IUC series (final!): Former students – Where are they now?

Thus far we’ve talked quite a bit about attending the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies—whether or not it’s the right time for you, how to fund your stay, what sort of housing to get (homestay, IUC sponsored housing like Star Heights and Toriumi Haimu, your own apartment), and what the coursework is like for the summer and 10 month programs. But just as important is something that speaks to the very purpose of this blog: Where are these students now? What are former IUC students doing with their Japanese? What kind of success have they achieved using their Japanese skills? Here we’ll highlight some of the things IUC graduates have done with Japanese in their careers by posting their own testimonials! The IUC has been around since 1963, and we had an incredible number of responses from as early as 1967, so we’ll put the submissions up chronologically here! Enjoy!

Carl Taeusch

IUC class of 1967, during undergrad years. Subsequently got a PhD in Japanese Literature at Michigan and taught J Language, Literature and “culture” at U. of Rochester for 4 years. Then turned to law, and after law school worked on Wall Street with Japanese clients; then took jobs in the pharmaceutical industry as law and policy specialist. Spent about 17 years of 24 year legal and lobbying career with US companies in Japan. Kept up with Japanese theater while in Japan and joined Yuto no Kai (Ishida Yukio) Kyogen group, performing plays annually for 15 years. Now retired from pharmaceutical industry and living in New York, I spend a fair amount of time supporting Japan Society as docent for the gallery and reading Japanese literature and history. Separately have done some introductory Kyogen skits for elementary after-school programs in NY neighborhoods.

Juliet Carpenter

IUC class of 69-70. I have lived in Japan continuously since 1975, am professor of English at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto and have translated upwards of 50 books, a fact which still startles me! I teach writing and translating classes at DWC, along with two classes on Kyoto–one in literature, one on being an English guide. I am currently working on translations of Shiba Ryotaro’s Saka no ue no kumo, Mizumura Minae’s Honkaku Shosetsu, various books on Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, a haiku project, and a history of our college and the early involvement of American missionaries in its founding. I am licensed to teach koto and shamisen.

Ron Loftus

I was in the 1970-1971 IUC class.  Some of my classmates included the likes of Sam Yamashita, Mark Morris, Richard Okada, Bob Leutner, Roger Bowen, Jim Wagner, the late Charles Mergentime, Elizabeth ten Gotenhaus, Ted Fowler and Mike Yoshitsu to name just a few.  I was in a Ph.D. program at the time in modern Japanese history which I completed in 1975.  Peter Duus was my thesis adviser and I worked with Kano Masanao and Nishida Masaru here in Japan.  Jobs were a bit scarce when I finished the Ph.D., but I was fortunate to get a Fulbright post-doc that assigned one to the now defunct Japan Interpreter where I was mentored by the late Kano Tsutomu in the craft of translation.  I was able to get a teaching career going in the US after that post-doc year in Japan and am now at Willamette University, a small liberal arts college in Salem, Oregon, where I teach history, language, literature and film. Jack of many trades, master of none. I published a study of modern Japanese women’s autobiographies and memoirs, Telling Lives (University of Hawaii Press, 2004) which I am proud to say won the Kanner Prize for the best book on women’s autobiography in 2006 awarded by the Western Association of Women Historians.  It dealt with women who wrote about their experiences in the inter-war years.  I am currently revising the manuscript for the sequel, Changing Lives, which should appear sometime next year.  It will deal with women’s rememberances of the postwar years.  I currently chair a Program in Asian Studies and Direct a Center for Asian Studies at Willamette, and though I am getting near the end of my teaching career, I expect to remain active and engaged for at least another 4-5 years.

