Arigato Malmö University!

After five great days in Tokyo with Lea, a peace and conflict student from Malmö University and also a participant at this years INU seminar, I am back in Malmö, Sweden. Tokyo was a contrast to the calm and authentic feeling I got from Hiroshima, which is why I am very happy that the seminar was held in Hiroshima and that I also got the chance to visit Tokyo afterwards. I got to experience Japan in two different ways, which has made me feel that I most definitely want to visit Japan again – two weeks were not enough to explore this friendly and beautiful country!

I have had such an amazing experience in Japan and I am honored to have been selected by Malmö University as a participant at the INU 2013 seminar and funded by Hiroshima University. I am aware that this post might sound a bit cliche, but every word is sincere. I have learnt a lot about myself regarding how I function in group work and discussions, how language barriers can be overcome and how interesting it is to meet students from different countries and academic backgrounds and listen to their view about issues related to sustainable development, migration and many other topics. Meeting the other students from Malmö University was also as interesting as meeting other international students, since I probably wouldn’t have met them otherwise.

I would highly recommend every student at MU to submit an application for next years seminar. This is a great opportunity for personal, social and academic development. It is also a way for the students attending the seminar to be a representative for their home university, which strengthens the image of MU and hopefully attracts international students.

For students longing to go abroad during their education MU has several opportunities – you can go on an exchange semester, do your internship abroad, write your thesis as an MFS and, of course, go on a “summer school”, such as the one I have been to this summer in Japan. All the information about these great opportunities can be found here http://www.mah.se/studyabroad/

Besides the cultural exchange and academically challenging aspect of INU, I have had so much fun during this trip, which resulted in me crying and laughing at the same time almost every day. Also, and this is the most cliche part about this blog post, you never regret the things you have done, only the things you did not do. Therefore – make sure to send in an application for next years INU seminar!

Finally, here are a few of the almost 700 pictures I took during my two weeks in Japan. Enjoy!
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/Nadja

 

 

Bye-bye, Japan!

Trying to sooth both body and mind, mine and Sofia’s last two days in Hiroshima were spent walking through Saijo. With our new friend Nadja from another seminar group, we found that Saijo is amazingly picturesque with its traditional houses and calm atmosphere. To my great joy, the last evening included shabu shabu, my absolute favorite dish in Japan. It’s a type of fondue – you cook meat, vegetables, dumblings, noodles (really whatever you want, this particular restaurant had many options) in a delicious broth.

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Also, Saijo is known for its quality Sake, and offers everybody free samples at all of their traditional breweries. We obviously took advantage of this, and found ourselves buying home a nice and unexpectedly affordable bottle each. The man in charge of the boutique insisted on showing us English information videos, so at this point we can also account for the production of traditional Sake!

Tasting some sake

Tasting some sake

We also got a final piece of Japanese crazyness, when we explored the top floor of the otherwise quiet youme house. We were met by some sort of an arcade, with a mix of a never ending noise from the machines and a parade song about the Rilakkuma bear; pink machines filled with candy; and running children. Thanks to the kind people at the hotel, we could calm our nerves at their spa after we had checked out. So our last hours in Hiroshima were spent in the bath and the massage chair (very violent against our calves! We figured they’re just too big, much as the rest of us have been here in Japan).

Rilakkuma wearing a watermelon. A picture really does say more than a thousand words!

Rilakkuma wearing a watermelon. A picture really does say more than a thousand words!

The dreaded trip home (Hotel –> Saijo station –> Hiroshima –> Tokyo station + long wait –> Narita airport + long wait –> Helsinki airport –> Copenhagen airport –> Malmö) went surprisingly smooth. As Tokyo station closed when we arrived, and we were pretty much thrown out of it, we got to experience night-time central Tokyo (incredibly calm) in an overprized tapas place and some sort of night café that people went to just to make time pass until the first train starts to run again. Needless to say, we had absolutely no problem sleeping on our flights!

