Journalism professor Paul Niwa talks to his Online Publishing class about their upcoming trip to Japan. While on the trip, the class will learn about Japanese culture and U.S.-Japan relations for their capstone project, a multimedia app on Sen. Daniel Inouye. Photo/Erin Clossey
After nearly four years of learning how to be a journalist, Emerson College senior Janissa Delzo knew she would spend a big chunk of her last semester on one intensive project.
She didn’t know until last month that she and several of her classmates would travel 6,700 miles to do it.
Students in Paul Niwa’s Online Publishing capstone course will spend their spring break in Japan, where they will learn about Japanese culture and U.S.-Japan relations for a multimedia e-book they are producing on the late Senator Daniel Inouye.
“[I’m] looking forward to showcasing my skills—as well as our skills. Just putting everything we’ve learned since freshman year into one rewarding project,” Delzo said.
The project, a deep dive into the life and legacy of the Hawaii Democrat, Medal of Honor recipient, and first Japanese American to serve in either branch of Congress, will be published on Apple’s app store in June.
The trip, a nine-day journey to Tokyo and other relevant spots in Japan, is being paid for by the TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program, a fund created by the U.S.-Japan Council to commemorate Inouye’s work. Niwa was one of the founders of the Council and knew Inouye personally; the senator and his wife, Irene Hirano, asked Niwa to help start the organization, which works on strengthening relations between the two countries by getting citizens involved in public diplomacy.
“The senator believed that the relationship, the alliance between the U.S. and Japan, is so important that we cannot leave it to just diplomats, the military, and corporations,” Niwa said. “He believed that the U.S.-Japanese alliance was so vital to the security of the U.S. that citizens had to get involved on a citizen-to-citizen basis.”
Possible stops on the trip include visits to multinational corporations and Americans working in Japan, including Emerson alumnus Aaron Snipe ’94, political-military chief at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Niwa said he also was hoping to add Kyoto to the itinerary, not only because “it’s gorgeous,” but also because it is Boston’s sister city. Kyoto, like Boston, is its nation’s “college town,” he said.
From a journalistic standpoint, Niwa said, the class is putting together a plan of how to best tell Inouye’s story and doing extensive research into Inouye’s background and the decisions he made as a legislator.
“I hope that the trip to Japan is going to help the students understand the senator better by helping them see how his ethnicity helped inform his statesmanship and his sense of justice,” Niwa said.
Jasmine Reyes ’16, a journalism student in Niwa’s class, said she did a semester at Kasteel Well and has traveled in Europe, but is eager to explore East Asia.
“I’ve always wanted to expand my horizons to different continents,” Reyes said.
She said beyond the trip to Japan, she’s looking forward to learning how to code for the project.
For Mimi Walker ’16, the trip is as personal as it is educational. Her brother, who has a developmental disability, attends the Boston Higashi School in Randolph, Massachusetts, which is run entirely by Japanese staff, she said, and uses innovative teaching methods that have made a huge difference in her brother’s life.
“[T]hey are first in line when it comes to finding solutions,” Walker said. “I think the whole country of Japan is a total tribute to that, and I’m really excited to explore that fact.”