Big in Japan – Or “How I ended up in Asia. Again.”

Konnichiwa, fellow world explorers and those to be!

Before getting into the actual interesting part regarding my experience at the INU conference on SOGI issues held at Hiroshima University August 4th – 12th 2017, I’d just quickly like to hit you with some boring stuff and introduce myself real’ quick. My name is Leah, I am currently on my 23rd lap around the sun and I have just recently graduated from Malmö University with a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Born and raised in Germany and between finishing high school in 2012 and starting my journey with Malmö University, I had successfully dropped out of university in Amsterdam (it just wasn’t my thing…) but also worked and travelled my way through life. Never in my life would I have thought that Malmö University would be the place that would offer me so many possibilities to not only earn a degree but even more important: let me go. Yes, Malmö University wants their students to go. Go explore, go adventure, go learn, go see something new. In fact, I’ve only spent about 2 out of 3 years in Malmö itself. Within my program, I had the honor to be nominated twice for exchange studies and went to both, South Korea and Australia, in 2016. And the best thing about it? I didn’t have to take out a loan or sell my soul to the devil to do all these things.

Malmö U got you covered for the most part. Coming from a pretty average middle-class background I could have never gone without the bilateral agreements between my host universities and Malmö U. Between graduating from MAU and starting my Master of Science in Gender Studies at Lund University, I did not have many plans for my summer and so I’ve applied to basically all summer programs out there and seemed somewhat affordable. As soon as the deadline passed mid-May it was clear: I’d go back to Asia. Again. This would be my fourth time there and yet I was so excited to go. Again. Excited to go to Japan and participate in a conference with a topic I really cared for but it also meant that I would be able to go and see my friends I had made during my study exchange in South Korea after the conference. So there I was in May, planning a 1 1/2 month long trip from Sweden, home to Germany, to Amsterdam to see my friends from my first failed university experience, on to Japan for the conference and, finally, Korea for some reunion time.

So after catching up with my family in Germany and visiting my beloved Amsterdam, I finally got on a plane to Japan. My fist stop was Fukuoka because the flights to Hiroshima were just unaffordable at the time I had booked everything. Fukuoka is one of the major cities in the South of Japan and only about an hour away (given you are taking the Shinkansen aka bullet train) from Hiroshima. I had been to Japan before in 2014 and therefore already knew Tokyo and a couple of other cities, so I decided to go for the way cheaper option and just see Fukuoka. Traveling in Japan is easy. The trains are fast and comfortable (leg room for days!), however, quite expensive. You can also take intercity buses, however, it’s a little more complicated to figure out when and where to be with limited Japanese only.Arriving in Japan after a 13h flight, having had the whole aisle to myself on the way here #winning, my jet lag was so bad I feel asleep in the middle of a park as my hostel would not let me check in yet. It was hot and humid at an average of 38 degrees but a little breezy as well so it was alright. Japan, and East Asia in general, is very safe. I am usually more on the paranoid site of life but whenever I am in Korea or Japan I never feel unsafe. You can literally drop a $100 note on the street and be almost 100% sure that it will still be in the same place 40min later if the wind hasn’t blown it away. So if you feel a little uneasy about traveling on your own: start in Asia. I spent the next two days exploring and just trying to adapt to the climate and time zone before heading up to Hiroshima.

I got to the hotel late on the 3rd of August and didn’t really do much other than jumping on my hotel bed, taking a long, long shower and going to bed fairly early. The next day turned out to be quite mellow as well. We only got to meet everyone at a get-to-know-each-other-kinda-event on campus that night. We had lovely Japanese “finger food” (or should I say chopstick food, as eating with your hands is very much a no-no?) and it was fairly easy to get to talk to other students and participating teachers.