Home again, I can only say that this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had. Both Tokyo and Hiroshima have been absolutely incredible. As regards the INU Summer School, I have no doubts in recommending anybody to apply! It’s quite amazing actually, to have the opportunity to get a scholarship to go to Japan and to meet such great people. It is incredibly intense – not a whole lot of rest! And not a whole lot of spare time, which is the reason I’m writing my last post from home! But the intensity is good, since so many great experiences are crammed in to one week. When we were on the plane going home, I asked Sofia: “for how long have we been gone?” and she answered:

“I don’t know, three months?”

And that’s not because it was boring or too much, we were just able to experience so much. Thank you INU, Malmö University and Hiroshima University. And thank you Japan!

Last night in Tokyo. Tired, a bit lost - and happy.

Last night in Tokyo. Tired, a bit lost – and happy.

Playing the role of a Saudi

Following the sightseeing of the past few days, our schedule focused more on the academic part for the rest of our stay. We continued to discuss our papers in our little group, discovering a vast range of topics. We discussed everything from the concept of humanitarian intervention to the subculture of boy love in Japan (young girls who fantasize about male homosexual love). These discussions were paired with lectures from Magnus Ericson and Catherine Kevin. Catherine’s account of comfort women in Japan was new for most of us, sparking a discussion on the aspects of war that aren’t strictly geopolitical.

IMG_7998_2Alongside the lectures and paper presentations, there were constant preparations taking place for the UN role-play, which would take place on the last day of the course. Assigned with two influential actors, the USA and Saudi Arabia, the master students were in constant negotiation with both each other and the rest of the seminar participants. Dragging our tired selves home one night, we went in to a Sushi place next to Saijo station. Even though the chef smiled approximately two times during our entire visit, he sure made some excellent sushi! Coupled with Japan’s delicious plum wine (served in tiny, tiny wine glasses), we could not have been happier.

Brazil, China, India, Japan, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, The United Kingdom, and USA waiting to start negotiations.

Brazil, China, India, Japan, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, The United Kingdom, and USA waiting to start negotiations.

The UN role-play took place on what (I heard) was the hottest day in Japan for the past 100 years! No wonder we were short of breath after a quick stop at the campus’ kiosk. After all countries presented their interests, we started debating and voting for amendments to the draft on Sustainable Development Goals. It was interesting to see just how important lobbying is in this type of situation; the final arguments for the amendments didn’t seem to matter as much as the deals made behind closed doors.

DSCN3332After the handout of diplomas and an excellent good-bye party (Hiroshima Uni staff deserve praise!), we headed off to celebrate our ‘graduation’. The mood was bittersweet, as we knew we had to say good-bye pretty soon. Nevertheless, we managed to scream our way through a long session of karaoke, murdering Clapton’s Leila and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.DSCN3345

The Second Flight

As I am writing this I wish that I could tell you that I’m on my last flight, that soon I will be home with my plants and my cat, my friends and my boyfriend. However, this is only the second flight.

The night was spent on a hard concrete floor at Narita International Airport. At first I thought that I would have a 14 hour wait in Tokyo during the day sadly I did not read my ticket thoroughly enough and what it really said was that I had a 14 hour wait at night. With no money a hotel wasn’t an option and I did not feel comfortable walking around in Tokyo with my heavy baggage at night, what if I dropped my bag and my precious Umeshu bottle broke?! Thus the night was spent alone on a hard and cold floor, well I was not really alone, there were farting and snoring people all around me and a strange annoying American who kept on playing “smooth” lounge music really high throughout the night.

During my stay in Japan I have tried to get to know something about the gay culture, where do you go? What do you do? How is it like? Thus I have been scouring the Internet for a non Japanese website for gay guys in Japan, since the trend among guys in Japan seems to be to act a bit “feminine” my “gaydar” has been totally out of order. I finally found Badoo two days ago and through that I was able to talk to a guy also spending the night at Narita, he was going to Taipei. This cyber encounter was about al I got to know about the gay culture in Japan; sometimes the gay guys go to Taipei (or more properly one time a Japanese gay guy went to Taipei). I’m a bit disappointed, what I have learned on Wikipedia however is that gay culture in the nation goes back to the 1100th century and that gays today have almost the same rights as straight people. However, your not expected to flaunt your homosexuality and there still is a lot of hush-hush about the whole thing. I guess it is the same as in Sweden (pretty much), expect the 1100th century thing. The straight Japanese guys (well I think they were straight) acted pretty much like Swedish straight guys, calling each other gay, teasing and making fun, well well… heterosexual boys will be heterosexual boys, one day the gays and the women will rule thus peace and prosperity will be upon us.

