Kochi Prefecture, on southern island of Shikoku, is one of the more remote locales in Japan. Up until very recently, the most common entry in travel guides has been something like, “meh.” I have to admit, that the first decade or so that I lived here, I failed to appreciate just what a remarkable place this is. I’ve now lived here long enough (since 1992) to think of it as my home, and I suspect I’ll die here and be shoveled into the family tomb up on the hill above the Asakura Shrine. For me, it’s not Japan. It’s home.
But I have sooooo many questions: “What’s this tree that sorta looks like an oak?” “Who or what does this stone marker mark?” “What is that bug that looks like a firefly but doesn’t fly?” “Why does Tosa-ben sound like it does?” “What’s the deal with Sakamoto Ryoma and why is there another drama about him?” Oh, my ignorance was–and continues to be–vast and terrible!
No more! I finally decided to find out about this place by asking other people with better Japanese than me to explain it. And since there’s precious little English language information on the web about this place, I figured to share it with other folks who might want to know a little more too.
In addition, this site serves an academic purpose. Writing, whether in one’s native language or in a learned foreign language, is something that is accomplished only through a series of steps, the final of which is Publication. This site exists to give my students a real venue for their writing, and to give them a sense that they are, in fact, writing for a wider audience than just their teacher. The hope is that the students will surprise themselves and discover that, yes, they actually can communicate something important and difficult in English.
Over the years a more important aspect of this project has emerged. The most successful articles grow from a critical awareness of the local community and contribute, in a small way, to creating “the story of Kochi.” I’ve come to understand that the Life in Kochi project, at its best, is an exercise in active citizenship.
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