Students Explore Community-building on Research Trip to Japan

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Many CC students have amazing summer experiences abroad. One such experience for students this summer was a trip to Japan with Assistant Professor of Art Emma Powell and Professor of Japanese Joan Ericson. The focus on photography alongside Asian studies for this trip was a first, but Ericson has taken students on similar trips previously.

Professors Ericson and Powell wanted to collaborate to support their respective fields, Asian studies and art. From this idea, “we decided to develop this trip, which would give students opportunities to learn first-hand about Japanese culture and making photographs in the field,” explains Powell.

The trip was not a class, but a research trip for both students and professors, with a goal of exploring machi zukuriand the process of town revitalization in Japan. Machi zukuriis the Japanese term for community and town building or revitalization; machi refers to a town or small area, while zukurimeans making or planning.

In practice, Powell explains, “machi zukuriaims to improve or make sustainable a neighborhood or town. It often refers to the active attempts to revitalize small Japanese towns that have declined as populations have moved more and more into the big cities. These efforts are being run by local governments and small groups of residents.”  Japan has taken a particularly proactive approach towards these efforts.

Local people have utilized a variety of approaches to revitalize communities, but everyone is working towards sustainability. To learn about the phenomenon of machi zukuri, the group was able to talk with many CC alumni living in Japan, visit a farm run by a CC alumni, tour many art studios and museums, and meet the mayor of Fujiyoshida, the sister city of Colorado Springs. Students on the trip had the opportunity to choose a more specific topic withinmachi zukuri, and focus their investigations on their own interests.

Powell says one of her favorite activities was the group’s visit to the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, although she says climbing Mount Fuji was memorable for the students. Additionally, Powell says “we all enjoyed the trip to a rural farm run by a CC graduate. The farm was in a beautiful valley and we were able to have a relaxed, in-depth conversation around our topic as we explored the village, and visited his neighbors and a Buddhist temple.”

The trip was funded by the Art Department, Asian Studies Program, Dean’s Office, and HEC.


Japanese tea