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

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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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!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s…

…sadly not, though my company (Linnea) was much more good-looking than Audrey Hepburn. The food was interesting, a mix of the western styled breakfast; white bread, white buns accompanied with some strawberry jam, and the Japanese mash of ingredients colors textures and flavours.

Today we are heading out for Hiroshima; it’s time for some sightseeing,

Sayonara!

Kevin & Linnea from the INU Summer School in Japan

Hiroshima-City-Map(Map of Hiroshima City)

 

INU-Hiroshima 2012 avklarat!

Hej! För er som inte vet så pluggar jag till socionom på Malmö Högskola och läser nu termin 5. Jag blev beviljad att få åka på ett studentseminarium och sommarundervisning i Hiroshima tillsammans med andra länder i det som kallas universiteternas internationella nätverk. Årets tema handlade om kärnkraftens framtid eller icke-framtid i världen och berörde känsliga ämnen som klimatförändringar, internationell/nationell politik, sanktioner, preventioner, krig och sist men inte minst fred.
Utöver de intressanta ämnena vi hade som diskussionspunkter blev det även ett häftigt utbyte med andra studenter från andra delar av jorden där man kunde diskutera hur socialt arbete eller hur deras inrikespolitik fungerar. Det var inte bara politiskt intresserade som var deltagare i kursen och det var inte bara värduniversiteterna som närvarade utan även utbytesstudenter från bland annat Hiroshimas universitet som kom från länder som Haiti, Polen, Sydkorea för att bara nämna några.
Vi fick ett fint välkomnande och ett fint avslut som vi förtjänade efter hårt arbete inför sista dagen då vi simulerade ett FN-rollspel. Veckan innan rollspelet blev vi indelade i grupper i respektive land och tillslut skulle vi försöka lösa konflikter och ställa yttranden som skulle godkännas av FN länderna efter förberedelserna under veckans gång. Under vår vistelse hade värduniversitet planerat in studiebesök i bland annat Hiroshimas museum och till minnesceremonin då det var 63år sedan USA bombade staden och skapade förödelsen som människor än idag påverkas av både fysiskt och psykiskt.
Vi fick också träffa en Hibushka som är en överlevare från atombomben som berätta kring sina upplevelser från dagen. Allt detta gjorde starkt intryck på mig och har nu blivit något som sent kommer glömma i mitt liv. Jag känner mig så lyckligt lottad att ha fått ta del utav den här erfarenheten och fått nya vänner runt hela världen. Japaner visade en fantastisk gästvänlighet och en inblick i deras kultur. Efter ett avklarat INU program den 10 augusti, begav jag mig på en upptäcktsfärd för att se Kyoto och sedan Tokyo. Nu är jag i Tokyo och har en dag kvar innan jag drar på mitt nästa äventyr, Ghana, Accra.