Day Two

(1) Rice Harvesting Experience:

Rice reaping

Rice reaping

The rice which was planted by the students and local residents in Spring Semester was harvested. After the local residents provided the students with instructions on how to use a sickle and bind the harvested rice plants, the students and the residents jointly engaged in the harvesting work.

(2) Environmental Learning on the Omono River:

Environmental inspection of the Omono River

Environmental inspection of the Omono River

With the support of the NPO Akita Paddlers, students were able to learn about the aquatic environment of the Omono River as they floated down the river in canoes. Although the Awara district once flourished from the shipping businesses on the Omono River, the relationship between the local residents and the river has significantly changed ever since, due to industrial and lifestyle changes as well as the deterioration of the river’s water quality.

The hands-on experiences concerning the environmental change and solution for the Omono River allowed the students to understand the local environment of Arawa, which was a significantly valuable learning session.

3. Study of Theories and Cases

Fundamental theories and cases pertaining to the farming communities of Japan and Akita Prefecture were learned through student presentations on assigned literatures and discussions.

4. Mid-Term Presentation Session (Presentations on Survey Schedule and Questionnaire Items)

Through the 1st session of the fieldwork and subsequent discussions, the students decided on the themes of their surveys by groups. The respective themes were:

  1. The current status of agriculture in Arawa and its future outlook.
  2. The effects of closing Daishoji Elementary School on the Arawa district.
  3. The relations of Arawa Shrine and Bonten Festival between the local community.

The students prepared the questionnaire forms, selected the subjects of the surveys and requested cooperation from the subjects in groups. To prepare for the 2nd round of the survey, the students held a mid-term presentation session to announce the survey schedule and questionnaire items for each group to discuss what improvements, if any, could be made.

5. Preliminary Survey
Visiting the elementary school for the preliminary survey

Visiting the elementary school for the preliminary survey

To prepare for the 2nd session of the fieldwork, the students conducted preliminary surveys by interviewing concerned parties in groups and gathered basic information.

The agriculture group interviewed the staff of Yuwa Citizen Service Center, while the elementary school group interviewed the principal of Daishoji Elementary School, also participated in foreign language-based activities and conducted a questionnaire survey of the pupils. And the shrine group conducted an interview with the chief priest of the shrine.

6. 2nd Session of Fieldwork
Scenes from the 2nd session of the fieldwork

Scenes from the 2nd session of the fieldwork

The fieldwork was conducted in the Arawa district on November 16th-17th, 2013. The students performed interview surveys in groups over the course of the two days. Many people from the elderly club, late middle-aged club, women’s association, and young persons’ association supported the efforts.

The students also had the opportunity to see the pupils of Daishoji Elementary School perform Daishoji Okesa and Kayagasawa Bangaku traditional dances at a nearby shopping mall. In addition, as the local residents cooked kiritanpo chowder using new rice produced in Arawa, the international students cooked pasta dishes. We were also able to have a harvest festival of our own where the students and local residents socialized with each other.

7. Data Analysis and Preparation of the Presentations
Sorting data

Sorting data

At the conclusion of the fieldwork, the students submitted their field notes in which the content of the interviews, etc. had been recorded. For the in-class data analysis session, discussions were held using their respective field notes.

As the cultural and social background of the Japanese and international students varied, different thoughts and questions might arise when facing the same set of data. The students made comparisons between Arawa and their respective hometowns and also between Japan and the U.S. to increase their grasp on the survey themes.

Briefing Session on the Results
Presentation session

Presentation session

A presentation session on the learning results and a social gathering were held on December 8th, 2013. The residents of Arawa who volunteered to become the interviewees and University staff were in attendance.

The students gave their group presentations in English on their survey findings. The presentations included the current circumstances and issues of Arawa in regard to the survey themes as well as the future outlook and possible solutions to those issues. After the presentations were concluded, a social gathering was held at the University cafeteria for the students and local residents to better get to know each other.