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Redwood Falls Gazette - Redwood Falls - MN
  • The philosophy of hugging

  • One way to learn about the real world is to see how other cultures see it, and Japanese philosophy student Akihiko Sasaki noticed some big cultural differences in his visit to Redwood Falls this month.
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  • From 1993 until 1996, Jeannie Uhlenkamp of Redwood Falls taught in a Japanese school.
    “I was in Japan from 1993 to 96, teaching an English conversation class at a school in the northern part of Japan,” she said last week.
    While she was there, two of the married teachers who helped sponsor her time in to Japan had a son: Akihiko.
    Last week, Akihiko, now a 19 year old university student majoring in philosophy, repaid the favor by visiting Uhlenkamp in Redwood Falls.
    “I wanted to visit the Uhlenkamp family, using my spring vacation at university,” he said.
    During his visit to Redwood Falls, Sasaki visited alpaca and horse ranches, visited a sheep farm, and made impromptu speeches to the Redwood Falls Rotary Club and at Reede Gray Elementary School.
    Sasaki arrived in Redwood Falls on Saturday, March 23, and stayed until Wednesday, March 27.
    What part of his visit did Sasaki like best?
    “Visiting the elementary school and playing with the children,” he said, smiling.
    Any disappointments?
    “I ride horses almost ever day, and planned to ride here, but it was to icy,” he said.
    Sasaki said the environment of northern Japan is similar to southwestern Minnesota’s, although it’s obviously flatter here than the mountainous region he’s from.
    At 19, Sasaki is still trying to decide what he wants to do when he grows up. Why study philosophy?
    “I was interested in biology, but then I became interested in psychology,” he said. “I realized this subject was not clear to me.
    “I read a book about philosophy, and became interested in old Greece philosophy, such as Plato and Socrates. I am worried about my career, so now I want a field that is related to a lot of other fields, like science.”
    What did Sasaki want to be when he was growing up?
    “I wanted to be a man who has superpowers,” he laughed, “but I didn’t get superpowers, so I study philosophy.”
    Would he be interested in becoming a teacher, like his parents?
    “In Japan, teachers have a stable salary, but not a high salary. They have to work harder and harder. Education in Japan gradually is more complex because the world is changing dramatically.”
    What about the United States startled him most?
    “Here, you sort of help yourself to your host’s refrigerator. It’s very different,” he laughed. “It’s much more casual here. Hugging! That is very strange for Japanese, but I like it.
    “I like the fast food. The food and drink selection and portions here are huge. I also like the system of the drinks at the fast food stores. You can go back and drink again and again.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Although my trip is short, everyone has been very kindly, so thank you everyone.”

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