Ten students participated (of which 4 were Japanese and 6 were international students).
The students broke up into two groups and conducted local surveys in the Arawa district of Yuwa, Akita City, Akita.
1. Survey preparation
The students created the problem map of the Arawa district based on the information from the 2013 course report and learned relevant facts ahead of the surveys.
2. First field work: Workshop
The workshop was held in the Arawa district on April 27th, 2014. After listening to a lecture on Arawa offered by the local residents and exchanging thoughts and ideas with them, the students decided what the project would be. The project, being defined by the students based on the information from the workshop, will take the form of action research, through which the students will study cases where the local traditional culture is preserved and examine the roles of the local residents and external parties in regional development based on those cases.
3. Theory and case studies
The students gave presentations and held discussions on the assigned documents that covered basic theories and cases related to the rural societies of Japan and Akita Prefecture.
4. Second fieldwork: Survey
Fieldwork was conducted in the Arawa district on May 24th and 25th, 2014. The students spent the two days learning about the history and current state of Arawa. An article covering this fieldwork was published in the May 27th, 2014 edition of the Akita Sakigake Shimpo.
(1) Walk around Arawa
While comparing the maps of the Arawa district from different eras, the students learned about the changes that took place in the region as well as its current circumstances. Four Arawa residents kindly volunteered to serve as guides and shared memories of their childhood with us.
(2) Learning about Arawa Shrine
The chief priest of the shrine explained how to pray at a Shinto shrine and taught us about the history of Arawa Shrine. The students asked questions on a variety of topics ranging from the status of the shrine in the local community to its operational challenges.
(1) Key informant interviews
The students divided into several groups and conducted interviews with the Neighborhood Association officers and members of the elderly club, late middle-aged club, and young persons’ association.
(2) Learning about the Bonten dedication ceremony
The members of the young persons’ association provided us with an overview of the dedication ceremony for the Bonten deity. The students also practiced the Bonten song and the combative-style dedication ceremony for Bonten under the supervision of the young persons’ association.
5. Data sorting and mid-term presentation session
The students delivered group presentations on the status of their learning, based on the information obtained from the fieldwork and in-class discussions so far. The students and instructors also had discussions with emphasis on the methodology and scope of the action research to be conducted at the Arawa Shrine festival next week.
6. Third field work: Action research
The fieldwork was conducted on June 28th and 29th, 2014.
(1) Arawa Shrine festival and Bonten dedication ceremony
In addition to the students who are enrolled in the course, 10 additional AIU students participated in the Arawa Shrine festival and the dedication ceremony for the Bonten deity at the request of the local residents on June 28th. The students who are taking the course took charge of recruiting the additional students, running the pre-event orientation session and serving as guides on the day of the event.
(2) Questionnaire survey
The students conducted questionnaire surveys and interviews of the local residents and event participants during the festival and on June 29th.
(3) Video shooting
The students shot the videos of the Arawa Shrine festival and the interviews being conducted with the local residents and event participants. The videos will be edited and used by the students at the briefing session on the outcome of the course.
(1) Key informant interview
Members of the Arawa Neighborhood Association, Young Persons’ Association and students exchanged opinions and thoughts on the action research that was conducted at the Arawa Shrine festival on the previous day.
7. Data analysis and preparation for presentation
The students analyzed data in groups while checking on the field notes submitted after the fieldwork and made preparations for the upcoming briefing session on the outcome of the course.
8. Briefing session on the course outcome
The students delivered the presentations on the outcome of their learning to the local residents who attended the event at Arawa Community Hall on July 19th, 2014. After the student-made PR video for Arawa was shown to the audience, the students delivered group presentations and exchanged opinions and thoughts with the local residents, after which the instructors gave closing commentaries.