July 2011 – Interview with Laura Popp

Enjoying the view in Nagasaki
Building houses in India

Building houses in India

This month’s JET Effect features Laura Popp, a second year ALT in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. Laura writes two monthly 600-word articles about Japan, one for her hometown newspaper, the Owasso Reporter, in Owasso, Oklahoma, and one for her church newsletter, The Spirit, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The combined readership of the two newspapers is about 4,000 people.

As Laura says, “I began writing these articles in July 2009, just before I came on JET. I independently approached the managing editors of the Owasso Reporter and The Spirit and asked if they would be interested in articles about Japan. They enthusiastically accepted and to date I have written fifty pro bono articles. They highlight my adventures in Japan, various tourist attractions, festivals, Japanese cooking, culture, history, society, education, business, family and daily life, traditional and popular arts/entertainment, and include words and terms in the Japanese language.”

Laura’s articles tend to be seasonal in nature. “For example, my Christmas articles compared the differences and similarities between Japanese and American illuminations and how we celebrate Christmas and New Years. My February article was about the Sapporo snow festival and skiing in Nagano.” In April she wrote about her visit to Mount Yoshino, famous for its cherry blossoms.

Laura’s articles extend beyond the borders of Japan as well. Laura’s volunteer work has taken her abroad to build houses in India, where she wrote about some of the issues facing dalits (‘untouchables’) in Southern India, and encouraged people to sponsor or partially sponsor a house.

Enjoying the view in Nagasaki

Enjoying the view in Nagasaki

The articles Laura writes for her church are similar, but in addition she tends to highlight Japanese religion, spirituality, and her community service activities. “For example, I organized a clothing drive for Haiti last year and a food drive for the local poor this year at my school and Japanese church. We were able to collect clothing for at least fifty children and twenty-two kilos of food. I was also fortunate to be able to lead a JET group to do relief work in Tohoku during Golden Week, and take refugees into my apartment for a few weeks. People who read my articles are very interested in these projects and often write me to ask how they can help too, so I feel like I`m able to make a difference through my writing..”

Besides those two monthly articles, she also contributes articles about Japan to her university newspaper, the JET WIT blog, and the AJET SIG (Special Interest Group) JET Christian Fellowship blog. She also writes a weekly blog at laurajanepopp.blogspot.com. The blog in particular has attracted attention from foreigners and Japanese people alike.  “I randomly met a girl, also named Laura, at Spa World in Osaka. I was getting out of the bath when she grabbed my hand and said, “I don`t mean to be creepy or anything, but I think I know you. I read your blog.” She went on to explain how she was looking for JET blogs when she was applying for JET and was instantly attracted to mine. She said my blog really helped her know what to expect from life in Japan and gave her great travel ideas. She`d been an avid follower for some time.”

Sakura at Himeji Castle

Sakura at Himeji Castle

Besides those two monthly articles, she also contributes articles about Japan to her university newspaper, the JET WIT blog, and the AJET SIG (Special Interest Group) JET Christian Fellowship blog. She also writes a weekly blog at laurajanepopp.blogspot.com. The blog in particular has attracted attention from foreigners and Japanese people alike.  “I randomly met a girl, also named Laura, at Spa World in Osaka. I was getting out of the bath when she grabbed my hand and said, “I don`t mean to be creepy or anything, but I think I know you. I read your blog.” She went on to explain how she was looking for JET blogs when she was applying for JET and was instantly attracted to mine. She said my blog really helped her know what to expect from life in Japan and gave her great travel ideas. She`d been an avid follower for some time.”

And how about the future? It seems writing is in Laura’s blood. “I plan to continue writing articles about Japan and Asia even after I return home. I want to go into professional journalism. My ultimate dream is to be a young adult science fiction and fantasy novelist. I`ve written eight books so far, three of them in Japan. I know the two ideas sound really incompatible, journalism and speculative fiction, but Japan has given me so many great story ideas. Actually, the title of my blog is “A science fiction/fantasy writer`s adventures and perspectives in Japan: after all, it might as well be another planet.”

If you are interested in introducing your life in Japan to others through your writing, Laura offers this: “Approach your spheres of influence first. Does your hometown have a periodical you`d like to write for? What newspapers or magazines do you subscribe to? Do you have a friend who writes for a certain publication you find interesting? These are the places to start.”