A generation ago, families' needs were secondary to workplace demands for Japanese men who aspired to the "corporate warrior" ideal. Today, nonprofit organizations in Japan are working to change the idea that housework and raising children are a mother's responsibility.
My PhD research in cultural anthropology investigates how Japanese grassroots activists are promoting greater gender equality in the household and workplace by encouraging changes in parenting culture and practices. Japanese nonprofit organizations focused on fathering are creating communities of like-minded individuals through workshops and seminars for parents, but particularly for men who are unable to look to their own fathers as examples of how to relate intimately to their families. A generation ago, families' needs were secondary to workplace demands for Japanese men who aspired to the "corporate warrior" ideal. Today, nonprofit organizations in Japan are working to change the idea that housework and raising children are a mother's responsibility; they are distancing masculinity from employment by spreading the message that fathering is an irreplaceable and enjoyable experience, by attempting to improve the lives of women in the workplace and in the home, by advocating against the excessive overtime that keeps employees at their jobs, and by teaching bosses to be sympathetic to their subordinates' needs.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
Public Scholars go beyond answering the "so what?" question about their research by embracing their findings' potential to create positive social changes that improve people's quality of life. Rethinking what it means to be academics, public scholars seek to make their ideas accessible to a wide audience—particularly to those groups whom their research affects.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
The PSI provides the knowledge and skills necessary for researchers to translate academic theory into practice and to exchange ideas with people outside academia, including the general public, the media, and policymakers. Many graduate students have become accustomed to speaking at scholarly conferences, but at times we forget that our topics might interest other audiences. The PSI helps us to communicate our findings and, consequently, to make the PhD experience relevant to wider society.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
Increasingly, organizations and agencies that fund research are calling upon universities and their scholars to justify their research's relevance to wider society, so I hope that my PhD studies combined with my participation in the PSI program will equip me with the experiences and skills necessary to create collaborations between academic and nonacademic groups to address important social issues.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
My work already involves engagement with nonprofit and local community organizations; nevertheless, through the PSI, I hope to expand the scope of this cooperation to communicate information about family dynamics in Japan to the Japanese public and to interested audiences elsewhere.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I have always had a passion for learning about cultural practices and value systems, and my undergraduate studies in anthropology and in philosophy enhanced this passion. After earning my bachelor's degree, I worked as a research assistant for a University of California soil scientist who allowed me to spearhead the creation of a web application providing recommendations about irrigation and fertilization practices that encourage sustainable farming. This experience was my first taste of real research, and it made me realize that a graduate degree would allow me to pursue projects related to my questions about human diversity.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
UBC has a renowned anthropology department, strong ties to East Asia, and outstanding scholars of Japan with whom I hoped to work. In addition, I knew that UBC would give me the opportunity to interact regularly with people from many different countries and academic disciplines.
Public Scholars go beyond answering the "so what?" question about their research by embracing their findings' potential to create positive social changes that improve people's quality of life.