My first morning in Japan. I came to Saijo yesterday afternoon, feeling a bit jetlagged and alone. Today I have taken my first jog and got outside the city to a small “forest”, good for the body and soul. In the afternoon we’ll meet for the first time, exiting and scary.
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!
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…
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
1.Platform cubicle, 2. Temple stay, 3. Raw egg, 4. More raw egg, 5. Bath
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.
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.