Iowa City Stories

February 18, 2010

Iowa City, the Japanese Perspective

Filed under: Local Profiles — TK @ 3:33 pm

By: Tonya K. Vrba

In order to become a professional Japanese teacher, Chie Muramatsu has traveled the ocean to come to the University of Iowa.  “Japan is no different from Iowa in the United States,” Muramatsu said.

Chie Muramatsu-san reflects fondly on her life in Iowa City

Muramastu grew up in the sister city of Des Moines, Iowa.  Des Moines is the sister city of Kofu, Japan, and 5 other cities around the world.  Kofu has been connected with Des Moines since 1958.

“I wanted to be a professional Japanese teacher,” said Muramatsu, “[but] back then, many universities didn’t have the program.”  Muramatsu is a graduate teaching assistant working with the Asian and Slavic Language and Literature.

Already knowing people from Iowa, she made the decision to come to the university and now dedicates all of her time to her studies.  She says, aside from the dominate languages, Iowa and Japan are not that different.

“People in Iowa generally don’t know about Japan,” said Muramatsu,  “You say “I’m from Japan” and they say, “you people ride bicycles everyday.”  This is a stereotype.  Muramatsu said it is because Japan is so far away, across an ocean even, that people expect to be so unusual.  Americans are also not as immersed in Asian media and food.

“If I stop by [a] gas station on the way to somewhere, those small kids know that I’m not from here,” she said, recalling an encounter with how foreigners are viewed in America, “They know I am from a foreign country, and they immediately start speaking Spanish to me.”

Muramatsu laughed.  She doesn’t believe she looks Hispanic at all.  It surprised her that it would just be assumed that being foreign meant you must speak Spanish.

Listen to Muramatsu-san’s encounter in the Gas Station

Muramatsu smiles and laughs when she speaks of her encounters with Americans.  She says she wishes she was able to get to know more American students.  “My stereotype of American people was very active, positive, [and] friendly,” said Muramatsu.  She became familiar with many international students, like herself, but not as many American students.

Drunk students are, however, often unavoidable on a college campus.  She said that it can be noisy and annoying.  This same culture is also found among the youth in Japan “I think even more,” Said Muramatsu.

Iowa has one more annoyance that even its residents, who have spent their whole lives here, admit can be annoying and sporadic, is Iowa weather.

“I never paid attention to weather in Japan because it was so minor,” said Muramastu.  Japan usually has four seasons, but Iowa only has summer and winter, she said.  Iowa temperatures often jump around and lack smooth transitions from season to season.

Muramatsu currently teaches 3rd Year Conversational Japanese under the course supervisor Ikuko P. Yuasa.

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