On the Path to Rediscovering Oneself: Ms. Chelsea Hudson’s Stepping Forward as a Researcher and a Person on Hokkaido
In 2018, Ms. Chelsea Hudson, a PhD student from Georgetown University, Washington DC, visited Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, to research the history of the Ainu, an indigenous people living in Japan. To conduct her research for the Fulbright scholarship program, Ms. Hudson selected Hokkaido University and its Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, and the university's Slavic-Eurasian Research Center also provided her with generous research support.
Ms. Hudson’s research focuses on how the competition between the Russian and Japanese governments to assume power over Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and Chishima (Kurile) islands affected the Ainu’s life during the late-19th and mid-20th centuries. She found important research sources, including the census record on the Ainu maintained by Hokkaido’s local government (Kaitakushi), as well as several newspapers and newsletters published by local Ainu groups and sympathizers during the 1920s and 1930s, in Sapporo, Ebetsu, Asahikawa, Hakodate, and Tokyo. Her research examines how the then Russian and Japanese governments tracked Ainu populations and reimagined the ways in which the Ainu could be legally and socially integrated into the respective empires and how the Ainu themselves reacted to the population counts and forced migration.
Ms. Hudson happily recalls how her fellow students and teachers in Hokkaido University, the volunteers of the Asahikawa Literary Museum, the staff members of the Hokkaido Prefectural Archives in Sapporo, and the employees of the Hakodate City Library helped her obtain information on the local archives containing useful research materials. “If it had not been for their help, I would not have even imagined the existence of those archives,” she smiles.
Further, while conducting her research, Ms. Hudson participated in the mixed voice chorus of the Hokkaido University campus, as well as the campus’ annual winter concert. She recalls, “We have students’ choruses in universities here in the United States; but they are normally led by faculty members. At Hokkaido University, all the organizers, including conductors, were students. I was very impressed with their maturity and professionalism. Being able to finally get up on the stage with everyone after all our rehearsals and practice and pour out, sing out, all that we had worked on was a wonderful experience. I think I have grown as a person by attending that event.”
Further, Ms. Hudson enjoyed traveling to and visiting many places in Hokkaido. She says, “In 2014, before my Fulbright experience, I lived in a homestay in Hakodate. At the time, I was nervous about traveling to different places and mostly stayed with my host family. But, this time, I wanted to be braver than before and travel to farther and farther places by myself.”
Initially, Ms. Hudson was worried that her hearing loss would make it difficult for her to adjust to the new environment. However, while traveling, she always found kind people who accepted her as she was and offered patience, understanding, and respect. She enjoyed her conversations with local residents, which gave her important insights into the lives of the local people and the Ainu, as well as her own place as a person and researcher living in a new, different culture. Consequently, Ms. Hudson has come to believe it important to keep an open mind and accept other people, particularly when meeting new people, and their ways of living. She advises, “The point is not to have any preconceptions regarding what Japan, Hokkaido, or the Japanese or Ainu people are like, when you start experiencing the new surroundings. Accept each experience, and respect the people as they are.”
Further, Ms. Hudson encourages future Fulbright scholars as follows: “Don’t be afraid to go out and do things by yourself. I think some of my most valuable memories are of simply going out by myself and exploring some far-flung places within and outside Sapporo.”
Finally, her remarks on her second stay in Japan explicitly express her satisfaction regarding the Fulbright Program’s fruitfulness: “It seems the world is being plunged into darkness; however, I have learned through my personal experiences in speaking to and working with the local people in Hokkaido that Fulbrighters often reflect the ideal qualities of Americans, namely, openness, kindness, and acceptance, worldwide. I hope that the program continues to improve international relationships.”
Hokkaido University Mixed Voice Chorus February 2019
Title: Kotoshi / Composer: Ko Matsushita / Lyrics: Shuntaro Tanikawa