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Junichi Yagi seated next to Jennifer Yoo
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Junichi Yagi seated next to Jennifer Yoo.
(back) Allen Uyeda (CPAS Foundation Chairman), Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa, and Yoko Misawa; (front) CPAS recipients Junichi Yagi and Jennifer Yoo.
Photo courtesy of Center for Japanese Studies

What do you get when you combine an American singer, a Korean-Japanese guitarist, an American-Japanese bassist and a Japanese drummer? For University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Junichi Yagi, the answer is inspiration.  

Playing drums in a band with work colleagues may not be a natural pathway to become a Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship recipient, but it was for Yagi. He went from practicing paradiddles, to meeting Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Yagi is a PhD student in the Department of Second Language Studies (SLS) of the College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature, where his coveted Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship will continue through 2018. For Japanese students, the scholarship is awarded to a graduate student in Japan for study at UH Mānoa who is pursuing a subject area leading to better understanding between Japan and the United States.

Yagi was working on his master’s in language and culture from Osaka University when he was offered and accepted the scholarship. UH Mānoa had always been his first choice for doctoral study, having heard much about the renowned program, including from his academic advisor who received his master’s degree from SLS.

During Yagi’s first semester at UH Mānoa, he bounced a research idea off his advisor, Gabriele Kasper: to determine how people learn language in everyday, non-classroom settings—specifically in music-related settings such as jam sessions and rehearsals. Yagi wanted to study how these interactions, particularly those that involved second language use, afforded opportunities for language and culture learning. Kasper loved the idea.

Hawaiʻi is a perfect backdrop for Yagi’s research, with its diverse and embracing communities.

After earning his PhD, Yagi’s professional goals include being a successful researcher who can make social changes with his empirical work, and to be an inspiring teacher who can guide students with theoretical and methodological knowledge. Academic aspirations, for sure—but uniquely rooted in music and an occasional jam session.

—By Karin Mackenzie

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