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Member Highlight: Scott Kearney


[Scott on his first trip to Japan in 2007]


How would you describe yourself and what you're passionate about?

I've always been drawn to things built on rules and systems. My hobbies and interests have always centered around technology, languages, gaming, music, and art. I've also discovered

"gamifying" my real-life tasks and objectives makes me far more productive, so I think this

predisposition goes beyond "interest" for me.


While learning the Japanese language, I started learning more about its culture and customs, and I found its protocol-heavy practices like Sado (tea ceremony) and Kyuudo (archery) very satisfying.


I discovered Competitive Karuta a few years ago, thanks to watching the Chihayafuru anime. Initially, I thought learning the game would be beneficial for language learning-and it was-but it offered a lot more. This game checked so many boxes for me (heavy in protocol, rules, language, poetry, lots of memorization parameters, etc.) that I quickly became a devotee.


I discovered Boston had a club (Boston Nakamaro Karuta Club), I joined it and played enough to achieve sho-dan, or "first (starting) rank" (recognized by the All Japan Karuta Association!) Together with the club, I've been trying to share the appeal and fun of the game with others.


How long have you been interested in Japan, and what got you interested in the first

place?

I think the foundation for my interest started early. I was heavily into video games and

technology, much of which was from Japan. I wasn't very cognizant of who made these things or any cultural relevance at the time. However, after graduating college and studying a second European language, I felt it important to study an Asian language. While deciding which one to choose, I realized I'd grown up surrounded by and very fond of many Japanese things, ranging from Sony Walkmans to Super Mario Brothers. At some level, the swing-vote was consumerism, but I think it's also a factor of the close ties between Japan and the US. The topic of cultural diffusion fascinates me, and I think it was ultimately the major factor.


The first thing I did was sign up for language classes. Since then, I've taken some sizable breaks. It's been nearly two decades, and I am still learning (the pandemic was a great motivator for my recent re-start). However, even when taking language pauses, I have been able to visit Japan, and learn more about things like sado (tea ceremony) and Japanese traditional music and poetry. Perhaps counter to the norm, anime is a relatively recent interest for me. I've been trying to integrate more language immersion in my learning, so I've been leaning on all kinds of media to do it.


[Scott at the Emperor's New Year's address for the second year of Reiwa in 2020]


How long have you been a member of the Japan Society of Boston?

I joined the same year I made my second visit to Japan in 2020. I was lucky I made it there at

all, as borders started closing to foreign visitors shortly after returning home.


What drew you to JSB?

I would say it was language learning. When the pandemic hit, I had just returned from visiting Japan. My language skills had been rusty, and I was eager to work on them again. With a lot of enthusiasm and (suddenly) a lot of time, I searched for online learning resources, and discovered the JSB and its Japanese language table (which had moved online for the pandemic, now called the virtual language exchange).


[Scott receiving Shodan after Competitive Karuta tournament]


Do you have a favorite event or program that you have participated in with JSB?

The most memorable JSB event I attended was the annual Gala. The venue was beautiful, and the speakers were all very good. I expected there would be society-related speeches (and there were), but there were also live literary and cooking presentations. The events offered throughout the year cover similar categories of topics, but seeing it all, in concentrated form, at a large- scale event where so many people have come together to appreciate and share their passion for the Boston-Japan relationship made it very memorable.


However, I think the overall most beneficial event for me was the virtual language exchange. It's more accessible, it happens more often, and it also brings people together. I feel like it was my gateway to everything else.


What about JSB makes it unique from other groups within the Boston area?

I think it’s the diversity and eagerness to share within the membership. Most other groups have either a narrow focus or are very general. The narrow-focus ones are great venues to find like-minded people sharing the same interest but can lack diversity. On the other hand, many “general interest” groups are large and have a vague purpose. The members can be very diverse, but it can be harder to break the ice and click with others.


The Japan Society of Boston somehow manages to feel welcoming and open like a smaller,

more narrowly focused club, while at the same time having so many members with so many

different interests.


[Scott playing Competitive Karuta]


Interested in becoming a JSB Member? Click here or reach out to info@japansocietyboston.org for more details.

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