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Virtual Tokyo - A New Japanese Class in Spring 2020

Submitted by Elizabeth F Self on June 25, 2019 - 9:43am
Image of students working in groups in Virtual Tokyo class.

Supported by a grant from UW East Asia Center (US Department of Education, Title VI National Resource Center), Virtual Tokyo (JAPAN 412), a new 4th-year Japanese class, made its debut in Spring 2019.

Virtual Tokyo was designed and taught by senior lecturer Dr. Kaoru Ohta, with inspiration from Virtual Berlin, an advanced German course designed by Dr. Richard Korb of Columbia University. Virtual Tokyo offers 4th year Japanese students virtual visits to the streets of Tokyo and the town and campuses of Waseda University from the vantage point of a UW classroom. The curriculum guides students to pursue their own interests in Tokyo and Waseda, becoming familiar with “deep” Tokyo - areas of Tokyo that even people from Japan may not be familiar with. Through this process, the students develop Japanese language skills while learning about the history, culture, society, and people of Tokyo and Waseda. By "visiting" Waseda University, students "experience" Japanese university life, discovering the lifestyles and thoughts of Japanese through the voices of Japanese college students. As explorers, they learn about the role of Waseda University in the lives of political, cultural, and social figures in Japan. Students develop independent language learning skills through this process - skills that are essential in continuing Japanese beyond the college classroom.

Virtual Tokyo is one of three new 4th-year Japanese courses which incorporate student-centered activities and student-centered assessments as the foundation for curricula that focus on Japanese authentic media - text, talk, and video. Our student-centered approach supports 4th year students of various proficiencies in moving toward and furthering their advanced Japanese language skills. Students commented that the course “helped me to understand Tokyo more,” “taught me about locations in Tokyo other than places like Roppongi and Shibuya,” and “gave me more confidence in being able to actually look up information in Japanese.” And for students who missed Virtual Tokyo? It will be taught again in Spring 2020!