New club provides community and a piece of home away from home


Walter Flanagin

Drake Williams teaches a student how to write a Kanji character at the Japanese language and culture association’s AAPINH week event on April 12, 2023. (Walter Flanagin/TCU360)

By Walter Flanagin, Staff Writer

TCU’s Japanese Language and Culture Association is small, but its size hasn’t stopped instructors and students from expanding beyond the classroom. 

In early April, students learned calligraphy and origami techniques from members of the Japanese Language and Culture Association, or JLCA. The event was part of the largest-ever Asian American, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian Heritage Week at TCU. 

Miller Barnes, a sophomore history major and member of JLCA, also takes Japanese at TCU. Barnes shared what he enjoyed about the event.

“I get to teach people the things that I got to learn that made me really excited, like learning my name was a big thing,” Barnes said.

About 40 people attended Wednesday’s event. 

Origami flowers and an origami frog students made at the JLCA event on April 12, 2023. (Walter Flanagin/Staff Writer)

Drake Williams started the JLCA last October as a study group for students interested in Japanese and a place for students to talk about the culture.

The sophomore chemistry major said he started the club because there was no representation of Japanese culture at TCU. 

“I want something where I can have a little bit of a piece of home away from home,” Williams said.

Williams’ father served in the Marine Corps for 30 years. In 2013, his family moved to Okinawa where Williams lived until coming to TCU. The student said he associates with Japanese culture because he is from Okinawa. 

The club meets weekly to discuss topics such as teaching Kanji characters, history, culture, language, food and art. 

“One of the things that I’ve talked about a couple of times in the club is the older art form of a tattoo that they used to do called a Tebori,” Williams said. “I like to talk about that because it’s a dying art form and typically associated with the Yakuza.”

Williams said he got a Tebori (“hand-carved”) tattoo last summer.

Dr. Benjamin Ireland, the club’s advisor, said the club allows students who may not be in a Japanese class at TCU to learn Japanese through their peers. There is only one Japanese course offered every semester on a rotational basis. That means beginner Japanese is only taught every four semesters.

The club provides a space “where they can learn about Japanese culture, anime culture, origami (or) calligraphy in a peer-to-peer kind of setting, which I think is very validating,” Ireland said.

Barnes joined the club this semester. He said the experience has helped him learn Japanese from Williams.

“He’ll try and help us with whatever concepts we don’t have or teach some of the other members who don’t speak Japanese some concepts,” Barnes said.

Barnes shared that the next meeting they have planned is Japanese Jeopardy.

Anthony Dudas, a sophomore graphic design major, manages social media for JLCA and designed the organization’s logo. Dudas said he found out about JLCA from his Japanese class.


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For Dudas, the most rewarding part about the club is putting on events.

“This is our first event and it had an awesome turnout,” Dudas said. “I want to do more of these events.”

Williams said he hopes to expand the club to include around 15 active members.

“I would love to see new faces,” Williams said. “It’s always a pleasure to meet new people and teach somebody something that they want to learn about. So that’s what’s important to me. Obviously, we’re on an upper-education level campus so people wanting to learn is everybody’s story. So if this is something you want to learn about, I’d love to be the person that helped you get to that point.”

More information on how to join JLCA can be found on their TCU Engage page.