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Famous Japanese author lived and wrote in Kalamazoo

Jan. 17, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Nagai Kafu, one of the most notable modern Japanese writers and one-time Kalamazoo local, will be the topic of discussion at a Western Michigan University program at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, in Room 3301 of Friedmann Hall on the main Kalamazoo campus.

Kafu, who is regarded as the Japanese peer of such writers as Hemingway and Steinbeck, spent three years traveling throughout the United States as an exchange student in his early 20s, settling in Kalamazoo during 1904 and 1905 to study French at Kalamazoo College. Kafu's home at that time, on Elm Street in the historical Stuart neighborhood, was inspiration for one of his earliest works, "American Stories." This Japanese classic is a collection of short stories based on Kafu's journey from Japan to Washington state, Michigan and New York City.

Jeffrey Angles, assistant professor of foreign languages at WMU, says Kafu's writings are important not only to the cultural history of Japan, but to that of the United States, as well.

"Kafu paints an interesting portrait of America from the perspective of someone who lived here, observing and interacting with the Asian-American immigrant community," Angles says. "He provides nontraditional insights on important issues, such as race relations, the lives of immigrants, and the status of women in America during his time."

The discussion of Kafu's life, literature and U.S. experiences, titled "Meiji Occidentalism: Nagai Kafu's Travels to the 'West,'" will be led by Dr. Rachael Hutchinson, assistant professor of Japanese at Colgate University. A native of Australia, Hutchinson received her doctoral degree from the University of Oxford, lecturing at the University of Leeds before joining Colgate University. Hutchinson's research interests include Japanese language and translation, and modern Japanese literature and film.

The discussion at WMU is sponsored by the Soga Japan Center. Attendance is free of charge and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Jeffrey Angles at jeffrey.angles@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3044.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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