Activities in Spring Semester, 2013

Activities in Spring Semester 2013

Six 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. Workshop

A workshop was held between the students and the local residents at Arawa Community Hall on April 26th (Fri), 2013.

(1) Definition of the Tasks:
Students and local residents exchanging opinions at the workshop

Students and local residents exchanging opinions at the workshop

The following three course tasks were chosen from the common opinions of the students and the local residents. The local residents seemed to favor number 1, while number 2 was the popular choice among the students. In the end, the residents and students reached a conclusion that they should exchange opinions on number 3.

  1. Facilitate in-depth interaction between the local residents and the students.
  2. Understand the history and current state of the Arawa district.
  3. Survey the future of the Arawa district.
(2) Lecture on the History of Arawa:

Two persons who were Arawa residents gave us a lecture on the history of the district. In Arawa, there are a number of residents who are surveying the local history of Arawa and the students were able to learn the history of Arawa from those residents.

2. Study of Theories and Cases

Public policies on the environment, fundamental theories and cases pertaining to the farming communities of Japan and Akita Prefecture were learned through the student presentations on the assigned literatures and discussions.

3. Fieldwork Techniques

During the course of the fieldwork, the students gathered relevant information using techniques such as direct observation, community mapping, and semi-structured interviews. More specifically, the students were able to enhance their understanding of Arawa by participating in rice planting, other farming activities and participating in traditional events such as the Bonten Festival and interacting with people of various age groups. In addition, each group of students was given an assignment to interview one local resident on his or her family history, through which information on the social and environmental changes that had occurred in the local community was gathered. The students also learned how to prepare the questionnaire forms, create field notes and conduct interviews effectively.

4. Fieldwork
(1) May 18th (Sat), 2013: Farming experiences, community mapping
Farming experiences (fertilization, rice field preparation)

Farming experiences (fertilization, rice field preparation)

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Walk around Arawa guided by the local residents

(2) June 1st (Sat), 2013: Farming experiences (in collaboration with the community outreach operation of the University), interview surveys
Farming experiences (field marking, rice planting)

Farming experiences (field marking, rice planting)

1st interview session on the family history

1st interview session on the family history

(3) June 22nd (Sat), 2013: Guest speaker, interview surveys, bonten crafting
Lecture by Professor Takakura from Tohoku University

Lecture by Professor Takakura from Tohoku University

2nd interview session on family history

2nd interview session
on family history

Bonten crafting with the Young Persons’ Association

Bonten crafting with the Young Persons’ Association

(4) June 28th (Fri), 2013: Bonten Festival
Festival kick-off, the students, Arawa residents and Saitou members

Festival kick-off, the students, Arawa residents and Saitou members

The students and residents paraded in the streets of the district, chanting Joyasa!

The students and residents paraded in the streets of the district, chanting “Joyasa!”

Red and white rice cakes were thrown out for the crowd at the end of the festival

Red and white rice cakes were thrown out for the crowd at the end of the festival

The students, faculty and Arawa Young Persons’ Association just after the festival was over

The students, faculty and Arawa Young Persons’ Association just after the festival was over

5. Data Sorting

Data SortingAfter each session of the fieldwork, the students gathered in the classroom to sort the data and have discussions in order to grasp the current state of the Arawa district and to identify the issues. In the discussions, the students were able to draw various analytical perspectives from the assigned literatures to deepen their argument.

In addition, the international students from the U.S. and Japanese students who had experiences studying abroad made comparisons between Japan and the U.S., as well as other countries they had been to so as to discuss the uniqueness of Japan and also the characteristics that are common with other countries. Since the University is attended by Japanese students from all over the nation, those students compared the situation of Arawa to that of their hometowns to enhance their grasp on the issues at hand. After a discussion by the entire class was concluded, the students broke into three groups to determine their respective survey themes and examined ways to further improve their understanding of the current circumstances and identified possible solutions.

Briefing Session on the Project Results

The briefing session on the learning results and a social gathering were held at Arawa Community Hall on July 20th (Sat), 2013. The event was attended by 22 local residents, including the farming families who volunteered to become interviewees. The students gave presentations on the current situation of Arawa, the issues it was facing and the solutions to those issues, based on the themes of their respective surveys.

After the presentations were concluded, active exchange of opinions took place between the students and local residents. Many opinions were voiced by the local residents as follows: “I have rediscovered good things the district has after listening to the presentations that shed light on the attractions of Arawa from an outsider’s perspective.” “While some of the solutions suggested by the students may be difficult to implement for the insiders, their fresh perspectives are appreciated nevertheless.” “The most important thing is to steadily build the environment in which the people of Arawa can comfortably live in. As long as they are leading fulfilling lives, there is a chance that some outsiders may choose to join the community for it’s convenient place to live.”

After the briefing session was concluded, a social gathering was held for the students and local residents to better get to know each other.

Student presentation

Student presentation

Social gathering

Social gathering