Presentation for Applied Geography Conference 2020

I have a video of my presentation at the Applied Geography Conference 2020. The conference was moved ONLINE this year due to the pandemic. I was chair of a special session on Educational Geography. We met via ZOOM on Tuesday, October 20th. It is important to note that the video shared here is NOT my lecture “A Fair Candlemas” — rather it is a talk about the EDUCATIONAL USE of my lecture. I have already posted the AFC lecture elsewhere on my blog.

ABSTRACT: This paper is the second in my geographic education series “Meteorology and Myth”. The purpose was to develop teaching modules which bridge topics in geography and atmospheric science with topics in history, art, folklore and culture. One question that students in my introductory “Weather and Climate” class would inevitably ask was if the “Groundhog Day” predictions are true. Although a groundhog and its shadow cannot predict the weather several weeks in advance, I found that there was a holistic teaching opportunity within the folklore. The legend does not make short-term meteorological sense. However, there may be long-term upper atmosphere circulation patterns, which have allowed the folk myth to arise in Europe, then survive in America. The lesson was not designed to “prove” if the Groundhog Day folk predictions are true. The point was to explain the relevant physical and cultural geographies in an interesting and accessible manner. Vivid and evocative imagery were used to make the atmospheric concepts engaging and memorable for general education students. Expected student outcomes include the skills to describe synoptic weather patterns, use climatic charts and explain climate change. A secondary pedagogical outcome is to further develop student appreciation of cultural geography, folklore and religion.

KEY WORDS: Geographic Education; Folklore; Meteorology; Climatology.

View a slide show of student comments below:

Thanks again to all who participated!

Posted in CULTURE, Popular Culture

Do American college students have something to learn from Japan’s “Coming of Age Day”?

Do American college students have something to learn from Japan’s “Coming of Age Day”?

The second Monday in January is a Japanese public holiday termed 成人の日 Seijin no Hi”. “Coming of Age Day” or “Adults Day” honors young people who have turned 20 years old since April 2 of last year, or will turn 20 by April 1 this year. Twenty-years old is termed the “age of majority” — meaning that the youth join all other adults in the larger society. Age 20 is also known as the “age of maturity”. The holiday is an important rite of passage for young people, and the tradition dates back centuries. The day is observed to congratulate and honor those young people who will accept the responsibilities of being an adult citizen. Certain legal rights are expanded at that age, but with that also comes with an expectation of increased responsibility.

The legal age for drinking alcohol, smoking, signing a lease, getting a loan, or getting married without parental consent is 20 years old in Japan.  Japanese youth are expected to give up childish behavior, and commit to being a more serious adult. Ironically, as age 20 is also the official legal drinking age – thus many young people are welcomed into the adult majority by having their first (legal) drink of sake, and many become intoxicated in celebration. I think that most American college students would agree that the best way to demonstrate maturity and independence is to drink alcohol.

Two kimono-clad girls drink sake during a coming-of-age day ceremony in Tokyo. (Photo by Yamaguchi Haruyoshi/Corbis via Getty Images)

Seijin Shiki ( 成人式refers to the social celebration and observation of the youths’ commitment. This usually involves a ceremony at a Shinto shrine and/or commemoration at legal offices in local prefectures. The entertainment districts in Tokyo are filled with young people and their families. Even Tokyo Disneyland also hosts events.

Ikuta Shrine Kobe, Japan

Notable is the formal wear the young people wear. A formal kimono is traditional for young women. These are termed a  furisode (a long-sleeved kimono for unmarried women). These are all strikingly beautiful garments. Most young women rent them for the ceremonies, as these formal kimonos may cost thousands of dollars each.

Kimonos are one of the more unique and interesting aspects about Japanese culture:

Young men wear either Western-style formal attire or a traditional men’s kimono with hakama.  Some celebrants instead wear traditional (historical) Japanese dress. A recent trend has begun, where participants wear “cosplay” type attire, as some may choose to dress as a famous Japanese character. They perhaps “party hard” on this day, because from then on they will have to be a responsible adult.

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Unfortunately, there are fewer participants every year, which is a reflection of Japan’s declining birth rates and its inverted population pyramid. There is also an attitude of rejection of the concept by some youth.  The idea of taking on more responsibility merely because of age is not something some agree with. Japan’s “age of maturity” is scheduled to be legally reduced from age 20 to 18 in the year 2022. Japan’s leaders hope that more young people will mature faster, get married sooner and start families at an earlier age.

Do you think that a commitment to maturity would take hold among American youth? Why or why not? Is twenty years old the right age for American kids to accept responsibility? How about thirty? Please comment.

It took the sap about 3:00 to flow today.


Graduate Student’s “Cultural Geography Mini-Symposium” December 12, 2018

The students in my graduate geography course held a “Mini-Symposium” instead of taking a regular final exam.. These are the posters presented by the students December 12, 2018.

The students were to experience the professional experience of presenting an academic poster, perform a ‘conference-style” oral presentation, and submit a research paper for review. All of this experience in one day!

Geography and Voting Patterns in North Carolina  — DeVare Jenkins

Jenkins voting in nc poster

Peyotism and the Native American Church: An Ethno-Geographic Study Employing a “Five Themes” Approach. — Richard William Varner II

Richard Peyote poster 2018

Teal’s Wonderful World of Golf — Jimmy Teal

teal Wonderful World of Golf poster

Buddhism and the Five Themes of Cultural Geography  — Sonya L. Hunt

Sonya Hunt Buddhism Poster

Global Human Trafficking — LaToya Gholston

Gholston Poster

The Diffusion of Jazz in America from 1917-1969: Examining Jazz Through Recordings —Brandon Hyatt

Brandons jazz poster

Cultural Geography of Religious Cults – Katheryn Sonnen

K S cults Poster

It was also good to see that some faculty and administrators were able to attend:

Good job people! Let’s present these at the Graduate Symposium this April!



“Idol Minds: American Perspectives and Misunderstandings of Japanese Idol Culture” (Popular Culture Association Annual Conference, 2018.)

This is a conference paper/Powerpoint slide show that I presented in an Asian Studies session at the Popular Culture Association conference in Indianapolis, IN in March 28-31, 2018. This topic contains material dealing with human sexuality — so “trigger warning” and all that.


I received more in-session feedback and discussion than I have with any other topic, at any other conference, at any time.