About Sara Nadja och Hedvig

Hi, We are three of the four participants of the INU 2013 Student seminar of global citizenship and peace, held in Hiroshima, Japan. Nadja El-Hinidy Nilsson is studying social work at the faculty of health and society. Hedvig Obenius and Sarah Scott Oschner are studying human rights at the faculty of culture and society at Malmö University. During the seminar in Japan we will share our experinces, both personal and academic, with the hopes of encouraging other students at Malmö University to apply for next years INU seminar!

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!
IMG_3021 IMG_3047 IMG_3054 DSC_0022 IMG_3122 IMG_3120 IMG_3152 IMG_3178 IMG_3179 IMG_3266 IMG_3289

 

/Nadja

 

 

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

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

En Route

4/8, 13:30 PM

I am so glad that I have discovered the chilled waiting cubicles available on most train platforms (they are obvious once you are aware of them, but poor signage lead to most tourists suffering outside). Being cool increases the convenience of waiting for trains by a mile. Kyoto, which I have just left for Hiroshima and the INU Student Seminar commencing today, is notably hotter than Tokyo. Another way of avoiding the heat is to spend time in shops equipped with air-conditioner, something I have dedicated most of my time to do whilst in Kyoto. Despite spending countless of hours exploring almost every traditional Kyoto craft shop I must admit being a tad disappointed by the offering. If its truly traditional it’s ridiculously expensive, otherwise it’s mostly cheap kitsch. Before finding this out I bought a load of bubble wrap in the Japanese equivalent of a £1 shop (JPY 100 shop), believing I was going to wrap tons of Japanese ceramics. So potteryless I am now dragging around two huge rolls of bubble wrap. Luckily they are super light and they serve a good excuse for purchasing and wrapping loads of Japanese beer and Hiroshima made sake to bring back to the UK. With neither a decent Yukata in sight, despite looking around in second hand shops, not a classic Kyoto knife (the only REAL old knife producer, unlike many other, was closed) I have left Kyoto with barely more than a few pairs of silk socks and a mini Totoro figure (an essential buy if you love the film).

Since the temple shut their door at 9 PM, in order for the guests to wake up refreshed at 5 AM and participate in the morning ceremony, there have been no social activities late at night during my stay. Instead I have enjoyed watching the monks going about their business in the temple village and the older, more religious, demographic of Japan, who prays outside the temples in the morning. This demographic is also extremely well mannered and gives everyone they meet, without exception, a good morning greeting followed by a short bow. Therefor peaceful morning walks in the temple village was pretty intensive since you have to stop every 5 seconds in order to greet. At 7 AM a vegetarian breakfast was served in the dining hall, in accordance with Buddhist teaching of not killing any living creatures. Scattered outside the temple area is many vegetarian (and a vegan Michelin starred restaurant!) to my delight. On the note of vegetarian food, the pillow I slept on during my stay in the temple was filled with rice and must have been the most uncomfortable piece of bedding ever made. I rather sleep on my bare arms than on a bag of rice, which felt like a lump of concrete after a while.

Whilst in Kyoto I had many new culinary experiences. The vendors at the Nishiki food market happily gives away their samples and after passing through what felt like hundreds of stalls I was completely stuffed. As a green tea lover I am thrilled by all green tea filled stuff and the only food item I dislike so far is the Daifuku, filled with Azuki bean paste. I suppose you get used to them as treats if you grow up eating them, but I cannot understand the Japanese joy over Azuki bean paste. However, I have enjoyed plenty of raw egg in Kyoto. Raw egg and noodles, raw egg for breakfast and raw egg, which to be fair you later cooked yourself on a mini gas stove at your table, with rice. Will do further research if this is a typical Kyoto thing.
A final note, I really appreciate the Japanese traditional Ofuro baths I have been fortunate of having every single night before going to bed. The picture below is from my Tokyo bath but I have enjoyed a similar styled one in Kyoto as well.

Sayonara!

/ Hedvig

1.Platform cubicle, 2. Temple stay, 3. Raw egg, 4. More raw egg, 5. Bath

CubicleTemple

Raw Egg

Another Raw Egg

Bath

Impressions so far.

I (Nadja) just arrived at Green Hotel Morris in Higashi, Hiroshima. It has been a long flight for me and Lea, which is also attending this years student seminar in Hiroshima as a participant from Malmö University. Since we mostly have been stuck inside airplanes and airports before arriving at our hotel, our impressions of Japan are limited. However, the things we have noticed is that both Tokyo and Hiroshima are super clean – there is nothing left behind anywhere which even applies to the public bathrooms.

Speaking (or writing…) of japanese bathrooms, they are quite different from the swedish ones. Several colored buttons near the toilet indicate different activities such as getting sprayed with water. I have heard that some toilets also have a button for singing, which I look forward to hear, try and see!
Besides being a clean country we have only so far had great interactions with people. Even if our knowledge of the japanese language is extremly limited we have managed to buy bus and train tickets and order really good food. For a vegetarian as myself it might be a bit tricky to find the “right” food even if we have noticed that restaurants almost always have pictures of the food on the menu. Sometimes it can be hard to actually tell if a dish is vegetarian or not, but at Hiroshima airport we managed to order a completely vegetarian (at least I think it was) noodle soup. Our chopsticks skills were not satisfying since the cook gave us forks after a while. However, we will not give up our attempts to eat food in Japan the japanese way!
Now it is time for some sleep before having a japanese breakfast in the morning and exploring Hiroshima!

