As a native of Japan who came to America to attend college, I became keenly aware of cultural differences. This led me to ponder what is culture and what culture does to us. To find answers, I studied anthropology, and the culture-individual relationship has become a major concern linking my various academic interests. The question of how the individual negotiates reality, simultaneously guided and constrained by culture, has provided the major theoretical framework for much of my work. As strategic settings to address this question, my past and current research has focused on situations where individuals are under powerful cultural constraints. Old age in America, the topic of my dissertation, presents the cultural dilemma because growing old is regarded as an antithesis of American ideals. Mortuary rituals in Japan and the temporal dimension of contemporary life in both the US and Japan show how the individual is subjected to the despotism of tradition and to the tyranny of the clock respectively. These studies illustrate the individual’s ingenuity in coping with the attendant cultural problems and highlight not only the complex interplay among cultural models, social action, and individual experience, but also the significance of human agents both as products and as bearers or creators of the cultural order. Social change, which generates further constrains, is another effective area of exploration. My continuing research in three cultures—on two Thai families since 1985, Japanese mortuary rituals since 1988, and on older Americans since 1987—enables me to investigate how people adapt to the rapidly changing world they live in. I am currently working on a monograph, Elderly Pioneers: Aging in the United States through a Foreigner’s Eyes
, which is based on the last of my three longitudinal studies.