As I am writing this I’m sitting besides a Japanese businessman, he has a mask to protect himself from germs I and is currently in a deep state of sleep. Some turbulence just set in and as usual I’m feeling a but anxious.

The week in Hiroshima has thought me a lot of unexpected things, I don’t like Sake, Japan is a very humid and very hot country, everything is cute, sadly I got the feeling that some things were a game, or a charade, some things were not real. I cannot elaborate more on that feeling since it was just a feeling. I have learnt that it’s quite hard to be a vegetarian in Japan and that bowing acutely is more respectful than shaking someone’s hand, of course I always bow and shake hands. I have also learned that Sweden, or Malmö University is quite unique in the way environmental issues are handled and discussed in a holistic way. The anthropocentric and ecocentric values are dealt with combined and the notion of sustainability and its three core dimensions; economical, ecological and social sustainability are jointly considered. This also forms a new broader way of thinking by the students, a property I saw lacking in others when attending the summer school. The gender perspective was non-existing, and some of the lectures and students where surprisingly uneducated in this area, also the treatment of women colleagues and fellow students was sometimes appalling, oozing of patriarchy and male dominance. There was also a great sense of double morality where some students and lecturers would say one thing and do another, some of the students did not really seem to be engaged in environmental issues they were simple there as engineers dealing with a single problem. I missed the overall engagement and burning passion among the students, I missed the personal engagement.

However, all was not bad, and I have learnt that the environmental issues facing many parts of the world are very similar, though they differ in severity we can all learn from each other. And as I am writing this on my 9 hour flight with my Japanese guy by my side, a cute guy in the back of the plain, a constant fear of exploding, falling, drowning, dying, I cannot help to wonder if that was the most important lesson, or maybe it was to pack a fan the next time I go to Japan.

One flight left, from Helsinki to Copenhagen then I am home.

//Kevin

Late night thoughts.

These past few days have been quite intense. The academic part of the INU, which also consists of a cultural aspect, consisting of workshops on the Millenium Development Goals have taken place, finishing the last one today. The four workshops cover three of the eight goals;

MDG 1 Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger
MDG 3 Promoting gender equality and empowering women
MDG 7 Ensuring environmental sustainability

The forth workshop connects refugees, which are not specifically mentioned in the MDGs, with several of the goals.

The workshop leaders come from universities in the US, Spain and Australia. Each workshop begin with an introduction to the specific subject and MDG, since many different fields of study are being represented at the seminar. Human rights, french literature, history, engineering and law are just a few of them.

After a short introduction we are encouraged to discuss specific problems of, or related to, the MDGs. The workshop groups are put together with the idea that we, the students, might have different perspectices depending on where we come from but also what academic background we have.

The foreign students participating in INU this year tend to be the dominating ones in the academic discussions. I talked to my new japanese friend that is also participating in INU about this, which she explained was related to the japanese education system. Their system is not promoting a critical way of thinking about different subjects, which she thought that, for example, swedish higher education does. Personally I think that Malmö University is encouraging us students to have our own opinions about the theories we read about, but MU also provides us with different tools on how to be critical and present that critic in an academic way.

However, the INU is about the experiences and opinions of all participating students. It was interesting hearing my friend talk about the japanese system, since we all have different ways of learning and expressing what we have learned in an academic way.

Personally I sometimes felt a bit frustrated during the workshops when I tried to communicate and have a discussion with a japanese student, because they sometimes did tend to be rather quiet. However, I was blown away about the progress in at least my UN Role play assembly country group. From staying in the background during our conversations they now took iniative and really delivered the things that had to be done.