People were split up into tiny groups of approx. 7-9 students each who got assigned to one country that they would represent at a Model United Nations role play on the last day of the conference. I had the pleasure to be with Team Brazil. Throughout the week we attended workshops about all sorts of topics (mainly related to LGBT and SOGI topics)  in the morning (my favourite one being about how different cultures tend to communicate) and worked in our little groups in the afternoon. Before the week of workshops and group works, however, we got to spend two days exploring around Hiroshima. From climbing up to Hiroshima’s castle, visiting holy temples and shrines, seeing the infamous Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima island, trying all sorts of traditional food, trying Sake, seeing the atomic bomb dome, meeting and listening to the story of nuclear survivor Keiko Ogura, visiting the Peace Memorial watching Japan’s President Shinzo Abe holding a speech. You can check out my little video for non-conference related impressions:

  • How much does it cost? I received a travel grant from MAU over 3000SEK and the JASSO scholarship over 80,000 yen. Which comes to approximately 9000 – 10000SEK in total. The hotel was about 4000SEK for the whole stay. The flights came to about 10000SEK so you’ll have to make sure to have some money saved up at least.
  • How do I find cheap flights? You can fly directly into Hiroshima City or you check airports around the city such as Fukuoka or Okayama. Even airports further away such as Osaka or Tokyo might give you a good deal. Just be aware that taking the Shinkansen, the bullet train, can be VERY expensive from Tokyo to Hiroshima. Taking the train in Japan is one of the easiest, fastest and most comfortable ways of getting around though. If you are planning on traveling elsewhere you might want to consider getting a J-Rail pass which allows you to hop on and off trains for a certain amount of time (e.g. 3 days, 7 days, 14 days etc.)  You have to apply for the J-Rail pass BEFORE entering the country though.
  • Where is Hiroshima? Can I go to Tokyo? Hiroshima is located in the South of Japan. The distance between Tokyo and Hiroshima is about 900km. You can either fly or take the train between these two cities but most people just take the train as they go more frequently (every 10-15min) and can be booked more spontaneously.
  • Have you visited other cities than Hiroshima on this trip? I’ve been to Japan before and therefore didn’t feel the need to go up to Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto again. I’ve flown into Fukuoka and spent a couple of days there before heading into Hiroshima. 
  • How much time should I spend in Hiroshima prior or after the conference? As you will be exploring the city with your respective group, I don’t think you actually need to spend more time in Hiroshima itself prior or after the conference. I’d much rather use the time to go to other places.
  • Is Japan safe? Japan is probably one of the best countries to go to if you have never been to Asia or far away from home. The crime rate is insanely low. The Japanese culture is very polite. Even Japanese swear words would probably still be considered polite in other languages such as English.
  • Did you meet a lot of non-Malmö U students?  Plenty! In fact, I hardly got to see anyone else from Malmö as you get divided into different groups.
  • How was the food? JAPANESE FOOD IS INCREDIBLE. Try Okonomiyaki. You can’t leave Japan before you have tried it. Hiroshima is famous for it.
  • What about insurance? The insurance was covered by the university. 
  • On a scale from 1-10, how valuable has the experience been? To be fair, I didn’t have a ‘mind blown – never heard of this before’-kinda-moment in regard to the conference topic itself, however, it was great learning so much more about the Japanese culture and just meeting and networking with so many people from all over the world. It’s something no one can ever take away from you. You’ll come home with a full heart, that’s for sure.

Feel free to contact me in case of any questions.

Sayonara,

Leah

 

Get a glimpse of Japanese culture! INU, Hiroshima

Konnichiwa!

今日は!

FALLING IN LOVE WITH TOKYO

2nd/3rd of August

Before  arriving to Hiroshima, I had an occasion to spend two wonderful days in the vibrant and dynamic city of Tokyo, staying in Nezu district with other Swedish representative- Heidi. This surrounding is perceived as  the location filled with the atmosphere of the traditional shitamachi neighborhood, informally called “good, old Tokyo”. Our cozy hotel was the first  stop in the way of getting to know inexperienced by us so far Japan.

Architecture in Tokyo

Architecture in Tokyo/ day

Architecture in Tokyo. By night

Architecture in Tokyo/ night

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo crowd

Tokyo crowd

 

 

 

 

Variety keeps your mind surprised

Variety keeps your mind surprised

Japanese hospitality in the reception and in the bar, explanation of bathroom manners, experience of tiny, highly functional and compact spaces and some extra help or tips regarding sightseeing- all that we were given for a starter. Being outside, in a heartbeat  I felt stunned by the coexistence of the buildings/objects that were enormously huge or contradictory tiny -all that smartly and archly  mixed, giving me the fresh perspective on urban tissue. Two days spent in that attractive, oriental city showed me how creative human creatures and how humid the weather can be.

