The appeal of the graduate school that faculty talk about (Associate Professor Miki Takeuchi, Course of International Culture and Communication Studies)
Researching children’s literature entails confronting life’s questions to create the future
Q. In view of your own specialty as a faculty member, what does “conducting research as a researcher” mean to you?
Confronting life’s questions
As I watched my children learn their mother tongue while I read them picture books when they were very young, several questions came to mind. How do people learn languages? What role do illustrated books and children’s literature play in this process? Being exposed to quality literature and art is said to foster children’s consciousness and language abilities, but what are the mechanisms for this? What should children read and when? Why must people read books? Conducting research with such fundamental questions in mind highlights the depth of children’s literature.
Q. Please tell us how you as a faculty member became a researcher.
Creating the future
While at university, I learned how the world works in the Faculty of Law’s Department of Political Science. After graduating, I sought an opportunity to help usher in a new information age and found work at a communications venture company, where I became involved in new business startups and marketing both inside and outside Japan. I later left that job and gained admission to a graduate school as a working adult while raising a child, ultimately producing a doctoral thesis and becoming a researcher in children’s literature. At first glance, politics, telecommunications, childrearing and children’s literature may seem completely disparate paths but they are all connected in my mind as means of creating the future.
Raising my children came first, of course, but in my 50s I managed to become a full-time university faculty member. This was in part a matter of good luck, but I believe it was also thanks to the fact that I had continued to read books and study both while I was a company employee and while I was a housewife. Just as we are what we eat, our intellect is what we read and study. Dedication will never betray you.
Q. What topics have you researched thus far in your own area of specialty as a faculty member?
Key areas of research
I have been pursuing three key areas of research. The first is research into Momoko Ishii’s translations. While you may not know the name Momoko Ishii, I doubt there is anyone who has not heard of “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” which Ishii translated. My first solo book – “Why Are Children Drawn to Momoko Ishii’s Translations?” (Minerva Shobo, 2014) – was based on my doctoral thesis and it made clear the secrets of masterful translations that perpetually appeal to children from the perspective of “the culture of voice.” I have also written a biography of Ishii and papers about her translations.
The second is research into contemporary illustrated books and children’s literature. International academic conferences are interested in what kinds of illustrated books and children’s literature are being published in present-day Japan and how they are being received. I have been discussing present-day children’s literature from unique angles such as picture books about earthquakes, onomatopoeia picture books and dystopian fantasies. I have been actively presenting my research findings at international academic conferences hosted by such organizations as the International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL), and regular exchanges with overseas researchers in children’s literature have enabled me to invite overseas researchers to teach classes and give lecture presentations every year.
The third is reading guidance as a specialist in children’s literature. I have been training future librarians and teacher librarians by teaching a librarian certification course on “Children’s Service Theory” and a teacher librarian certification course on “Reading and A Well-Rounded Character.” Libraries have been pursuing digital transformation in recent years by introducing Internet-based references and digital books, and this move online was given greater impetus in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic. Hoping to develop a curriculum to train librarians for a new age, I have been reaching out to working librarians and other outside instructors and having them talk to students about the work of librarians, learning about digital book apps, creating digital picture books, and conducting research on library-related information both inside and outside Japan. I have also launched online picture book meetings and working with relevant parties outside the university to contribute to society.
These three constitute their own respective communities of academic conferences and fellow researchers, but for me researching and reading/writing children’s literature serves as a node connecting Japan with the rest of the world. I do not study simply for my own self-satisfaction; the significance of research lies in fostering those who will follow us and in contributing to society as a whole.
Q. What have been the most trying and most enjoyable moments for you as a researcher?
There have been ups and downs, but the more undulations on the road of one’s life, the more interesting the journey
After graduating from university, I took a job at a private company, later focused exclusively on raising my children as a full-time housewife, and then set off down the path of literature in my 40s. I enrolled in a master’s program when my eldest son entered kindergarten and, after a break from my studies when I gave birth to my next son, I finally succeeded in my decade-long effort to get my doctoral degree. My children only seemed to come down with a fever or get injured just before the deadline for a paper or a conference presentation. Every day was a tightrope walk, but I managed somehow to get as far as I have now with the cooperation of my family and the support of friends.
There were numerous occasions when my children tested my patience, when I became ill or when I faced tough times, and being able to overcome these trials was due mostly to how interesting I found it to address the questions I had posed. Formulating a hypothesis, seeking out the literature to back that hypothesis, and then feeling excited when I come across a lode of useful information is better than any stimulant. The happiness I felt when my effort took published form and I held in my hands a sample copy of my very first solo book is something I cannot express in words. Please try imagining the happiness of seeing the time and effort you have dedicated to something taking shape before your very eyes. The more twists and turns a story has, the more interesting it is, and the same applies to your own life.
Q. What is the appeal of studying at graduate school?
I find three things appealing about studying at graduate school. The first is mastering an area that you enjoy. A life spent doing the things you like is genuinely fun. The second is meeting people who satisfy your intellectual curiosity. Faculty members, fellow graduate students and persons in academic societies and elsewhere outside the university pursuing the same topics…these are true friendships that transcend borders and languages. The third is encountering books. The time you spend hunkered down in a library and buried in books will without doubt let you come across a book you will consider a personal treasure, the one book that will be your support when you lose your way in life.
Q. Please give us a short message for examinees thinking of studying at graduate school.
Stretch yourself; commit and your dream will come true
This course features a team of professors who specialize in a broad spectrum of research fields and who have a wide variety of life experiences. You may even meet up with a mentor who will change the course of your life. We have many international students from overseas, and many of your fellow students will be heading overseas to take on the challenges of study abroad. You must not allow yourself to become an introvert. Encountering different cultures and undergoing culture shocks on the front lines of globalization let you look back at your own culture and learn to express yourself with greater linguistic skill. With more and more activities going online, learning venues have suddenly become more expansive and borders have disappeared. All you need is the desire to learn. Embrace ambitious dreams and stretch yourselves! Our course awaits you with a diversity of opportunities that will draw out your potential to the maximum.
Name: Miki Takeuchi
Education and academic experience
Associate Professor, Course of International Culture and Communication, Graduate School of Letters, Toyo University (present position)
2012 Completed Graduate Program in English Language and Literature, Graduate School of Humanities, Ferris University
From 2017, Associate Professor, Department of International Culture and Communication Studies, Faculty of Letters, Toyo University
Areas of specialty: Children’s literature, translation theory
Authored works: “Why Are Children Drawn to Momoko Ishii’s Translations?” (2014), etc.
(The details listed here are as of March 2021)