What am I doing?

The goal of my fellowship is to investigate how the scientific innovations that occurred during World War II affected the culture of Japan.

World War II was a very different war than any previous conflicts due to the rapid scientific innovations occurring the 1930’s-40’s.  The innovations in munitions, aviation, and technology made for a war that many were not prepared for.

When I teach students about nuclear reactions, I have always talked about how the Physics of nuclear reactions was used in nuclear weapons.  When looking at a video of an explosion, the students are always excited – wanting to see bigger and bigger bombs.  As Americans, we have always learned about the war from the perspective of a victor.

My main goal from this Fellowship is to be able to give another perspective to the events of WWII.  Having a broader perspective will allow teachers and students to develop a greater understanding of the conflict and scientific innovations that occurred as a result.

What will I bring back?

Besides all my luggage and limbs, one of my main goals from this Fellowship is to bring back resources that will aid teachers and students to gain a greater perspective of life in Japan during and after World War II and the affect that the scientific innovation during WWII had on their culture.  These resources will take multiple forms…

  • Resources:  While in Japan, I will record the trip with photos, audio, and video.  The AV media will be recorded with the thought and intention of what would be useful to have in the classroom.  These resources will be made available on this website to enhance teaching by helping “paint the picture” of a very different culture and the story of a war from a very different perspective.
  • Lessons:  After the trip is over, I will be creating lessons for social studies and science classes.  These lessons will draw upon the experiences and resources gathered while in Japan and will connect with appropriate Tennessee State Standards for Social Studies and Science in grades 6-12.
  • Experiences:  While I wish I could take everyone with me on this amazing experience, that’d be a bit outside the budget for this fellowship!  Instead, I will be documenting every step of my journey on this blog so teachers, students, and community members can benefit from my experiences.  Hopefully this will inspire others to step out on a limb and try an adventure of their own!

Where am I going?

In order to learn as much as possible about the effects of World War Two on modern Japan, I will be traveling all over the country.  The cities below are the places that will be spending some time.


The first portion of my trip will be in Tokyo.  This is the capital of the country and one of the major cities in the world!

One of the notable and most tragic events of World War II occurred in Tokyo – the firebombing of the city that destroyed just over half of the city.


Sendai is a major Japanese city 200 miles north of Tokyo.  During WWII, Sendai was firebombed and approximately 26% of its citizens were either killed or injured.  This region also housed many prisoner camps during the war.

More recently, the area south of Sendai has been greatly affected by the earthquake and resulting tsunami that devastated the Fukushima/Daciichi Nuclear Power Plant.


If Tokyo represents the economic and governmental center of Japan, Kyoto functions as the cultural center.  This ancient capital of Japan was mostly untouched by WW2, although a perhaps apocryphal story posits that the town was saved from having an atomic bomb dropped on it by a US government official who had a soft spot in his heart for Kyoto since he honeymooned there!


Hiroshima is well-known for being the site of the first usage of the atomic bomb.  The city has recovered and has now devoted itself to peace, so that the atomic bomb need never be used again.


The southern port town of Nagasaki was the site of the second atomic bombing, three days after Hiroshima.


Okinawa is a series of island south of mainland Japan.  Okinawa has a unique perspective to WWII compared to the other cities as it actually saw ground-fighting.  The Battle of Okinawa was a fierce and bloody battle that occurred at the end of WWII.

Recent news events have brought Okinawa into the news.  The island chain features several US bases and there has been considerable friction between the soldiers and the locals.

How will I get around?

For the majority of my trip I will be utilizing Japan’s amazing train system. Unlike the US, the Japanese train system can be found all over and is very quick and efficient.

In order to travel between cities, I will be using the Shinkansen (bullet trains). These trains connect the major cities of Japan with an amazing top speed of 200 miles per hour. I even have a JR Rail Pass which will allow me to use any train operated by the JR Rail company (which is a lot of the rail in Japan) for two weeks.

When reserving hotels, one of the things I noticed is that most of the hotels are concentrated around the major train or subway stations in a city.

In order to get to Okinawa, which is an island far from the main islands of Japan, I am utilizing a special fare on ANA called the Experience JAPAN Fare. This program allows someone visiting Japan to fly domestically for around $100 per flight.

Since mass transit isn’t as ubiquitous on Okinawa, I will rent a car to take me around the island.

Who am I going with?

I am literally flying solo on this journey. I don’t have a “program” I’m going with or a pre-made tour to take. I have designed and crafted this Fellowship simply based on my own research.  This will certainly make the journey quite interesting!

While I have travelled extensively in the US, my only international experiences have been limited to resorts in the Caribbean.  When deciding on Japan as the place for my Fellowship, I wanted to be a bit of a risk-taker and choose a country with a culture very different from my own.  While other destinations would have been easier and more familiar, Japan represents an adventure!  While the academic justification listed above is certainly going to be great, I hope to also bring back my experiences stepping out into a completely different culture as an inspiration for people like my former self who never got out in the world.