Lora Sharnoff

After studying at the IUC ’70-71, I returned to Columbia University, where I earned my MA in Japanese literature and completed all courses and exams for the Ph.D., which I did not finish although given a Fulbright Fellowship to work on it in Japan.  The reasons are many, but the most prominent ones concern poor health and being in a car accident.  I stayed in Japan while undergoing rehabilitation and then waiting to receive my compensation from the side that caused the accident, and in the meantime started working at NHK’s overseas radio service and also as a freelance translator/writer.  I met the man who became my husband a month after I received the compensation for the accident.  I more recently worked for 15 years as a translator for the administration of the University ofTokyo–a post I held concurrently for seven years with a similar position at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.  I was also a columnist for over 20 years with  the “Tokyo Weekender,” a journal that was established just before I started my year at the Center. I am now completely freelance.

Earl Kinmonth

IUC 71-72. After “retiring” from the University of Sheffield, I moved to Japan and have been teaching sociology and the sociology of education at Taisho University in Tokyo since 1999 in Japanese plus courses on Japanese history at Keio and Waseda taught in English.

Joan Winstein

I’m a ’72 IUC grad. I got an M.A. in Japanese from U of Chicago, then entered (international) banking – and retired in 2005. Now, I’m the executor of the Peter F. Drucker Literary Trust (the #1 best selling book in Japan last year was about Drucker, called “Moshi dora”) so I still deal with Japan quite a bit.

John O’Donnell

I was class of 1975, and took a lot of guff at the time because of my interest in (a) proceeding to business school (as opposed to a “real academic career”), and (b) popular Japanese culture (as opposed to “something worthwhile”). I’m happy to say that the publishing company my Japanese wife and I established, Central Park Media Corporation, sold over a quarter billion dollars of anime and manga in the US during the 20 years we ran the company. We started it in late 1989, and closed it in early 2009.  Its publishing labels included US Manga Corps, Be Beautiful, Binary Media Works, and others. I guess I didn’t waste my time at the IUC after all!  🙂

Our company is Venture Group International, which acts as a consulting firm to help US companies enter the Japanese market, and Japanese companies enter the US markets.  Depending on the situation, we sometimes invest in the companies we launch, so we also act as private venture capitalists.

We spent the last two years launching the North American subsidiary for a Japanese small wind turbine manufacturer.  We did the initial US market entry business planning, worked with Tokyo to arrange a $12 million financing from outside investors, located an appropriate geographic location to serve as Western Hemisphere operational headquarters, leased office space, hired local staff, built out the accounting / computer / telecommunications / technical support and training infrastructures, set up the initial dealer and distributor network, and got working visas for the Japanese staff who will run the company in the future.  The parent company in Tokyo is Zephyr Corporation, and the subsidiary is named American Zephyr Corporation, located in Louisville, CO (in Boulder County, north of Denver). We have recently completed the hand-off to the Japanese execs for whom we obtained working visas, so our company’s involvement in this project is now complete.

 Gerry Yokota

IUC ’78-’79. Professor of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies at Osaka U. PhD from Princeton on the representation of women in Noh (published by Osaka UP in 1992 as The Formation of the Canon of Noh: The Literary Tradition of Divine Authority). Edited the English translation of Gender and Japanese History (Japanese editors Wakita Haruko, Ueno Chizuko, Anne Bouchy). Now P.I. of a 4-year JSPS team project called Rhetorical Literacy, looking at what happens to metaphors in J-E/E-J translations.

Jon Tak

Since my time at IUC (83-84) I have used my Japanese continuously in a number of corporate roles including Magna International (Canada’s largest autoparts company) and Mitsubishi Corporation (Japan’s largest trading company). For five years I managed the Province of British Columbia’s trade and investment office in Tokyo. Since mid-2005, I have been the President of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. In this role, I visit Japan twice a year and continue to use my Japanese (spoken and reading) to help accelerate commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. More than, 10,000 Japanese homes are now powered by stationary fuel cell power systems.

