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Major or minor in Asian Studies.

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Including: Master of Arts in Asian Studies, Master’s in Asian International Affairs, and Graduate Certificates in Asian Studies.

Student Testimonials

Christina Geisse

The Asian Studies Program was incredible because most professors were undertaking their own research, passionate about their subject of study, and enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge with students. It felt fresh and profound at the same time. Inspiring! 

Christina Geisse
Kim Sluchansky

I was able to delve deep and focus on the areas of Asian Studies that truly interested me, and therefore gained a much more thorough and developed understanding of my fields of interest, which are applicable to my current career path. Also, the professors are extremely helpful and want their students to succeed. They were very supportive both while I was at UH and after I graduated.

The Pop Pacific

University of Hawaii Professors and pop culture scholars Dr. Jayson Chun (UHWO) and Dr. Pat Patterson (HCC) launch a blog on transpacific East Asian pop culture!

Professor Pat Patterson with Yoshi

The Pop Pacific is based on Asian Studies summer classes on J-pop, K-pop, anime and manga. University of Hawai‘i professors Dr. Jayson Chun and Dr. Patrick Patterson have created a blog for general audiences. This blog is written in a non-academic style for undergraduates and non-native English speakers to understand and enjoy. The Pop Pacific is a good bridge between fan posts on pop culture and more detailed academic readings.

The Pop Pacific is a place where feedback for a future general readership is encouraged. Graduate students are especially welcome to send posts (so long as they are written for a general audience). These articles can be used for classes, including zero cost textbook classes.

Interview with Professor Jayson Chun & Professor Pat Patterson
Jayson Chun standing next to Black Pink billboard

What are your personal stories of how you got interested in studying East Asian pop culture?

Jayson: I am born and raised in Hawaii and grew up with Japanese superheroes. I also visited Japan several times as a child and loved the manga and anime. I first encountered K-pop in Korea in 1995. It seemed more of a novelty, but later something about the music sounded catchy and later, so American-influenced. Then in 2008, K-pop songs appeared on YouTube, and since they were free, I got hooked on them.

Pat: I fell in love with Karaoke, and with singing Japanese Enka songs. My first Karaoke experience was with some Japanese friends in a small country town before I could speak or read any Japanese. In such a small Karaoke bar in 1989, they only had Elvis songs in English. Well, I like Elvis, but pretty quickly I got tired of singing only that. So I learned to sing Enka, because that was available – and I liked much of it.

When I got to graduate school, the first thing my advisor asked was what the topic of my thesis would be. I had no idea, so I just said “Enka.” Luckily, he was able to introduce me to Dr. Christine Yano, and that set me on the path. The first few times I made discoveries in the sources I was reading, I got so excited it completely hooked me. Now, I am deeply into this research. So I guess it is a case of serendipity.

Why a blog?

Jayson: Blogs are an easy-to-read medium. While traditional academic publishing is excellent for ideas, it can often be too slow, too theoretical, and too expensive.

Also, a blog is a great educational resource for instructors who want to incorporate popular culture into classes. Our blog will weave other scholars’ pop culture research into an easy-to-understand format, and frame it in a larger, transnational context.

Pat: We thought this would be a way to get our work in front of a larger audience. I think we both believe that history and academics in general should in some way serve the greater society. Communicating what we are doing as academics to a broad audience in clearly understandable terms is one way to distribute that information to people who may not be interested in all of the academic intricacies, but want to know more about J-pop and K-pop. It’s a small contribution, but it is one we can make.

Why study pop culture?

Jayson: Popular culture gets students to learn about Asia. I’ve been teaching anime and K-pop/J-pop classes at UH Manoa and UH West Oahu since 2005, and recently the classes have been full or near capacity. That’s how much students like Asian popular culture. I have taught Japanese and Korean students and realized they know little about their popular culture from an academic perspective. They laugh when they find out that anime, K-pop or J-pop are transnational products that people worldwide can relate to! Ever thought about why Nintendo’s mascot Mario, a symbol of Japan, is an Italian plumber from New York? Many instructors and academics are K-pop fans, too! I attended an academic conference on BTS in 2022, and when I told my students they misheard me and thought I said “concert,” because they couldn’t believe that professors were discussing BTS.

Pat: I’m a historian, but I’ve always been interested in the “people” part of the discipline. Of course, structural history and theory interests me. But I’ve also always wanted to see backstage. I want to know what went on beyond political organization and the religious and philosophical ideologies of the past that we often talk about in history. In the introduction to my book on Japanese songwriter Nakayama Shimpei (The Rules of Heart: Nakayama Shimpei’s Popular Songs in the History of Modern Japan), I discuss this, too. I think popular culture is a way to see what regular people are thinking about and how they carry on with their day-to-day lives in a given time. It is imperfect, of course. It’s not like songs express some kind of “voice of the people.” But I think that looking at what is popular, what the context is, the intent of the creators, and the way that the audience uses (and when we’re lucky, talks about) popular culture we can learn much about what’s on the collective mind of a society. In our case, the scholarship that was the foundation of our own academic work has led us to see the Pacific Rim as a transnational space, and that has been really exciting – to see how popular culture products and markets developed within networks of cooperation and exchange, and not just within national boundaries.