Nippon にっぽん

Nippon にっぽん found in one of Tokyo’s flats

JAPANESE HOSPITALITY AT  HIROSHIMA UNIVERSITY

4th of August

After two days of pure sightseeing it came the time for switching into even more international and educational environment of Hiroshima and INU Summer School. With high excitement and expectations of great adventure, we headed to the Hiroshima Prefecture, a city called Saijo, where we arrived recognizing extreme warmness and humidity with our bit tired bodies.

There we found the hotel, which was very well equipped and located close to the main station or the University, as the tour guide indicated. After quick meeting with Vesna (main coordinator in HU), and after receiving keys, we went out for the food and fun hunt! After few hours of adapting to the new surrounding, our Swedish crew joined the rest of the hotel guests and headed to the University, were our facilitators and authorities welcomed us, showing greatest wills of hospitality. The first meeting with all representatives was very exciting! We had best food served on tables and wonderful minds to discuss with. That place will definitely remain in my head as the beginning of all further good 🙂

HOW THE SPIRIT OF PEACE CAN BE SENSED IN HIROSHIMA

5th and 6th of August

These two days were absolutely moving and experiencing. First, we have visited Peace Memorial Museum, focusing on our country groups we were assigned to, making new connections and getting to know people better. What was also better known, was the story of Hiroshima and hard times it went through. And people from this city, who bravely decided to rebuild damaged places, re-creating hope and peace among inhabitants. We’ve heard personal stories from an Atomic Bomb Survivor, Keiko Ogura, who presented her point of view and shared the story of this horrible day civilians were given. From her words grief after losing some friends or family members was evident and presenting very dismal reality of that time.

trip to Miyajima

trip to Miyajima

After this meeting it was rather hard to focus on pleasurable things but all summer school participants made this time peaceful and thoughtful, enjoying rebuilt Hiroshima, all diving in sun. Lunchtime then was the perfect excuse for us for discussing and planning. That’s how we decided to have a short trip to Miyajima- heaven-like island with many deers walking freely on the streets among tourists or local people!

What we did the next day, was also extraordinary and brought us a lot of second-thoughts, as we were participating in the Peace Memorial Ceremony and a

Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima

Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima

guided tour that delivered us extra thrills as it was enriched by very meaningful stories from local people. We were also given a try of regional cookies and cup of really decent geen tea- matcha. More about green tea you can find for example here: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2041.html

 

The evening was magical and very integrative- we were participating in the Lentern Ceremony.

 “The experience of watching the warm lights of some 10,000 lanterns as they float tranquilly down the river in the dark of night, each bearing wishes for peace from the gathered attendees, has a powerful, almost other-worldly quality. The participants in this event include not only Hiroshima locals, but also many visitors who come from far and wide.” (http://visithiroshima.net)

 

GETTING TO KNOW THE SITUATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

7th-11th of August

Those days were given over the presentations, multiple discussion panels and workshops, which were broadening our horizons in that way that we got to know the stories of Indigenous Peoples from many corners of the world. We had been given the chance to understand the differences in the way of treating Indigenous Peoples by governments of different countries. Diversity among master students participating in the whole event provided deeper insight  into the problem, expanding it into areas of more developed  and complex issues.

Part of Hiroshima University Campus

Part of Hiroshima University Campus

By reading all the papers submitted by our colleges, preparing our own presentation concerning chosen topic and by  asking questions directed to others, commenting on the strength, we were supposed to learn as much about the case as possible. Each meeting was conducted by the Master’s programme convenor, who was ensuring that everyone complies with the time limit.

My own paper work had opened the whole panel session and was based on the topic: Sustainable Development Principles as perceived by States and Indigenous Peoples; Juxtaposition or equation?

By presenting my findings and answering questions I hopefully have inspired my young friends to deal with problems of our focus in that way that they get simpler and more likely to be solved when decently discussed at the very beginning with both sides- States and Indigenous Peoples to that extent that the common content is reached and sustainable goal fulfilled along with the sustainable process. To depict the conflict situation I have used the samples from laws of opposite sites: the UN document, the concept of sustainable development, 11 descriptions and Aboriginal the Crane and Crow story containing  twelve laws altogether.

Bobby presenting his findings

Bobby presenting his findings

After presenting all the papers and analyzing it all together, as the final conclusion of the course in Hiroshima there came the time for the role-play of UN. As the master’s students, me and Sam, we were chosen to different country groups to represent them and take care of their interests, attempting to influence the positions of other students.

