About Caroline Tomsfelt

MA student from the International Migration and Ethnic Relations (IMER) program. Travelling with my friend Sofia to Japan to participate in the INU Master's Summer School on Global Citizenship and Peace.

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 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

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.

The first days in Hiroshima!

Phew!

Welcome everybody! After an action packed week in Tokyo with my fellow student Sofia Wachtmeister, we took the Shinkansen (the fastest train in the world!) to Saijo, Hiroshima. And there is certainly no rest for the wicked!

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So far the Master’s Summer School on Global Citizenship and Peace has introduced us to a wonderful group of people, all of different national origin and with different stories of life. Except for us Swedes, the other students are from Indonesia, South Korea, Italy, Spain, USA, Vietnam, Denmark, Australia and China.

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We have engaged in interesting discussions on global citizenship, tried the local cuisine (Okonomiyaki, delicious!) and started to conspire against each other for the UN role-play on Saturday.

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We have all prepared a paper for this week, covering one of four themes on global citizenship and peace. These are to be presented and critiqued by other members of the group. As one of the first discussant and presenter, I found that it was an enlightening experience to have such a mixed group with different background to give me feedback. At this course, we have come in contact with differing teaching styles and study techniques – due to the different backgrounds of both teachers and participants – but what we’ve realized is that despite cultural and academic differences, many of us a working towards the same goal: bettering our understanding of the world and our role in it.

At the welcoming party that was held this night, we also got a chance to mingle with participants of other groups. As these couple of days have passed, we are starting to realize that the coming week will be as intense as it will be fun!

Stay tuned for Sofia’s account of crazy Tokyo and the upcoming activities of Hiroshima!

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