Sekaikan: How understanding worldview helps make sense of a complicated maze of Japanese customs, culture and language

Recently we had the fifth event in the Cardiff-Japanese Lecture Series. This time the presenter was Anne Crescini, who is based at the University of Kitakyushu – Cardiff’s Japanese programme’s longest exchange partner.

It is said that many learners of Japanese as a second language often find themselves overwhelmed by a confusing web of polite language, vagueness and set phrases, none of which are prevalent in the English language. However, such confusion can be mitigated by grasping the key cultural concepts and the underlying worldview from which these language patterns are born. This lecture addressed the importance of not only studying the Japanese language, but also the culture, values, and worldview of the people. Personal stories and episodes from the speakers’ life were used to show how finally grasping the Japanese worldview transformed their language study, my work, and entire life.

Crescini pointed out that Japanese cannot be studied in a vacuum, and it is impossible to completely understand it without seeking to understand the values and concepts that shape the people who use it.

Anne Crescini is Associate Professor at the University of Kitakyushu Faculty of Environmental Engineering in Japan, where she teaches language and intercultural communication. Her research interests include loanwords in Japanese, Japanese English and second language acquisition. She has lived in Japan for 21 years and is actively engaged in a variety of activities within TV, radio, newspapers, and other mass media in Japan. She has also been appointed as Ambassador to Munakata-city in Fukuoka prefecture in Japan. She has published books and articles on loanwords in Japan, Japanese English from various Japanese major publishing companies.

Here is a link to the recording of the webinar:

As autoethnography is a part of my research on ‘visual packaging culture‘ and also my book Frankie Fans Say, I found the lecture helpful in getting me to think about how this aspect of bringing your own experiences into research, teaching, and learning is done. The title of the lecture also brought a smile to my face – for when I hear ‘sekaikan’ it makes me think of the term ‘sekaijin’ – literally a ‘person of the world’ or ‘world citizen’, a term which I take to mean not being concerned about your own national identity. Ironically, this is what appears on the ‘passport’ of Mickey Mouse at the entrance of Tokyo Disneyland and it’s questionable about how much he would really be a ‘sekaijin’ rather than American. But issues of identity and nationalism are perhaps best left for other posts (e.g. National Identity – Reflecting on the Census and Mixing Sport, Military, and Nationalism).

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