Final Dinner at Hiroshima University

Final Dinner at Hiroshima University

SPONTANEOUS ATTENDANCE IN SAKE FESTIVAL

12th of August

Due to my fleeting illness, I had decided to prolong a little my stay in Saijo (just one day), which turned out very well, as me and one of the newly met Japanese friends, we had spent some quality time wandering or using bikes travelling around the Saijo city. That day was topped out by the Sake festival, where the local community used to dance and sing to karaoke and celebrate the tradition of producing  Sake out of local rice.

Saijo Temple

Saijo Temple

Sake festival in Saijo

Sake festival in Saijo

That event was complete surprise for us, as we were just passing by with bikes, but lured by some very tempting, pleasant and kinda hypnotic sounds, we decided to see what’s happening and we ended up sitting among celebrating and letting the memories grow in our heads.

Unforgettable!

Regards, dear readers!

A Visit to the Peace Memorial Museum In Hiroshima

5th of August, 2016

After a night of barely sleeping at all, maybe because of the heat, or simply because of the excitement about being in Japan, I wake up at six in order to go to Hiroshima City with the rest of the INU students and staff. We are staying in Higashi-Hiroshima, a small town located east of Hiroshima city and the bus ride takes about an hour. A lucky few are able to sleep almost the entire trip, while I tiredly stare out the window, allowing my gaze to scan all the mountains and forests that we pass on our way.

When we finally arrive in Hiroshima City, at the Peace Memorial Museum, it is a herd of tired and confused people trying to navigate the site in search of answers to where we are supposed to go. Someone who looks like they know what they are doing wave us in one direction, and we do as we are told, ending up at the entrance to the museum. Inside the museum we are handed leaflets and audio guides before we make our way to the exhibition.

SONY DSC

The A-Bomb Dome

Not quite knowing what to expect I enter the exhibition, and the first thing I see is a life-size model of three persons, all of them with loose skin hanging from their dirty bodies, clothes ripped, and all wearing an expression of extreme pain. Horrifying. Even though I have read a lot about the effects of the atomic bomb, and how the burns from the radiation heat would melt the skin of the human body, having it visualised in front of me makes everything I’ve read feel extremely real.

The museum is filled with stories from survivors and unfortunate victims of the bombing, personal belongings have been donated by survivors and relatives, and they are all accompanied by a description of the person who it belonged to, their full name, age, and occupation followed with what happened to them after the bombing. The statistics, 150 000 dead, become real and the numbers turn into individuals as I walk through the exhibition. People with lives just like ours. People who went to school or work on the morning of the bomb, people who never returned home, some who just disappeared on that day, never to be seen again, perished in the flames.

SONY DSC

The Children’s Peace Monument

It’s overwhelming and shocking. There is a lot to process and all the small details of personal lives hit hard. One of the most heartbreaking displays is a collection of small paper cranes, folded by Sadako Sasaki, a girl who survived the atomic bombing at the age of two, but later suffered from leukaemia due to the radiation. She folded 1000 paper cranes, and, as per tradition, wished to be cured, but died in the hospital. She became the inspiration and model for The Children’s Peace Monument, a monument to commemorate the thousands of child victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We move on from the museum to a hall where we get to listen to Keiko Ogura, a survivor of the bombing, or Hibakusha as they are called in Japan. She was eight years old when the bomb fell and her stories about the fear, the bomb, the fire, and the cremation of often unidentified bodies is hard to listen to, but it is very important that it is heard. She doesn’t only talk about what happened in August 1945, but continues to talk about how it is today, what it means to have been a person who was in Hiroshima. How it is to feel like you need to hide who you are because people are scared that there is something wrong with you because of the radiation that spread all across Hiroshima on the day of the bombing.

And she talks about the silence. The silence that had somehow become the norm amongst survivors, to not talk about what happened because of the guilt. The guilt of having survived something so horrible while others suffered immensely before they died. The guilt of being alive while others perished in the flames of Hiroshima, of having lived all this time while others disappeared. 

Despite the horrors faced by the Hibakusha, Keiko Ogura talks about the hope for the future, and about forgiveness. She asks us all to bring this story to our families and friends, share it, and help make sure that something similar will never happen again. That no one should have to suffer like they have, and that the most important aim to prevent this is to abolish the use and creation of nuclear weapons. Despite everything she has been through, she still believes in a future free from war and nuclear weapons, and if that isn’t one of the most inspiring acts of forgiveness and hope I don’t know what is.