My japanese friend Akiko told me that one of her goals at the INU was to say at least one thing in each workshop, which did without any problems. She also said that her english skills had developed and that she felt much more confidence using english than she did before. Her saying that really made me realize that all students actually want to participate but that it takes a while to get started sometimes, but most of all I now understand the strength and determination it takes to be participating in something like the INU when the language used is not the one you usually speak. It also taught be that all of the students participating in the INU are highly motivated and always are trying their best.

After eating my probably seventh or eight sushi in a few days it is now time for me to get some sleep before the finale of the INU – the UN role play! I am proudly representing Nigeria and tomorrow I hope my country group can convience other countries of our achievements so far. To be continued…

 

/Nadja

Practice on-board Toyoshio Maru

Hello!

On the 5th of august we had the opportunity to do some on-board practice on Toyoshio Maru, Hiroshima University’s research vessel. TM is built in 2006 and is used as a training vessel by the Graduate School of Biosphere Science, Hiroshima University. Toyoshio Maru is travelling around the Seto inland, western parts of Japan and sometimes as far as Korea.

The day was hot and the sun was shining when we left the hotel by bus. I think we were all tired because of the long and intense day we had the 4th with presenting our country reports and participating in the welcome ceremony held at Hiroshima University.

The japanese students were already familiar with Toyoshio Maru since they are using the boat for their research. We borrowed rubber boots and on board we had some ”safty instructions” ☺ and were told to always use helmet and life vest when being on the deck. Me and Kevin had also noticed that a lot of people in Japan wear a small towel around their neck because of the heat. So, equipped with rubber boots, life vest, helmet and sweat towel we were ready to start our research trip!

The trip was mostly about getting a presentation of TM and see if there was any significant difference of the environmental status between two locations in Hiroshima bay. Among the tests we conducted were CTD, pH, sediment tests and identification of benthos and planktons. I appreciated the more practical approach during the day because it’s always easier to get to know each other when working together.

In the afternoon we were all really tired. Me, Kevin, Mickey (from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University) and Vane (from Rovira i Virgili University) decided to have dinner at a restaurant in Saijo. We got stuck at the local YOUME that is a large supermarket center located about 15 minutes walk from the Green Hotel Morris. At YOUME we found a restaurant called the Casual Viking (!) which had buffé with as many japanese courses as we could figure out. The japanese food really is something special. All these flavours and textures some unfamiliar to me but oh so delicious!

/Linnea

The memory of an atomic bomb

 

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On the 6th of August 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped over central Hiroshima city. Amidst all our adventures, it becomes easy to forget that this is the reason we are here. During the past two days, the city of Hiroshima has displayed an exceptional spirit of solidarity – trying to remember the victims killed by the A-bomb – as well as to spread the message of peace to the rest of the world.

 

 

The people of Hiroshima have also shown that not only is this a time for locals to come together and remember the day of the bomb, but it is also a time to convey an understanding to others of what happened that day. Mr. Keijiro Matsushima, one of the survivors of the A-bomb (a group called Hibakusha), told us the story about his life in Hiroshima and that fateful day when the place he called home was obliterated. Needless to say, this was an incredibly unique experience that will remain in the memories of all participants. We were impressed by Mr. Matsushima’s gentle manners and lack of resentment, as well as his candid account of the misery caused by the bomb.

Mr. Matsushima

Mr. Matsushima

 

Japan's Prime Minster, Shinzo Abe

Japan’s Prime Minster, Shinzo Abe

Following Mr. Matsushima’s speech, the next day demanded an early awakening for all of us, as we got up to participate in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. Speeches from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the mayor, UN representatives and the Children’s Representatives were coupled with the release of peace doves and the dramatic sound of the Hiroshima Peace song performed by a children’s choir and orchestra.

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On a happier note, the day carried on the island of Miyajima. In the intense heat, we strolled amongst the wild deer, walked through a Samurai temple, and snapped an abundance of pictures of the Itsukushima Shrine.

