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Published: Wednesday, 3/8/2006

BGSU professor focused on East Asia

BOWLING GREEN - Fujiya "Fuji" Kawashima, known for his composure and tolerance while teaching East Asian culture and history at Bowling Green State University for the last 35 years, died of acute leukemia Sunday in Medical University of Ohio Medical Center, Toledo. He was 67.

A professor of history, Mr. Kawashima helped found BGSU's Asian studies program, an undergraduate major designed to give a broad understanding of Asian culture. He served as director for 15 nonconsecutive years between 1979 and 2005.

At the time of his death, Mr. Kawashima was working to develop the fledgling peace studies program.

"He was very, very gentle, very self-effacing - but also very determined. If there was anything that threatened the Asian studies program, I heard about it. He always brought things up in a very civil, reasoned way but in a very forceful way," said Don Nieman, dean of BGSU's college of arts and sciences.

"He viewed things as being interconnected. For him, the lines between history and contemporary affairs, politics and culture and arts weren't hard and fast," Mr. Nieman added.

Mr. Kawashima was known for his intense one-on-one work with students, recalled Akiko Jones, current director of the Asian studies program.

Mr. Nieman said Mr. Kawashima was the first professor to ask his class to evaluate him in mid-semester as well at the end of the class. "He really wanted to know what his students were thinking," Mr. Nieman said.

His son, Ken, said Mr. Kawashima's sympathy with his students was sometimes frustrating. "Some students would give him a hard time because of his pronunciation. It pains me to think about it, but he also kind of understood why they would complain," his son said.

"He was extremely tolerant and affirmative, to the point of driving us crazy. His level of tolerance was sometimes intolerable to us," his son said with a laugh.

Mr. Kawashima was born in Tokyo, the son of a pencil factory owner whose business declined during World War II. His mother came from the Oichi Samurai family, affording his family social status.

After receiving his bachelor's degree from International Christian University in Tokyo in 1962, Mr. Kawashima became the first Japanese student to study in a Korean graduate program after World War II, four years before Japan and Korea had diplomatic relations, his family said.

"There were all these articles in Korea about him. He'd seen the poverty and struggles in the country on a church trip. I think he saw some necessity to deal with Japan's relationship to Korea in some way," his son said.

He received a master's degree in political science at Yonsei University in Korea and also met his wife, Joung-Ja, there.

Upon graduation, the two traveled to Cambridge, Mass., where they were married and Mr. Kawashima received his doctorate from Harvard University. He became an instructor at BGSU in 1970, returned to Tokyo in 1972, and returned to BGSU in 1974.

He received two Fulbright Fellowships, which led to visiting professorships in Korea.

Mr. Kawashima was an oil and watercolor painter, often commissioned by other professors.

Surviving are his wife, Joung-Ja; son, Ken; daughter, Kimi; brother, Tatsuji, and sisters, Hiroko and Yoshiko.

Services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the First Presbyterian Church, of which he was a member. A campus service will be conducted at 11:30 a.m. March 22 in the BGSU student union's multi-purpose room. The Dunn Funeral Home is handling arrangements.



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