A view of Hiroshima City

A view of Hiroshima City

/ Kajsa

Summary of INU Student Seminar

Hej hej hallå!

Back in Sweden after 12 days in beautiful Japan! My name is Ida, I’m a political science student at Malmö University and I had the opportunity to attend the INU Student Seminar for Global Citizenship and Peace in Hiroshima this august.

The days in Japan were full of great experiences and the schedule was packed. Besides the academic part of the seminar, which included interesting workshops, lectures and a UN Role Play, we also did some cultural activities. Since the seminar took place on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima we had the privilege to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony. It was certainly a moving ceremony and I’m really grateful for the chance to witness it.

Throughout the whole seminar we had UN role play preparations and were divided into different country groups. My country group was Cuba and the task was to write and present an amendment to a UN Resolution on Gender, Peace and Security. There was a lot of negotiations and discussions amongst the countries to persuade the others to vote in favor on one’s own amendment.

Thus, the last day everybody was quite nervous about their amendments and the outcome of the Roleplay. But it was a lot of fun and all the countries played their parts really well and the Role Play turned out to be a very exciting event! Cuba’s amendment passed and we celebrated with our cheering ”Hasta la victoria siempre!”

After the Role Play we had a diploma ceremony with all the students and professors and later on we had a farewell dinner. The dinner was well deserved and it was great to be able to relax some after a very intense and exciting week. It was also a bit emotional and sad to know that it probably would be the last evening all of us would spend together in Japan. When you spend a lot of time together in a short period and with such great people it’s hard not to get a little bit emotional when it’s time to say good bye.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Miyajima Island

Miyajima Island

Presenting Cuba's amendement at the UN Role Play

Presenting Cuba’s amendment at the UN Role Play

Diploma Ceremony

Diploma Ceremony

For me, the best part of the seminar was to get to know students from all over the world, to have great discussions and get more perspectives on gender, peace and security. The INU Seminar is truly a great opportunity and I can recommend everyone to apply for next year’s Seminar. I learned so much during my time in Hiroshima and I’m so grateful for the possibility to attend. Don’t forget to apply for next year’s seminar!

Ida

INU Summer School – Friday August 7th

The second day of our cultural programme in Hiroshima. It was composed of an early visit in the peace memorial museum, a fun introductory session to the Japanese language, held by students of Hiroshima University, and lectures of Ms. Keiko Ogura and and Ms. Chieko Seki, two survivors of the a-bombing in Hiroshima in 1945.

chieko seki a-bomb dome Hiroshima

The programme was less exhausting than the one of the day of the memorial ceremony itself, which was good as we all needed time and space to process the impressions we had gotten the day before. That said – the day was by no means less emotional. The information provided by the excellent and moving exhibition in the museum, combined with the unique chance to listen to the stories of the two women who have been living in Hiroshima in 1945, gave us a lot more things to think about. Their reflections on how to avoid such a man-made catastrophe in the future, as well as what each and every one of us can do in order to create a more peaceful world provided the basis for an interesting and also controversial discussion the next day about the role of citizens and political stakeholders in the process of achieving and maintaining peace.

Thursday August 6th – Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the A-bombings

We left the hotel 05.50 in the morning to participate in the peace memorial of the victims of the atomic bombing that took place in Hiroshima exactly 70 years ago. The ceremony was really beautiful and emotional with approximately 40 000 visitors, so it was pretty crowded in the memorial park. Afterwards we had our first, and only, day off to do what we wanted. So we all decided on going to Miyajima Island just outside of Hiroshima. We took a ferry to the island and the ride was so beautiful, the landscape here is amazing- the mountains surround the entire city! On the Island there are actually tame deers which was amazing, they walked right up to us and wanted to be petted.

Ellinor_deermiyajima

There was so much to see on the Island and we got to see two different temples- both of them were breathtaking. In the evening we went to a latern ceremony, also very beautiful. Japan has so much history to offer for both natives and tourists. It truly is amazing to experience this.

lantern ceremony

The only kind of challenging thing was the weather, it is very hot and humid during the summer months in Japan. Oh, we are also struggling with ordering food sometimes- it can truly be quite an adventure when you do not speak Japanese and the staff does not speak English. It is not always quite clear what you are ordering, but so far we have managed quite well. Ellinor accidently ordered super-spicy Korean noodles, she will never make that mistake again.

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

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