For two weeks in November, Connecticut College Asian & Asian American Students in Action (ASIA) hosted ORIGINS: An Asian Arts Festival, a first for both the club and Conn. The festival brought many amazing cultural opportunities to campus, including a lecture by internationally renowned Chinese artist Xu Bing, a food making workshop, and a student art exhibition in Coffee Grounds, one of the coffee houses on campus.
When I first saw ORIGINS’ schedule, I was enticed by the festival’s final event, a lecture by Professor Takeshi Watanabe of Wesleyan University about Japanese & American food identity. Professor Watanabe had briefly been an assistant professor here, and in my first semester at the College I took a class with him called Controversies in East Asia, which he taught in an incredibly exciting and engaging manner. Given how much I admire Professor Watanabe’s teaching abilities, his returning to the College to give a lecture was a must-see event for me.
Many of the students attending the lecture had also taken Professor Watanabe’s classes, which gave the event a wonderful sense of familiarity. Professor Watanabe showed us clips from the film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” which is about a chef who runs a sushi restaurant in a subway station in Japan. He pointed out interesting details that foster certain reactions from the film’s viewers; for example, as a musician, I appreciated when he discussed how using music by Tchaikovsky rather than a traditional Japanese soundtrack makes the film and its content feel much more familiar to its American audience.
Seeing Professor Watanabe point out these details made me realize how I gained many skills from his class that I have gone on to use throughout my work at the College. Like him, I try to bring careful attention to detail when reading texts and writing essays for my classes, especially those in my major, philosophy. Getting to attend one of his lectures again a year after taking his class helped me to see how he really modeled this skill for me. While I’m sad that he’s no longer a regular presence on campus, I’m happy that I had the opportunity to be taught by him again.
While I learn a lot every week from my classes, attending a lecture makes for a nice change of pace in my learning, which is why we have them! Very early in my time at Conn, several people advised me to attend as many lectures as I can because you never know how important to your future they can be. Events, such as the ones sponsored by ORIGINS, help me to broaden my perspectives beyond the classes I take each semester. Whether it’s someone’s first time on campus or their 100th, you can bet they’ll have something important, provocative, and inspiring to tell you.