Steve Pollock

Class of ’84. I’ve returned to the field relatively recently.  I went to IUC as an undergrad and then worked for Mitsubishi Intl. Corp. in NY for 6 years after graduation.  I left MIC to attend business school and ended up co-founding a company called WetFeet.  We provided tools and information for job seekers, as well as recruiting software and consulting services to large employers.  However, our business had nothing to do w/ Japan.  We sold the company in 2007, at which point I decided to revisit my Japan interests.  I now have a business consulting practice called Turnstone Ventures focused on US-Japan business.  Here’s a link to my website:  www.turnstoneventures.com   I tend to work mostly with Japanese companies doing business in the US, especially in the technology/new media industries.  I also write a monthly or so column for the Nikkei Weekly http://turnstoneventures.com/resources.html

Martin Hood

IUC 1986/87. I returned to an international bank in London after the course and was duly posted to Tokyo to help pick up the smithereens after the 1990 crash. Six years of finance and mountaineering in Japan ensued, followed by a transfer to a Swiss bank and then Switzerland. Now I work for an international organization in Basel. I have not used the Japanese language professionally since about 1995 but, to keep up kanji skills, I have recently translated Fukada Kyuya’s “Nihon Hyakumeizan” as “One Hundred Mountains of Japan”. As the title implies, this is a collection of rather stylish literary essays on selected Japanese mountains. The translation is now under consideration by a university press. The timing seems to be right – a number of English-language blogs about the One Hundred Mountains have appeared recently. It’s getting difficult to find a niche of Japanese culture that hasn’t succumbed to the infamous “kokusaika”… Well, there goes the kinjo, I guess.

Brad Goldberg

IUC 91-92. Worked in Japan for a year after the center and then returned to the US. Since then about 20 years of using Japanese opportunistically – 2 years in mgmt consulting, for my summer internship at business school, and then over 12 years at Microsoft working with our Japanese sub. 2 years ago I moved to a US based investment firm with no operations in Japan so currently not using professionally. Who knows what will happen down the road again.

Trevor Corson

IUC ’92-’93. I am, as far as I know, the only “Sushi Concierge” in the United States (perhaps in Japan as well). I work with a Michelin-starred Japanese master sushi chef in New York City to create historically authentic Tokyo-style sushi tasting menus from the past, and I talk New Yorkers through the meals step-by-step, explaining the little-known whys and hows of the etiquette, the preparation, and the history of the cuisine, while also pointing out the advantages for ocean sustainability and a healthy diet of a traditional approach to sushi. I serve as a sort of diplomat between the culture of the Japanese sushi chef and the culture of the American customer, and my ability to speak and read Japanese has made it possible. (More info: http://www.SushiConcierge.com) This work evolved from my having written a book titled “The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice” (http://www.StoryOfSushi.com) for which I relied heavily on Japanese-language sources, which I couldn’t have done without the training I received at IUC.

Susan Mast

IUC ’92-’93. I have been a professional J>E translator since then, mostly in the business, legal, and non-profit sectors. (www.susanmasttranslations.com )

Peter Stern

Class of ’93 — ended up in law and went to work for a San Francisco firm with a large Tokyo office. Have been moving back and forth between Tokyo and the Bay Area ever since. (Just returned to SF after an 8-year stint in Japan.) My training at the IUC has served me well, and I look back on that year with great fondness (my son was born that year and he’s now going off to college!).

Jon Metzler

I’m IUC, 1994-1995. I stayed in Japan after IUC until 1998, when I returned to the States. I’m now based in San Francisco. I founded my consulting firm, Blue Field Strategies, in 2008 and work with clients in the wireless and digital media industries. Many of those clients are Japanese firms! So I use Japanese most days, either written or spoken.

Karl Pisor

I’m a ’96 IUC grad. I have been in Japan pretty much continuously since the Center, starting and running IT-related businesses. Now I’m Japan Sales Director for Lux Research, an emerging technologies research firm based in Boston. As my counterparts are all tech dev/new business dev leaders at Japanese large companies, I use my Japanese every single day! Thanks to the IUC, I at least sound like I know what I’m talking about.

