On Aug. 25, the class visited the City Museum for Minamata Disease as well as a glass recycling factory.
Located some 40 km south of Kumamoto city, Minamata city is known internationally for its tragic past. Due to the contaminated waste water from a chemical company which was dumped into the sea, many people in this coastal city suffered from severe mercury poisoning.
Today, Minamata city is one of the most environmentally friendly cities in Japan, having strict regulations on waste separation, and supporting many ecological businesses.
“I was so surprised to see how they recycle so well. I’ve got a very clear idea about how to recycle bottles and really wanted to take the idea back home. “Peace” and “Recycling” were two main issues I wanted to know when I decided to join the program. So far, I can say I achieved my goals. Thank you very much!” – Mary Ma (China)
We were also fortunate to visit Japan’s first “baby-hatch” on Aug. 27th. At Jikei Hospital, a local private hospital in Kumamoto city, we were able to take a closer look at the “baby-hatch”, or “Stork’s cradle” as well as talk to the director.The “baby-hatch” is a place where parents can leave their children anonymously if they are unable to take care of the child and has been a controversial topic ever since it was established in Japan in April this year. Upon our visit, the class was able to hear the director’s passion for saving innocent children’s lives from both physical and mental abuse by creating “Stork’s Cradle”.
“Dear Sir, I admire the courage to start the “Babyklappe” (German term for the concept) in Kumamoto. I think it is a great act of humanity to give parents and the infant child a solution to their desperate situation.” – Caspar Schwalbe (Germany)
On Aug. 21, our class visited Kibo no Sato in nearby Isahaya city. In the facility located in a quiet mountain area, some 50 mentally challenged people aged between 18 and 52 reside and learn skills necessary for living independently.
Here is an article written by one of our participants about the Kibo no Sato visit:“I may have had my fair share of pre-conceived notions of mentally disabled people before Kibo no Sato, but due to that eye opening community interaction, I will forever look at them in a different light.There was a slight feeling of tension among the group when we arrived at the facility. We were met by the employees, who were very friendly, and then lead on a tour of the facility.
The first building that we saw was the arts and crafts room.The residents seemed to be having a good time and welcomed us with curious fascination.I suppose it’s not every day they have about thirty people from twelve different countries come to interact with them.I was really surprised, as I’m sure at least a few others of our group were, at how readily and without any apprehension the residents came up to us.I was expecting them to be much more withdrawn and afraid of anything outside of their normal routine.During the tour, we learned that it was not just a housing facility, but actually a place for those with disabilities to learn and, for some, eventually be on their own in society.They are given skills which will help them get a job and lead a normal life on their own.
After the tour, we played some games with the residents.They were so happy and playful with us.As I looked around the room, I could practically see the faces of our group change from apprehension to compassion.Within moments of the first game, we began to understand that these people were absolutely no different from any body we might encounter on the street or in the grocery store.If anything, they are more kind and outgoing than the average stranger.
After a long day of awakening and fun, it was time to leave.I could tell that they were overjoyed to have had us.The question was posed later as to whether we might have influenced any of the residents in a positive way.To that question I have this answer.It was them and their pure and open hearts that influenced and changed us for the better.I know that many in our group really grew that day, and that none of us will ever forget them.”– Parker Kellen (USA)
After our two-week stay in Ueda City, it was nice to have a change of scenery and new host families. Hiroshima and Ueda are very different in many ways. Hiroshima is a huge city with many people and buildings where as Ueda is much smaller and in the countryside. Being in Hiroshima raised emotions for many of us and gave everyone a better understanding about what happened in this city on the 6th of August, 1945.
When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it took the lives of over a hundred thousand people with devastating results and ongoing grief still felt today. World Campus International participants and staff attended the memorial service remembering the day that this catastrophic event occurred. People all over Japan watched the ceremony on their televisions and listened to the peaceful words of the speakers.
The following message, read by two sixth graders at the service, remained in the minds of all of us: …”nothing will come of inflicting the hardships and sadness that we suffer onto others – doing so will only cause an endless continuation of the same suffering. The creation of a peaceful world requires that each of us display kindness and strength to become the final link in the chains of hatred and sorrow that we encounter. It is also important that we transcend cultural and historical differences, accept each other, and understand each other’s thoughts and feelings”.
A day after the public ceremony, we were so fortunate to have a survivor of the bombing speak to our class. Everyone sat in awe as the victim of the A-Bomb told her stories. Although impossible to put ourselves in the shoes of this women, she was able to convey what she went through on this unthinkable day. She told us that the reason she talks about her experience is to motivate people to bring peace to the world.
After learning so much about the human and other costs of this military strike, many participants started to realize how many wars are currently going on that we do not pay attention to. World Campus’ members from Uganda talked about some of the wars that are continuing to be fought on their own African continent. The world is very large and it became clear to all of us that we have so much to learn about.
Our next city stop is in the Nagasaki prefecture and we are all ready to learn more about these tragic events and see how this other city has recovered as well as hear further views on the war.