Bill Kunz

If you're watching curling on NBC this week, UW Tacoma Associate Professor Bill Kunz may be responsible for what you see on TV. He's working at his eighth Olympics this month, leading a team of 30 producing the curling coverage. He's also taken four students along for the internship of a lifetime.

We're eagerly awaiting reading his thoughts on the spectacle in Vancouver, but that'll have to wait until the Games are over. In the meantime, here are a few photos of Bill in the middle of the action:

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Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Japan—Christmas in Japan is rather unique. It is not a holiday, and our twins, Maya and Tomo, have school that day, and Ryukyu Daigaku has classes that end at 9:10 p.m. on Christmas night. It is celebrated nonetheless.

There is a well-known street in Tokyo that features Christmas lights, and one can purchase decorations in the local department stores. Kentucky Fried Chicken is another Christmas tradition. I remember seeing Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus when I was in Japan for the first time in 1993 and I found him again this week. The KFCs in Nishihara-cho are taking orders for Christmas: eight pieces of chicken, salad and a Christmas cake for around $40.

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Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Disney in Japan—Disney holds a unique place in Japanese culture. In the 1990s, my mentor at the University of Oregon, Janet Wasko, coordinated the Global Disney Audience Project, which examined Disney products in close to 20 different countries. One of the questions asked as part of a survey was whether Disney was “uniquely American.” Over 80 percent of the students surveyed in South Korea said yes, Disney is uniquely American, but less than 20 percent of the Japanese students gave the same answer.

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Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Manga Cafe, Japan—One of the shops in our neighborhood that has caught my eye is one with Big Bird featured on the sign outside. I have wondered what kind of store it was and today I found out. It is a “manga café” and the inside walls are covered with shelves filled with Japanese comic books. Based on the curious looks I saw when I stuck my head in the café this afternoon, I think the clientele is mostly Japanese.

Learn more about Bill’s quarter in Japan

Read all of Bill’s Postcards dispatches.

Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Okinawa—The prominence of Nicole Richie is one of the great mysteries of our time. As I have discussed with my students at UW Tacoma, I do not follow the idea of someone being famous for being famous. Hence my surprise when I saw a magazine here in Japan, “We ♥ Nicole Richie,” devoted to her and her alone. The Simple Life was televised in Japan but, based on discussions with my students, I am not sure that is the reason for her popularity here. She is seen as something of a fashion icon and one of my students pointed out one of the connections: she is short. The average Japanese woman is around 5’ 2” and Richie is 5’ 1”, so it is plausible to dress like her. That is not the case with most Western models.

Learn more about Bill’s quarter in Japan

Read all of Bill’s Postcards dispatches.

Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Japan—The prominence of English words in Japanese culture is quite interesting. Department stores here are filled with clothes that feature English words, oftentimes in an order that does not make a great deal of sense. The use of English is deemed to be stylish. I was well aware of this phenomenon, but what surprised me is the use of English on apartments in our neighborhood. We live in “Yuki House.” Around the corner is “Breeze,” which is naturally across the street from “South Wind.” There are many others. My favorite is an apartment up the street that is called “Good Luck.” I am not sure whether that is a warning for those who enter the building or best wishes for those who venture outside.

Learn more about Bill’s quarter in Japan

Read all of Bill’s Postcards dispatches.

Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Shurijo Castle, Japan—Okinawa is now part of Japan, but it was the heart of the Ryukyu Kingdom from 1429 to 1879. Shuri was the capital of the kingdom and King Sho Hashi established Shurijo Castle as the seat of the Sho Dynasty. The castle was destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945 and the grounds became the site for the University of the Ryukyus when it was established under the United States Civil Administration in 1950.

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Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Japan—Sakata kindergarten celebrates birthdays once a month. Our twins, Maya and Tomo, turned 6 on Halloween, but the October celebration occurred before they started in the middle of the month. The school was kind enough to include them with the students born in November. It was quite the celebration. Each of the birthday students was interviewed by one of their classmates and received a book that was personalized with pictures and a message from their teacher. There were also musical performances from each class. And to end the celebration, I was asked to read a Russian folktale, The Gigantic Turnip, in English. I was quite nervous, but all went well.

Learn more about Bill’s quarter in Japan

Read all of Bill’s Postcards dispatches.

Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Kakazu Heights, Japan—The University of the Ryukyus is located on a plateau in the center of this part of the island of Okinawa. The city of Nishihara, where we live, extends down the hills to the east coast of the island. We spend much of our time in and around Nishihara-cho, and the U.S. military presence is not strong, outside of military planes one sees overhead.

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Associate Professor Bill Kunz taught at the University of the Ryukyus as a Fulbright Scholar.

Japan—I like to start many of my classes at UW Tacoma with something I call “News & Notes.” The basic idea is to connect things that are happening in the world with our discussions in class. A couple of years ago I discussed an article I found on how popular SpongeBob Squarepants was among young women in Japan and how it translated into millions of dollars in merchandise sales.

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