I am also a fan of popular culture. I watch anime and lots of TV and movies from South Korea and Japan. I am fascinated by the first half of the twentieth century, and also by the media stars – singers, actors, composers and directors – who lived through all that. When I find out about people like Li Xianglan (aka Yamaguchi Yoshiko) who had four different names and was successful in three different cultures, or Wang Renmei, who was an excellent actress and member of what may be Asia’s first girl group as well as a personal childhood friend of Mao Zedong – my brain goes into overdrive and I want to learn more and tell people about them!

Is pop culture a "modern" thing? Why or why not?

Jayson:  Today’s popular culture is tomorrow’s high culture. Shakespeare was written for the common people, and is now studied at universities. As Pat attests to in his articles, much of prewar East Asia’s encounters with the West were mediated through popular culture. In my posts, we can see how postwar East Asia’s encounters with the U.S. came through popular culture. Japanese singers like Eri Chiemi and Korean singers like Han Myeong-Suk first performed for American troops on bases, but are now considered “classic” singers.

Pat: People have always sung songs, and many have been enjoyed by large numbers of people. There is a critical difference, though. Popular music today is industrial music – it is mass-manufactured and mass-marketed, and you don’t need to be able to play an instrument, sing like an angel, or have enough money for concert tickets. You can buy this mass-manufactured music, and every time you listen to it, the cost of that purchase comes closer to zero. If you listen to a tune you purchased on iTunes, for instance, for $1.10, just one time, it costs you $1.10. But if you listen twice, each episode costs only 55 cents – and so on. This makes popular songs easily accessible for most people. It also gives us a sense of ownership and a feeling that we are entitled to have an opinion about the music we like and don’t like. We talk about it and it becomes a social thing, rather than just a product for sale. That seems to me to be very modern. It is a kind of crowd-sourcing. Streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, and prosumer services like Soundcloud and Vocaloid, take this even further. So yes, it is very modern. But it has a history.

Headshot of Jayson Chun, Professor of History, University of Hawaii West Oahu

Dr. Jayson Chun, Professor of History, University of Hawaii – West Oahu

Headshot of Professor Pat Patterson

Dr. Pat Patterson, Professor of History, University of Hawaii – Honolulu Community College

Many thanks to Professors Chun and Patterson for sharing their ideas and experiences with us! Check out their blog, and the courses they teach at UHM, UHWO, and HCC!

More information on K-Pop, J-Pop, and Anime and Manga courses.

The Pop Pacific blog

What are your favorite bands/anime/manga/movies at the moment and how often do your favorites change?

Jayson: I like the anime Overlord, where the main “hero” is an evil undead magician. I started watching to find out why people are rooting for an anti-hero, and somehow got hooked. Demon Slayer is interesting because of how it weaves Buddhist themes of compassion into its Taisho-era storyline. As for K-pop, I am interested in transnational groups with members from different nations such as TWICE and LE SSERAFIM. NEW JEANS is also a transnational group that portrays a hybrid Korean/American image. I like J-pop singers like Yonezu Kenshi and Ado, who I feel have a fresh sound. 

Pat: My absolute favorite singer is an Enka singer known as Yoshi Ikuzo, whom I’ve actually had the good fortune to meet and sing with. I also love to listen to The Boom, Southern Allstars, Fox Capture Plan, Baby Metal, Gesu no Kiwami Otome, TWICE, BOL4 and SNSD, and 1930s Jazz and movie songs from Japan, Korea, and China. As far as anime, I have been recently watching Chainsaw man. I also like to watch Uchu senkan Yamato (Space Battleship Yamato – known on American TV as Starblazers), and every Ghibli movie ever made, but especially Lupin III: The Count of Cagliostro. I enjoy Takarazuka, Kabuki, and modern dance concerts as well.

How do you keep up with trends?

Jayson: There is so much out there! So rather than pretend to know everything, I let the students teach me, since they know more than me. They do presentations in classes, and this way, they introduced me to great anime like the volleyball classic Haikyu! or taught me more about K-pop groups like NCT127. And sometimes, random K-pop or anime articles show up in my social media feeds and I end up reading them.

Pat: Fans of K-pop and J-pop will be able to tell from my answers to the question on favorites that I don’t keep up. The output is too much! I have to admit, my strength lies in analyzing the business and cultural end of things. I do pick up new music from TV, anime, sometimes YouTube, and from the music ranking charts that I use for my research. I also rely on students, friends, and family members to keep me up to date!

Are there interesting differences in fan culture between East Asia and the US?

Jayson: Transnational fandom has accompanied the growth of transnational culture. While studying at a language school in Korea, most of my classmates were young women from Europe and the US. They talked with each other their love of K-pop. The fans in East Asia by comparison are less transnational, due to the lack of English proficiency, but they can join official fan clubs, and meet other fans in their country. As for anime and manga, Japanese fans can buy goods at sites like Akihabara, or the local manga store. Recently, I have noticed many international otaku (anime and manga fans) in these stores in Japan, and I can hear them speaking in English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and many other languages.

Pat: The first thing that friends comment on when they go with me to a concern in Japan is the degree of fan organization at concerts. Fans respect each other and the band, so they stand at the same time, and sit at the same time. For many acts, there are set dances – they are really hand movements so that you don’t bump the people next to you. Even at K-pop concerts in the U.S. there are big differences, but the U.S. concerts, despite the respectfulness of the fans, are still quite different from those in Asia. Analyzing fan behavior is one of the most interesting things to do.

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