University of Iowa

Authored by Kendall Heitzman

Shibasaki Tomoka reads at Shambaugh House, September 10, 2016
11/7/2017

IWP 2016 Resident Shibasaki Tomoka Maps the World

I first met Shibasaki Tomoka, the Akutagawa Prize-winning writer and our Japanese participant in the 2016 International Writing Program, in Tokyo a few months before she arrived. When we were deciding where in the metropolis to meet, I casually mentioned that I am a fan of retro Japanese coffee shops, and Tomoka replied that she is, too. Coffee culture has a long and proud history in Japan, and if you know where to look, you seldom have to go far to find coffee shops that play jazz or classical music, or that prepare rare, ancient beans using cloth filters or bubbling mad-scientist siphons or other systems not yet dreamed of (or perhaps long since forgotten) in Seattle or anywhere else in these United States. Like many scholars of Japanese culture, I pride myself on being a flâneur of Tokyo and urban Japan in general, with a detailed mental map of the landscape of its major cities, and in Tomoka, I found a kindred spirit. I thought I would propose a place, but Tomoka replied to my message with the name of an old coffee shop in Ueno that she likes. On the second floor of a building not far from the station, right there adjacent to the old black market on a street I have walked down maybe fifty times, is an elegant old coffee shop aglow with brass and steam. How could I have missed it?
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Kasuga-san with Iowa class ring at International House
2/11/2016

Iowa's Man in Japan

Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture, Kendall Heitzman, tells the story of Hiroyuki "Larry" Kasuga (M.S. industrial engineering, '53), a 93-year-old Iowa alum who is bringing alumni together in Tokyo, Japan. This past summer, after a week of touring the University of Iowa’s study-abroad partner programs in Japan, our delegation joined Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas for an impromptu alumni gathering at a hotel in central Tokyo. We were not sure who would show up on such short notice, but about twenty alums did. The hotel had failed to provide us with any chairs, and I worried about one man in particular, who leaned lightly on a cane and in his self-introduction had mentioned that he was 92. I needn’t have worried; for over three hours, Hiroyuki “Larry” Kasuga (M.S. industrial engineering, ’53) made his way around the room, introducing himself and eager to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and to hear the latest word from his beloved Iowa.
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