Field trips, 2014 Fall
Hiroshima Field Trip
From September 17th to 20th, UC students and Prof. Takahara's seminar students visited Hiroshima to gain a better understanding of Japanese history and Japanese experience as both a victim and victimizer in WWII.
They had the opportunity to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and park, Okuno-shima (the site of a WWII era weapons plant), the Fukuromachi Elementary School’s Peace Museum, The Old Hiroshima branch of the Bank of Japan, and a memorial site for atomic bomb victims (U.S captives). They had an opportunity to hear of the experience from a survivor of the atomic bombing, and also saw some pictures painted by other survivors.
[ A student’s reflection on the trip ]
The ability to visit Hiroshima certainly was for me, one of the most sobering and memorable of my experiences in Japan. The sobering realization that a relatively small atomic bomb was able to decimate such a large city struck all the students. The suffering and the status of Japan as the only victim of nuclear weapons thus demonstrates the intertwined histories of nuclear armaments and the peace movement that originated in Japan in opposition to nuclear proliferation. In addition the account offered by one of the atomic bomb survivors also was important as it put a face to the victims of the bomb, demonstrating the immoral and indiscriminate killing that was experienced by so many.
However our trip to Okunoshima also revealed Japan and the Imperial Japanese Army's role as victimizers. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the usage and manufacturing of chemical weapons that were used as part of Japan's imperial expansion. The most shocking thing is that many Japanese do not know about this usage of chemical weapons by members of the Imperial Army.
Overall the field trip was very enjoyable and interesting and I'd like to visit there again someday. (written by Jaime)
Tohoku field trip
From December 5th to 7th, a number of exchange students from the UC and ISP programs along with several their colleagues from MGU visited the Otsuchi and Kamaishi areas of Iwate to study present conditions and the accounts of survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.
Their study tour in Otsuchi township included a talk given by the abbot of Kisshoji Temple, and a visit to a temporary shopping area that continues to serve the needs of the residents. They also had a chance to talk with local people living in temporary housing, and they visited an evacuation route with a volunteer guide in Kamaishi City.
[ A student’s reflection on the trip ]
I am glad that I could go to Tohoku to clear my misunderstanding on and better understand Tohoku area after the 3.11 disaster.
When we first visited a temple in Otsuchi-cho and heard the speech given by the abbot, I learned this temple was used as an evacuation place after the tsunami hit, and it became a temporary residence for those who were lucky to escape up there. Through his speech, I was impressed by how people remained optimistic and helped each other to survive despite the disaster that destroyed their homes. He also showed us many statues of Kannon-sama (the bodhisattva of compassion). I was moved when he said everyone could be Kannon-sama as long as they did what they could to help others in need. I secretly promised Kannon that I would be one of them.
Even though Otsuchi-cho was devastated, there were still people who stayed behind to contribute to the reconstruction of the city. The guide who took us around Otsuchi was one of them, and his story really moved me. From his introduction, I realized that he was originally from Otsuchi, and he and his fiancé decided to stay Otsuchi to pursue their dreams. In fact, they were to be married in a few months after 3.11. However, on 3.11, his fiancé did not have enough time to flee up to the evacuation site which less than 30 minutes away from where she was, because she was trying to help an elderly person to flee. He lost his fiancé, but he chose to stay behind to reconstruct the city in the memory of his wife to be. I felt this was his biggest regret in life, because he said he could not do enough for her, and he could no longer tell her that he loved her. He said that at first, he hated people who came from the outside to their city to sightsee and take pictures, because these kinds of visits humiliated the people who suffered. However, he was willing to take on the position as a professional guide to inform others of the conditions in Otsuchi. He reminded us of the importance of telling someone you love that you love them. And he said the most important lesson to take away from his tour was that when disasters like the 3.11 occur, each person should flee for their own lives first, and the help others.
Another memorable activity was our visit to one of the temporary housing sites. The people we met were so friendly that they treated us their local snacks and coffee. They were very welcoming, and were willing to share their stories with us. I was really impressed by how they were still very positive about their life, even though they had experienced such disaster. One of the ladies even gave me a handwritten poem as a gift. The lesson they taught me was that I should appreciate everything and everyone that I have in life. I think everyone should also learn about what has happened to the people of Tohoku, and offer what we can to help them rebuild their homes. (written by Yulan Rachael)
They also took an excursion to Hiraizumi and the World Heritage Site of Chûsonji temple on the way back to Tokyo.