 

That, however, would turn out to be nothing in comparison to the amount of photos produced during the Lantern Ceremony later that night. It is held annually to remember the victims of the A-bomb. As the sun set on the river running through central Hiroshima, hundreds and hundreds of lanterns were lit, shining against the backdrop of the A-bomb Dome (one of very few buildings that actually remained after the attack).

The A-bomb Dome during the Lantern Ceremony

The A-bomb Dome during the Lantern Ceremony

We have arrived!

We have arrived

My name is Kevin Malmborg, I’m 20 years old and I study environmental science at Malmö University. Environmental issues were not always of interest to me however with time I came to realize the importance of global engagement and responsibility.

I’m in my little brown hotel room (brown carpets, furniture, bed, wall and kettle, everything is in some shade of brown) ready for the INU 2013 summer school on global environmental sustainability.

Through my window I can see the tree covered hills hidden behind huge monotone concrete blocks surrounded by heavily corroded fences, gates and light posts. Japan is a humid country therefore the steel skeleton of which our unsustainable society is made of quickly rusts; the rust however is a quiet pleasant red-brown color, better than my hotel room.

An Eventful and Memorable first day of the Seminar

Today was the first day of the Student Seminar on Global Citizenship and Peace for us undergrad students. We started this week off with a special emphasis on peace, spending two days commemorating the tragedy of the destruction of Hiroshima caused by the atomic bomb on August 6th 1945. I write my first blog post with a certain blend of awe and exhaustion.

As part of our reading assignment, we had to read Hiroshima by John Hersey, which was published in the New Yorker one year after the bombing; a whole edition dedicated to the documented story. Naturally, I had started to read this a few weeks ago, but in a certain sense I didn’t quite feel properly prepared for it. I was mentally occupied with work, planning the practical details for this trip and I felt like I needed to give this piece of literature the respect and time it deserved. Therefore I read the rest when I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hiroshima yesterday. As I sat in the airplane-like seat, facing no one and sitting side by side with my fellow passengers, I couldn’t help shaking with muffled sobs. As anyone would, I imagine. First of all with the intense feeling of the human suffering that occurred. Which is unfathomable in its seemingly unending horror. But then, also this other dimension: of unity in the most trying of times, the strength of the people of Hiroshima and the power of reconciliation. It felt eerie to be taking this superhuman train into what was once a nightmare scenario for so many people, now an international symbol of world peace. I just felt purely overwhelmed that I was not only going to attend the Memorial Ceremony, but also to be in the presence of a Hibakusha, a survivor and direct eye witness of the destruction in 1945 and blessed with the privilege of hearing his account. Although I’d been imagining this for a few months, I just still couldn’t believe the reality of it.

So today, after a brief introduction to our course and a Japanese language session for the most essential phrases taught by a very passionate language student, we met inour Country Groups to get acquainted. We then took off to the Chamber of Commerce where we heard the personal account of Mr. Matsushima who was only 16 years old on that fateful day. Despite having told his stories many times in the spirit of remembrance and sharing, he still spoke with clarity, humour and compassion. His English was very impressive, which I was told he had taught himself so that he could also be able to share his experience directly with foreigners. He kept repeating how lucky he was to have survived, as many near him, essentially meters away, unfortunately didn’t. 

Afterwards, we walked through the Peace Memorial Park, where the Atomic Bomb Dome mysteriously and symbolically still stands tall despite being very close to the epicentre of the explosion. It was a crowded area and animated with music from across the river. It was strange to imagine how close to the epicentre this area was and I spoke with many students who were equally touched. Farther along we entered the Peace Memorial Museum alongside students of all ages from all over Japan. There was loads of information on the history of the war, the technicalities of nuclear energy, the details of the destruction. This was enhanced by items found in the ruins. I think that a lot of visitors saw one or two things that they will personally never forget. It got to me when I saw the completely burned, disfigured and rusted little tricycle that belonged to a 3-year-old boy who apparently always biked around. He died as a result of his burns, and was buried with this beloved tricycle, until it was dug out about 40 years later and given asa donation to the museum.

