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Cultural Exchange with Tamagawa University

October 8, 2014

14 Drexel students and 12 Japanese students from Tamagawa University spent a week together this past September in the second annual Tamagawa-Drexel cultural exchange program. With Drexel students serving as hosts, the group went to classes and engaged in group projects that crossed language barriers and offered opportunities to explore Philadelphia’s culture and history. The interdisciplinary exchange program was led by Westphal Graphic Design professor Shushi Yoshinaga, and included students not only from Westphal but from across the University.

The course Iki: Japanese Culture (the Japanese word “iki” meaning sensitivity/taste relating to an aesthetic ideal deeply connected to the Japanese culture and history), was open to all Drexel students. Participants worked in groups to visit and research hallmark Philadelphia sites, including the Reading Terminal Market, Mural Arts sites, Colonial Philadelphia and the Avenue of the Arts and, at the end of the week, they presented their creative research projects. The week was also capped with a reception, during which Tamagawa students shared their traditional kimonos and performed Japanese folk dances.

Of course, the best way to get to know one another is over good food. “Our program never ended at 7pm as planned,” said Professor Yoshinaga. “Eating together became one of the best activities for everyone, and every night students were out discovering the rich multi-ethnic cuisines that Philadelphia has to offer. They had so much fun attempting to communicate despite language barriers, laughing so much from each other’s gestures.” In addition to dining—which included cheesesteaks—the group made excursions to Shofuso Japaense House and Garden, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and live music events.

Through the exchange program, Drexel students travel to Japan every other year and Tamagawa students visit Philadelphia on the alternate years. Many of the Drexel students who participated this year plan to travel to Japan in September 2015 prior to the start of the next academic year. For more information about participating in the cultural exchange program, please contact Shushi Yoshinaga at