Danielle Rocheleau Salaz

I’m from the IUC class of ’98-’99. I started working at the newly-opened Japanese Consulate in Denver three days after returning from the IUC and was there for six years. For five years now, I’ve been the Assistant Director of the University of Colorado’s Center for Asian Studies, so my responsibilities have expanded beyond Japan to cover all of Asia, but I still draw on my experience in Japan all the time.

Gina Gogan

I was at IUC in 1998-99, I returned to Japan in 2001-2002 to do my dissertation research at the University of Tsukuba and received a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2004 in Buddhist studies. I had a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard in 2004-2005, and since then I’ve been teaching in the Religion department at Boston University. I got back to Japan in the summer 2007, to do research in Kyoto, and I’m hoping to go back again next summer.

Randy Laxer

I was at IUC in 1998-1999. I’ve spent most of my time since leaving IUC in Japan, including the past 7 years. I am a partner at the law firm Morrison & Foerster (largest international law firm in Japan) and use my Japanese on a daily basis advising clients here.

Jennifer Mertens

I’m another 1998-1999 alum. When I went through IUC I was going for a PhD in Modern Japanese Literature at UC-Irvine. Since then I’ve left academe, but have been back in Tokyo since 2006 and am now an Executive Search Consultant, covering HR as well as Financial Services Operations. Would not be able to do what I do without the Japanese learned in Yokohama days! Married to a Japanese national, as well, and we call Tokyo home….

Malaya Ileto

I’ve been in Japan for fourteen years, two studying and twelve working, and Tokyo is now my home. I have a Masters degree with a focus on human rights from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and studied at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies, run by Stanford University. I graduated in 2003. A decade ago I got involved in Japan’s non-profit sector, with NGOs such as Peaceboat, Japan–US Community Education and Exchange, People Tree (a fair-trade fashion brand), and the International Movement Against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR). I coordinated international human rights-related conferences in Japan and abroad, led fair trade study tours to India, and produced bilingual publications and websites advocating social justice.

I decided to go freelance three years ago, as a translator and editor with a focus on academic and NGO clients. As much as possible, I take on projects that I think will have a social impact. I suppose you might call what I do “socially committed translation.” Almost half of my work is academic research in the humanities, and another third is for organisations that lobby for social change. My latest translation project, which is being published by the Feminist Press at the City University of New York, is Transforming Japan: How Feminism and Diversity are Making a Difference. [full profile] http://malayaileto.wordpress.com/

Devin Elliot

2001 grad. Returned to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and worked with the foreign players for about a year. Married and moved to Arizona (my home state) and worked as a translator for a Japanese manufacturer (translated between American sales team and Japanese engineers). In 2008, I moved to Sojitz Aerospace Corporation. Now I sell N. American manufactured equipment to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Always looking for opportunities!

Eija Niskanen

I did my MA at UCLA in Critical Studies in Film (1998). I did part of the graduate studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, after which I did IUC summer course in 2004, and 1-year course 2006-07. I have stayed in Japan most of the time since graduating, though doing shorter times in my home country, Finland, as well. I coordinate different film/cinema projects between Finland and Japan, and write about Japanese cinema, media and anime. I also teach courses on cinema and animation, and part of these are particularly centered on Japanese cinema and popular culture. I am a PhD student at University of Helsinki, concentrating on Studio Ghibli. Both in my work and in my research I use Japanese daily.

Shannon Rochelle Quinn

After completing my M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration, I attended IUC from 2005-2006 on a Blakemore Fellowship. Following completion of the IUC program, I have been working in international and higher education in Japan. I am currently working on the Sophia University campus as Student Services Manager for CIEE ‘s Tokyo Study Center, where we run three study abroad programs for U.S. college and university students studying in Tokyo.

Nathan Reaven

I graduated in 2006. I started my own digital music store called HearJapan (http://www.hearjapan.com). HearJapan sells Japanese music worldwide. IUC taught me how to negotiate deals and more importantly write and edit the contracts I sign with other record companies. We’re launching version 2.0 of the site in a few months.