In this sense, it was an intense day for all of us. Walking the ground that once burned 3000´C, retracing history with the help of Mr. Matsushima, shaken with images of human suffering. And at the same time, it was also the first day of our seminar and we were eager to get to know each other. All day was spent talking to new people. I listened eagerly to many stories; of how women are treated in Japan, how WWII is taught in American High Schools, and what it’s like to work and live in Cambodia.

I’m sure everyone else felt overcome with emotion and information just like me, because when we came back to our area around 8 pm and went shopping in our local 7/11 for a quick dinner, all the other students I met were also sort of staggering around. Now I sit here on my bed exhausted and worried whether I’ll miss my alarm tomorrow. In order to be at the Peace Memorial Ceremony, we are all meeting up outside at 5.50. I better drift off before I get too excited.

PS: I should perhaps add that I highly recommend anyone to read Hiroshima, if they haven’t had the chance already. The full text is available online.

10 PM, August 5th 2013

– Sarah

 

Mr Matsushima surrounded by INU students

Mr Matsushima surrounded by INU students

Teaching the new generation about the destruction caused by war - the Dome can be seen in the background.

Teaching the new generation about the destruction caused by war – the Dome can be seen in the background.

Another image from the museum of the totally flattened city

Another image from the museum of the totally flattened city

Voluntarily Lost in Translation

 

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We mingled with Scarlett and Bill in the Tokyo Park Hyatt where Lost in Translation was set

After very nearly deleting the e-mail from the international office in Malmö, dismissing it as spam (the subject was: ‘CONGRATULATIONS’), I got an excited, correction over-excited call from my course friend (and real-life friend) Caroline proclaiming that we both got INU Summer School scholarships to go to Japan. Japan! Wow. The country conjures up contrasting images of traditional houses, powerful geishas, delicate temples and incomparable green nature onto a backdrop of colourful anime, cutting edge technology and competing neon signs. Which Japan would we find? We headed to Tokyo a week before the school started to find out.

 

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Cute (evertything in Japan aspires to be cute or Kawaiii) hints on how to behave on the metro

Landing in a city of 14million when you’re used to 300,000 strong Malmö you’re mentally prepared for chaos and being permanently lost. But we found that although the metro map looks like colourful spaghetti and there are multiple railways companies owning various lines on the metro, everything is amazingly logically planned. Most signs are in English, colour coded and numbered.

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Commuters

If you ever find yourself lost and can’t speak Japanese then gesture where it is you want to go and the upmost will be done to make sure you get it! Form what we experienced Japanese people are very private and great lengths are gone to not be an inconvenience to others for example

 

no-one pushes or shoves on the metro, no-one coughs, space is made for everyone with minimal touching and there is absolutely no loud talking on the trains. Maybe it’s these principles that make it possible to have such a high concentration of people without it spilling over into chaos?

 

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Smiles all round in Ginza, Tokyo’s playground for the rich and fancy (and us for a night).

 

Not knowing Japanese many of our experiences happened by chance. We adopted the habit of just pointing at random things on the menu and hoping for the best (all yum!). Much of the action if hidden from street view in Tokyo either underground (cooler and saves space) or up high in department buildings. So if you can’t read Japanese you can’t read the billboards advertising what’s inside but nothing stops you from taking the steps down to see what yummy restaurants can be sampled there, or going up to find men playng betting flipper in a trance (Pachinko). Fancying a cocktail in late night Ginza we acted on the ‘press a random button in the lift’ tactic and ended up in a bar- where the staff were as surprised to see us as we them! After initial excitement and confusion we all got into some old fashioned karaoke (we murdered Country Road), we all exchanged details and mingles with the suits and kimonos.

 

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Tokyo is a sensory overload with music blaring, bright colours and many new things for a Malmö accustomed brain to take in and understand. But maybe understanding shouldn’t be the objective- go with the flow, press the lift buttons and if you get lost there will most likely be a Japanese person who will politely help you out.