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Web U Students Travel to Japan to Interview Youth

Five Webster University students are researching how Japanese youth see the future after the March earthquake, tsunami and power plant crisis. To find the answer, they must travel to the source.

On Wednesday, five Webster University students and faculty mentor Roy Tamashiro will depart for Japan, where they will spend three weeks traveling the country and interviewing the nation’s youth about their views on the future following the country’s March disasters.

The research team is participating in the ASIANetwork-Freeman Foundation's 2011 Student Faculty Fellows Program for Research in Asia and is able to conduct its study, "Japan's Youth: Disaster and Rebuilding for a Common Future," thanks to a grant from the foundation.

Student researchers Lena Clem, Kristen Paxton, Cory Schmidt, Rebecca Serfass and Miranda Guiles will be exploring whether the March earthquake, tsunami and power plant disasters have changed the way in which Japanese youth view their own future as well as the future of their country.

“There’s a common sense of apathy that’s prevalent among Japanese youth that might have changed as a result of the disaster,” said Tamashiro, a professor of education and international studies at Webster University.

According to the professor, Japanese youth have been known to be less concerned about world events than adolescents and young adults in other countries, like compared to those in the U.S., for example.

“This disaster, and some of the ways news is being disseminated, has kind of been a wake-up call for young people,” Tamashiro said. “Many have volunteered and gotten involved in relief efforts.”

The research team will visit the Tokyo region and the Kansai region (Osaka and Kyoto), where they aim to interview several hundred young people, ages 18-30, in addition to expert sources.

Interviewees will include university students who come from areas affected by the disasters, and some interviews will be conducted in public places like disaster supply centers where young people are volunteering.

Students will be focusing their research on media coverage of the disasters, government responsiveness, the future of nuclear power plants and discrimination against people with radiation poisoning, Tamashiro said.

Originally students had proposed research projects that focused on human rights issues but revised the projects to focus on humanitarian issues following the March disasters.

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