Purdue University Graduate School
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The Life Story of an American Learner of Japanese on a Remote Island in Japan: A Cross-cultural Adaptation Perspective

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posted on 2024-04-23, 01:38 authored by Masaki MinobeMasaki Minobe

Since the 2000s, there has been a growing interest in qualitative research in the field of Japanese language education, including life story research (e.g., Miyo, 2015). One of the purposes of life story research in Japanese language education is to pay attention to, listen to, and describe the voices of people to whom Japanese language education has so far paid little attention (Miyo, 2014, 2015a). Many studies have listened to the voices of Japanese language learners living in Japan and described their experiences (e.g., Miyo, 2009; Sato, 2015; Maruyama & Ozawa, 2018). However, many studies have not paid particular attention to the region where the learners are staying. One gets the impression that the place could be anywhere as long as the learners are in Japan. Further, cross-cultural adaptation research often focuses on international cross-cultural contact. However, in recent years, it has been pointed out that cross-cultural contact also involves regional differences within a single country (Gui et al., 2012; Berry, 2016). In other words, foreigners staying in a host country experience not only intercultural contact between their own country and the host country but also intercultural contact arising from regional differences within the host country, making the adaptation process complex.

This narrative case study focused on one American learner of Japanese, Kevin (pseudonym), and his experience on Futaba Island (pseudonym) and analyzed his process of cross-cultural adaptation. Data was collected from his diary and semi-structured interviews with him over six months. The collected data were then graphically represented using the method of Trajectory Equifinality Modeling (TEM) (Sato et al., 2009; Sato et al., 2014). The data obtained in this study showed that Kevin’s back-and-forth between Futaba Island and the mainland impeded and facilitated his cross-cultural adaptation in different ways. Unlike people in large cities on the mainland, people on Futaba Island stare at Kevin and treat him as a special guest, which made him aware of cultural barriers, leading him to construct an identity as an outsider and feel, “I will never fully integrate into Japanese society.” Furthermore, when he traveled to the mainland, he experienced reverse culture shock by encountering many American tourists that he cannot see on Futaba Island. Seeing American tourists behaving incompatibly with Japanese cultural norms made Kevin realize that he was more integrated into Japanese society than he had thought. All of this suggests that when considering the cross-cultural adaptation of foreigners staying in Japan, it is essential to take a place-based perspective on where they are in Japan and where they have been during their stay. Furthermore, just because a person is staying in the host country does not mean that cross-cultural adaptation is influenced by factors that are exclusive to the host country. While staying in the host country, one’s cross-cultural adaptation may be influenced by people from or by events in their home country. It is necessary to take into account home country-related factors as well.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Languages and Cultures

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Atsushi Fukada

Additional Committee Member 2

Kazumi Hatasa

Additional Committee Member 3

Mariko M. Wei

Additional Committee Member 4

Colleen A. Neary-Sundquist

Additional Committee Member 5

Wayne E. Wright