Konichiwa

11:33 AM

Greetings from Japan,

After 3 days in Tokyo I am now on the Shinkansen train towards Kyoto and I am utterly impressed with the Japanese transportation system. The trains are remarkably clean and nearly always on time (if not, you will receive the information, including an explanation behind the delay, on the live feed available on all public transport vessels), but the best must be the music played when arriving at certain stations. The tune varies depending on the stop but its generally an upbeat bitpop jingle, which always makes me smile. The purpose of these tunes is to ensure that daydreaming travellers, or sleeping commuters, wake up and don’t miss their stop.

Despite knowing about the Japanese appreciation for neat and tidiness prior to my trip, I am thoroughly amazed by the overall cleanliness. The safety of Japan stretch from the overall low crime rate to the extreme safety measures taken when public works are carried out. They usually employ a person, whom’s sole purpose is to guard the publics’ safety. The other day I was walking across the wonderful park located to my place of stay and despite walking several meters away from the park workers, who was trimming the lawn, surrounded by warning signage and blocked off by cones, I was asked by a uniformed man to kindly walk even further away from the works, in case I was going to be hit by grass. Every roadwork usually have such a guard, who simply watches the whole in case someone would remove the blockade and step into the whole. Health and safety measures to the top!

During my stay in Tokyo I have been fortunate to know people who live here, whom have guided me around town and provided answers to all my silly questions, like why people are wearing face masks (which is not, despite what one might think, to protect themselves from polluted air or bacterias, but to protect others from the bacterias oneself carries). My friends work colleague was wearing one the other day, due to a light cold, and he explained that it would be awfully embarrassing if he was to cough in the office. Good manner is also to clean your hands everywhere you go. Disinfection agent, or sanitary towels, is provided at mosts counters, such as at the post office, shop and restaurants. One does not generally eat or drink in public, again in order to show consideration for others, whom might not want to watch you eat. I made the faux pas by eating my Onigiri in public, when I should have gone to a hidden spot or a park. This could be one of the reason behind the absence of public litter. Another reason is the general prohibition to smoke outside, which the odd naughty smoker ignores. This results in no butts on the ground! Same goes for take away cups. Despite serval Starbucks I have yet not seen a single person drinking coffee from a take away cup. This also stems from the tradition of setting time aside for food and drink, it is not meant to be consumed in a rush.

However, the absence of smokers outside does not stop them from smoking inside, in connection with a meal. Whilst dining in the Ebisu area I found most people, and kitchen staff, smoking. It appears that behind the cleanness frenzy facade lies little filthy secrets. Japan is not particularly Eco friendly with little green energy and recycling.

Another backside is of the great organisational machinery, that represents the Japanese society to well. According to some non-Japanese friends it can be very frustrating for foreigners to work in Japanese companies at time. When suggesting new ideas, they are consider to have an attitude problem according to their superior managers, since it is not their place to voice opinions. As a ordinary worker, in contrast with managers higher up in the hierarchy, one is to follow all rules to precision at all times, regardless of whether the rules are efficient or not (many are not since great value is placed on the tradition of how things is to be done, which can be most ineffective at times) and without questioning. This of course results in some very good things as well, like the impeccable service one receives, or the genuine quality of production and food. To carry out ones work with the highest precision and accuracy appears to be equally important at all levels of employment. Nothing is done on a whim.

The consideration taken of others benefits me as a visitor greatly. Everyone is astoundingly polite and possess great manners. In the company of Japanese I feel terribly clumsy and rude. I have yet to learn the difference between the numerous levels of politeness when greeting, depending on to whom you speak to. The only skill I master is Japanese table manners. Despite the difficulty eating a whole fish with chop sticks I managed to wipe all the meat of the bones, for which I received paise from a Japanese friend.

If ever visiting Tokyo, make sure you stay or visit it’s old town, Yanaka, which survived both the great fire of Tokyo in the 30s and the WWII. The neighbourhood is very quaint, with a strong community feel. Before I left my traditional Ryokan, I signed the owners petition for preserving an old local tree, currently in threat of being torn down. The locals also worry a great deal about the widespread housing development in Tokyo, where the tall buildings leaves the elderly stranded on the top floors, unable to go out and about.

In a few short hours I shall join the monks and experience some zen through the daily meditation practises. At the temple I shall abide strict rules for sleeping hours, eating habits and silence. Per request my friend telephoned and organised my stay, and since there is no English spoken or website providing any information, I am somewhat nervous about not following the procedures correctly and offending the monks by doing something wrong (like sticking your chopsticks in the rice bowl is only done at funerals). However, regardless if I do or don’t they probably won’t tell me off since it would be impolite to do so. Despite Tokyo being surprisingly still, at least in comparison to hectic London where people elbow their way forward on the tube and police sirens constantly roaring, I long for the calm of the Myoshinji temple village of Kyoto.

/ Hedvig

1. Tatami, 2. Tsukiji, 3. Yanaka Cemetary, 4. Okonomiyaki

Tatami

Scallops

Yanaka

image