Alumni News Research

December 1, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Nakada’s Tale: Finding a Long-Lost Japanese Fishing Boat, Washed Ashore in Okinawa

Viewing documents related to the lost-then-found fishing vessel from Iwate: Masaru Yonashiro of the Kinjo-cho town hall, Koudai Nakada and Chris Thompson

Viewing documents related to the lost-then-found fishing vessel from Iwate: Masaru Yonashiro of the Kinjo-cho town hall, Koudai Nakada and Chris Thompson

Koudai Nakada’s educational journey has entwined with Ohio University for five years, most recently tied to the incredible tale of a fishing boat that disappeared during Japan’s 2011 tsunami, only to wash ashore seven years later and 1,200 miles away.

Nakada and Dr. Christopher Thompson are researching the unusual adventure of the vessel. But Nakada’s first contact with Ohio University happened in Japan where he studied with alumnus Greg King, and his first visit to OHIO was in the Ohio Program of Intensive English (OPIE). He hopes to continue his involvement with OHIO.

Meeting Alumnus King at Chubu University

Ohio University has a long-standing relationship with Japan’s Chubu University, where Nakada, who is from Urasoe, Okinawa (near Naha), graduated in April 2019 with a degree in English and British-American Studies. His main professors were Tomo Yanagi and King, an OHIO alumnus who earned two degrees from the College of Arts & Sciences, a bachelor’s degrees in Linguistics and a master’s degree in Linguistics.

During his four-years at Chubu, Nakada came to OHIO to study English with OPIE, planning to become an English teacher at his alma mater, Urasoe High School. King and Yanagi supervised his student teaching, and he now has his teacher certification. But before starting his career as a high school English teacher, Nakada would like to earn a master’s degree from an American institution. Currently, he is back in Okinawa, teaching part-time at School IE (Individual Education) at Urasoe Maeda (a school that specializes in preparing students for English exams) as he applies to American graduate schools. He would love to return to OHIO to get that M.A.

From left, Koudai Nakada with a student at School IE at Urasoe Maeda, Okinawa.

From left, Koudai Nakada with a student at School IE at Urasoe Maeda, Okinawa.

Connecting with Thompson at Chubu

Back in 2016, when Nakada studied in OPIE, Thompson was chair of the Linguistics Department. He remembers meeting Nakada at an OPIE function or two, but didn’t talk to him much. Nakada remembers his encounters with Thompson in much the same way. But Thompson often heard about Nakada’s talents and abilities as a teacher—and his Okinawan background—from King and Yanagi, with whom Thompson has collaborated on a variety projects, even hosting Yanagi as a Glidden Visiting Professor of OHIO during the spring of 2017.

Fast forward to the fall of 2018. Nakada was in his final semester at Chubu and looking forward to graduating in April. Thompson was also at Chubu that same semester, serving as OHIO’s  Miura Visiting Professor after having completed a nine-year term as chair of Linguistics.

At Chubu, Thompson met Nakada again—and now they really hit it off. Nakada began talking with Thompson regularly about his dream of pursuing a master’s degree, perhaps in Applied Linguistics at OHIO, before returning to Urasoe. They also talked about Nakada’s need for research experience.

Coincidentally, Thompson, a cultural anthropologist, was collecting unusual occurrences pertaining to the 2011 tsunami in Iwate Prefecture in northeast Japan, a project related to his long-term work there. Thompson had heard about a fishing vessel from the Port of Kamaishi on the Iwate coast that had disappeared during the tsunami—and seven years later suddenly washed up on the shores of a village in Okinawa, southeast Japan, about 1,200 miles away.

From left, Dr. Chris Thompson, Masaru Yonashiro of the Kinjo-cho Town Hall and Koudai Nakada in front of fishing vessel in October, 2019.

From left, Dr. Chris Thompson, Masaru Yonashiro of the Kinjo-cho Town Hall and Koudai Nakada in front of fishing vessel in October, 2019.

Finding the Long-Lost Fishing Vessel

When Nakada returned to Okinawa after graduation, he went searching for—and found—the fishing vessel from Iwate that Thompson had told him about. It was located in the Port of Kinjō-chō, a mere 40-minute drive from Urasoe.

So Nakada contacted Thompson, who by this time had tracked down the original owner of the vessel in Iwate. Thompson definitely wanted to follow up on the vessel in Kinjō-chō, so he secured research funds from the College of Arts and Sciences at OHIO so he could visit Nakada in Okinawa.

The research trip occurred this past September. At Kinjō-chō, Nakada and Thompson were able to interview local officials about the boat from Iwate. The tale of the boat is an incredible one that involves the purchase of the vessel—still in fairly good shape—by a Kinjō-chō fisherman for continued use in the industry.

It’s a tsunami-related account that Thompson hopes to publish with Nakada in an academic journal soon.

From left, Dr. Chris Thompson, Greg King and Tomo Yanagi at Chubu in October 2018.

From left, Dr. Chris Thompson, Greg King and Tomo Yanagi at Chubu in October 2018.

Honoring King with Tanaka-OHIO Award

In the meantime, King was chosen as the 2019 recipient of the Tanaka-OHIO Award, in part for his work with students like Nakada and projects with international colleagues like Thompson. King visited OHIO during International Week (Nov. 17 – 23) to be honored at the Global Engagement Awards Gala.

And King, like Yanagi in 2018, gave a colloquium talk in the Linguistics Department on Nov. 22. The title of his talk was “The Japanese University System and the Challenges of EFL in Japan.”

Small world. With any luck, like King, hopefully Nakada will be an M.A. student at OHIO soon and someday also be asked to give a talk in the Linguistics Department colloquium at his second university alma mater.

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