Hanna McGaughey

IUC ’08. I am currently an MA student in the University of Tokyo, Department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Culture and Representation Course (Hyoshobunkaron) and hope to graduate in the early months of ’12 with a thesis on Noh theater. Thereafter, I hope to attend a US PhD program. Wish me luck!

Andrew Fleury

I was IUC class of 2009. I finished grad school (Stanford, M.A. East Asian Studies) in 2010 and went to Hong Kong to teach at Capstone, a local academy that specializes in debate and academic writing courses (so no, I wasn’t teaching English).  Unfortunately, in HK the only ways I was able to utilize my Japanese were 1) a random parent-teacher conference with a Japanese student’s mother who wasn’t confident in her English, and 2) speaking with a Japanese employee at my favorite bakery.

However, as of April 1 this year I made my transition back to Japan and am currently employed with DeNA – Japan’s largest mobile social gaming company.  DeNA is aiming to penetrate the English market, so recently they have been grabbing a few gaming companies in Silicon Valley and Seattle.  My main role right now is strategizing hiring from the U.S. and India as they want to internationalize their work force.  After this year’s recruiting season, I will be moving to their smartphone strategy group to contribute to that side of the business.

Cole Roeder

IUC 2009-2010. I currently work at 楽天株式会社, a Japanese e-commerce firm, in Tokyo. I use my Japanese daily in a business setting. It is all thanks to the IUC and the wonderful teachers there.

Karen Curtin

IUC ’09-’10. I got my Master’s degree from The Ohio State University with a focus in Japanese language pedagogy in 2008 and a year later attended the IUC 10-month program. I am now doing exactly what I wanted to do, which is teaching Japanese language. I am now a Japanese language lecturer at OSU and the IUC experience was definitely an important stepping stone to get this far.

Paul Speed

IUC ’10-’11. Graduated from the University of Toronto (undergrad) back in ’04. Came to Japan as a CIR on the JET Programme and lived in a rural town in Aomori for 2 years (95% Japanese usage). After 2 years, I decided to come down to Tokyo and worked at a recruitment consulting firm called Wall Street Associates and was placed on the IT Banking and Finance team (10% Japanese usage). After about a year, I moved over to Morgan Stanley doing IT support for initially the equities’ sales and traders and eventually encompassing fixed income members as well (50% Japanese usage). After almost 3 years, I attended IUC. Still in Japan after having finished the program and am about to start working at Nomura on the e-trading desk as a project manager (most likely around 20% Japanese usage).

Post-uni life has been 100% Japan; however, Japanese usage at the workplace has been a sort of mixed bag-o’-tricks. Outside of work though, Japanese has helped me meet a variety of people from a variety of industries, countries (I still remember my “bubble” being burst when I had first met non-Japanese people who spoke little to no English, but had amazing Japanese fluency) and social strata.

With this our Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies series of articles is complete! We are immensely grateful for all of the former students who submitted their information as well as for the guest writers who contributed articles to this series.

Photo by owenfinn16

If you have any lingering questions feel free to check out the IUC websites (Stanford, Japan), leave us a comment here, or send us an email at shinpai.deshou@gmail.com! You can also connect with us via Facebook and Twitter.

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
This entry was posted in graduate school, language schools, living abroad, main posts, program review, social networking, study abroad, undergraduate and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to IUC series (final!): Former students – Where are they now?

  1. Pingback: Going to the Inter-University Center? | What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies?

  2. Ben says:

    Love this post. It is amazing that so many people have made the jump from academic study to business. How?!

  3. Jojo says:

    Amazing. Such high achievers ! Personally speaking, I did a BA in Japanese and did not have any formal interpreting/translation training but instead learned on the job and am now working as a simultaneous Japanese-English interpreter in Japan and abroad, and forever translating from home. Like many of the anecdotes here, Japanese scholarship has provided wonderful opportunities.

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