Category Archives: Kumamoto City

Kumamoto City Theme – Valuing Human Life

The city theme for Kumamoto City was Valuing Human Life. I found it to be a very broad theme and a hard one to discuss. Maybe it is better if I come to my own conclusion after giving a brief summary of the things we did based on this theme in the lively city of Kumamoto.

Early in the week we visited the famous Jikkei hospital, where last year a baby hatch program was established. The hatch, which is still the only one in Japan, is a place where a person can anonymously drop off his or her baby. The debate about whether or not it should exist in Japan is still a hot topic. On one hand, it is a place of last resort, a sort of solution for really desperate people. On the other hand, it may induce an opposite effect and form an easy way out for parents who may have regrets later on. In the end I think that the controversy will remain, but I think the visit to Jikkei hospital showed another important aspect to the issue. It offered more than a hatch as a last resort, including counseling programs for parents as an alternative. The hospital is a pioneer in the field of counselling for pregnant mothers and future parents. This is definitely an endeavor which should be supported.

We also had the opportunity to visit Minamata city. In the industrial rise after the second world war, the Chisso company polluted the bay with methylmercury for years resulting in the poisoning of a portion of the population in that area. Maybe even more impactful than the pollution was the aftermath of the disaster. This event coresponded 100% to our theme. How do you repay someone who has been deliberately poisoned by a company? What should happen when someone does not value human life? The answers to these questions will remain unknown, but I think the most important thing is that we keep thinking about things like this and their impact on people and the environment.

The third visit we made was to a facility for Hansen disease victims. There we heard a lecture on the topic and learned how people in the past and present responded to other people who were infected with this disease. I think everyone learned a valuable lesson. Maybe the participants views upon other diseases like aids and cancer may have slightly changed after seeing how Hansen disease patients were mistreated. After all, learning from one’s mistakes is nice, but also learning from someone else’s mistakes is even better.

I think each one of us has a richer viewpoint regarding valuing human life than before, but we may also say that we have realised the depth of the question. Human life has such great value that the only option is to try and honor someone elses life as you would your own. You want to place yourself into different positions, including the position of the “victim” before making a decision. I think that by visiting these places everyone within World Campus International has placed him or herself into other positions when considering the above topics.

What would you do when you found out you grew up in an orphanage, but are not an orphan? What would you do if you were having a child and you could not handle things yourself, who would you turn to? How would you feel if you were a victim of a man-made disaster? How would you feel when society takes your freedom, a response stemming from an irrational fear? These questions are very hard ones, but they are equally important and deserve to be asked.

(Jotter Verhaeghe, Belgium)

Visit to Stork’s Cradle

Stork’s CradleWe are currently in Kumamoto City and had the chance to visit the first and only Stork’s Cradle in Japan at Jikei Hospital. The Stork’s Cradle is a hatch at the hospital where you may leave your baby. When the door is closed, the nurse will be alerted that a baby is in the hatch and takes care of it. The baby hatch offers parents the possibility to give away their child anonymously.

There are supporters and opponents to the baby hatch. We had the chance to meet the founder of this program in person and were able to ask questions and to listen to his thoughts on this project.

I am convinced that giving a child away is not an easy decision for any parent. If you place your child in the hatch, you certainly have your reasons for that. And I am sure the parents do this to give the child a far better life than they ever could. I learned that it is not the best option to give the child away anonymously, but that it is an acceptable way to save the lives of babies. When you do not know the reason why the parents gave it away, you should not judge them. Just like you and I, every other human has the right to live.

(Sophia Potter, Germany)

Minamata Disease

Visit in Minamata February, 27th: The World Campus — Japan Class of 08 went to Minamata city, which is nearly two hours away from Kumamoto city by bus. This trip was especially arranged for the participants to learn about how pollution created the infamous Minamata Disease.

Minamata disease was caused by the high levels of methylmercury contained in the effluence released into the Shiranui Sea by the Chisso Minamata factory. The toxin accumulated in the tissues of fish and other aquatic life, which were then consumed by the local population. In the early 50s, villagers did not realize the severity of horrible disease but were merely laughing at those sick cats that were first poisoned by the polluted fish.

The laughter finally changed into somber sobs when the first human patient was diagnosed in Dec. 1953. