This project on the study of Japanese religions at Ball State University included two classes that aimed to provide students with much more than a classroom setting introduction. The main objectives of both classes were for students to observe, study, and experience contemporary Japanese religious practices and beliefs and to teach others about what they learned.
Class 1: Summer 2010 The first class lasted for five weeks and included one week of all-day classes on the basics of Japanese religiousness, website design, and building in Second Life. The next two weeks were spent in Japan, where six students and Dr. Roemer visited over 15 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, attended several festivals, and spoke with Buddhist and Shinto priests and "average" Japanese about their religious experiences. We also kept a blog while in Japan (when there was time) to give others who are interested in going to Japan a taste of what this kind of experience can be like. In less than two weeks after returning to the States the students had to use what they had learned to begin this website and create a shrine and a temple in Second Life. The aim of both the website and the Second Life buildings is for students to apply what they learned to help other students of Japanese culture (including religion) learn more about these topics via interactive and enjoyable tools. As a group and as individuals they met these goals, and (as their professor) I am proud of their initial achievements. Browse this website and you'll see what I mean!
Class 2: Fall 2010 This second class was an extension of the first, but with a few important additions. Students were expected to do independent research and write short essays on topics of their choice. Some of these essays are published in the "Research" link under the "Info" heading. (If you plan on using information from any of those essays for your own research be sure to cite them correctly as they are copyrighted materials and subject--plagiarism is unacceptable!). Each student also chose to focus her or his time and energies on enhancing this website, working in Second Life, or doing a presentation on Japanese religions at a local high school. Whichever venue they chose to focus on, they had to go beyond a textbook understanding of Japanese religious practices and beliefs and enter into intense discussions and complete individual and group research so that their finished products would become a valuable resource for other students around the world. We hope that you will join us as a student of Japanese religions and interact with us by looking around this website, communicating with us on our class blogs (Japan trip or Fall 2010 class), or visiting our shrine and temple in Second Life.
**This project was generously funded by a Ball Sate Provost's Immersive Learning Initiative Grant.