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Sanji Muto Study Room transformed into digital museum to celebrate namesake, Japanese culture

Apr 10, 2020

As the William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center is transformed into a student-centered resource for modern teaching and learning, one room will expose visitors to Japanese culture, tradition and history. The renovated Sanji Muto Study Room, an interactive, digital museum, celebrates and pays homage to its namesake and his heritage.

Muto attended University of the Pacific in San Jose to study English in 1885, making him one of the first Japanese students to attend the university. His passion for literature influenced his decision to establish an endowment at Pacific in 1919 to grow the understanding of Japanese culture and history. The endowment funded book purchases for 100 years, and in 2018, in recognition of the growing popularity of digital resources, the Muto family approved directing the endowment to digital media projects that support 21st century teaching and learning.

Virtual tea shop
Virtual Japanese tea shop

Upon entering the study room, visitors will find curated artwork and artifacts, as well as instructions on using augmented reality to become immersed in Japanese culture. Physical artifacts placed in the room are enhanced with content captured in a variety of formats, including audio interviews, 2D and 3D images, and video and text, said  Niraj Chaudhary, project manager and associate university librarian for organization innovation. Motoko Day, international student and scholar adviser, provided the voice-overs and Josh Salyers, assistant professor of practice, served as content expert for the project.

“It’s a much more immersive experience,” Chaudhary said. “If you can engage people, they will learn.”

Niraj Chaudhary, associate university librarian for organization innovation, uses a tablet to activate this art display of Sanji Muto.

One artifact to be displayed in the room is a tea shop model purchased in Japan. When visitors point a cellphone or a tablet at the model, the characters come alive on the screen—giving life to the shop. Visitors will then be prompted to read about tea’s significance to Japanese culture, the etiquette of bowing and more.

Kadri Nizam ’19, who graduated with degrees in physics and applied mathematics, is the project manager for the tea shop experience. Nizam and Yusif Imanov ’20, a computer science major, are the two students who worked as developers on the Muto project.

Nizam joined the team while still a student and remains involved as the recently hired innovation space coordinator. Nizam said the hands-on experience benefits the students involved in the project. Skills honed by managing a project, setting deadlines, working as a team and overcoming obstacles along with the technical skills to complete this project are desirable traits to future employers, he said.

The project is all about experiential learning, getting students engaged in this process and using technology in projects that help prepare them for their future careers and secure jobs, Chaudhary said. Faculty also will be able to add this experience to their curriculum and use the content to further engage students during lectures.

The Muto Family has continued to support education and cross-cultural understanding through the Sanji Muto Study Room. Haruta MutoSanji Muto’s grandson, is engaged with the university, having hosted two Pacific delegations in 2018 that allowed students and staff to visits sites in Japan, including Sanji Muto’s home, shrines, cemeteries and museums, to capture digital content. The study room’s museum will incorporate this content.

An overview of the project is available online at

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