Writing for JCMU

I drew from my own experiences in Japan as well as on student photos, online research, and common questions. Some are comedic and some are more serious. With each post, I tried to think about our audience: current students, prospective students, alumni, and community members. My goal was to provide something useful and interesting in addition to rounding out the Center’s social media presence.

I had the opportunity to work with my supervisor, JCMU’s Media Specialist, on some posts. I always sent them to him for review when I was done, but sometimes I had questions about how to find a certain photo in our folders or about a specific detail of the center I wanted to accurate on. We would often discuss tone, keeping in mind our diverse audience (which included Japanese speakers) and making sure to include them by making posts approachable and avoiding confusion.

You can read all of my posts here, and I’ve pulled out a few of my favorites to showcase. The first post I wrote is still one of my favorites, since it applies directly to students living at JCMU and suggests easy, nearby activities they can reach on foot or by bike. Some students are intimidated by train travel, or can’t afford the time and money it takes to go long distances. I wanted to help them enjoy themselves with this list of places I enjoyed going when I was a student at JCMU.

Sometimes you just want to have a public breakdown in a train station without some nice old man trying to make conversation with you.

From “How to Study Abroad When You’re Shy

Another favorite of mine is this satirical post about studying, which is meant to parody the way some people talk about Japanese customs as ultra-mysterious and archaic. Most of the “rules” I mention are totally made up or just common sense, and I had fun thinking of the next ridiculous situation I could pretend someone would want to study in. I also gave honest recommendations below each point, so that no one would leave the post seriously confused or wondering what was actually appropriate.

Finally, I was proud of how this post about studying abroad as an introvert turned out. It was deeply rooted in personal experience, and I wanted to let people like me know that they aren’t alone (unless they want to be, as is the point of the post!). I also felt that it was an under-represented face of study abroad, which is often represented as something for gregarious, outgoing people rather than something enjoyed by all kinds of students.I also had the opportunity to write posts from the perspective of JCMU’s mascot, a swan named Hiraku. That was always a fun chance to write in a specific voice and with a different tone, much more casual and fun than even my silliest normal posts. You can read my contributions here, here, and here.

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Manga: An Illustrated History

I took a class called History of the Book in Fall 2018, which taught printing and book construction history using examples from the MSU Library Rare Books and Special Collections. The final project was to choose a topic you were interested in and find a way to research it using the RBSC as primary sources, and then write a paper about its history. As a Japanese major, I naturally chose Japanese history.

MSU RBSC has a huge collection of comics and graphic novels, including some from Japan. I was thrilled to discover this as I’ve always enjoyed reading manga, and I thought that looking at the rise of the manga industry as a reflection of Japan’s postwar history would be fascinating. And it certainly was!

I loved researching this project, from finding old and obscure manga in the library catalogue, to studying said manga for provenance, to translating pieces of it, to doing secondary research and writing it all up. I was truly proud of the final product.

I wasn’t the only one who thought it was pretty cool—I won third place (tied) in the 2019 S. C. Lee Best Undergraduate Paper Contest.

Below is an excerpt:

Quote: There is a definite evolution in art style from the earlier stories to the later ones, and both are very different from current manga style. Works from the 40s and 50s, such as ​Sazae-san and ​Manga Daigaku, look a lot like Western cartoons. Sazae-san’s design, especially in the early years, brings to mind Olive Oyl from​ Popeye. They have similarly skinny arms and legs, short dark hair, and simplistic faces​. Some of the anthropomorphic animal characters in ​Daigaku resemble Mickey Mouse and other Disney properties. This makes sense, because although narrative art had existed in Japan for hundred of years, the genre that took shape in the postwar period drew heavily on American and European comics. Japanese comic artists were aware of foreign characters as early as the 1930s, as evidenced by an illustration published by the New Cartoon Faction Group called “A New Year’s Party for the World’s Most Popular Comic Characters.” Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, and Popeye are some of the properties pictured.

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Youkosou: Localization Editing

This work was done for Youkosou Online Japanese Lessons, a branch of Wownas Corporation in Higashiomi, Japan. The copy writer knew English only as a second language, and asked me to edit their copy and help it sound fluent to an English audience.

Since this was supposed to be advertisement, rather than a creative project, I edited quite heavily. This copy reflects an earlier stage of development than the final product, which you can see on Youkosou’s website. I was only briefly involved as this work was done through a short-term internship on my study abroad to Japan. 

However, I was still able to learn from the experience and gain skills in cross-cultural editing. For example, I saw that Japanese advertisement often employs the volitional form, as in “let’s learn together,” whereas in English, the imperative “learn now” is more common. To preserve the feeling of a Japanese organization, I might leave the volitional, but to blend in with other English copy, I would recommend the imperative. I bring these observations and others with me as an international editor.

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My Japan Blog

I studied abroad in Japan at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities during the 2017-18 academic year, a total of eight months. While I was there, I kept a blog detailing my experiences as a window into life abroad for my family, friends, and prospective JCMU students.

I wanted to shed a light on some of the things I’d always wondered about when it came to living in Japan. How do you cook in a Japanese kitchen? Can you travel on your own? What’s the deal with those hot spring monkeys? The posts are gently humorous and deal honestly with the challenges and rewards of study abroad.

I built the site on WordPress, using a theme pretty far removed from anything I’d done before. This was my first attempt at writing a blog, and I wanted it to be colorful, fun, and lighthearted. I learned a lot about post formatting, working with the limits of themes, and keeping a consistent schedule. But mostly, I enjoyed having a outlet to talk about my life.

You can read the entire blog here.

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Tokyo Journal

I worked as a part-time copyediting intern for the Tokyo Journal for about four months, and performed line edits and fact checks on Word documents and PDFs. Although the internship was completely remote, I met daily and weekly deadlines, corresponded with my supervisor, and occasionally collaborated with other editors on the same piece. During my time there I was involved in many stages of the production of one complete issue. Below is a spread that I proofread with comments on an Adobe PDF file.

I reviewed several articles each week, sometimes three or four a day with a 24-hour turnaround. Below is an example of the kind of comments I would make using Microsoft Word’s Track Changes:

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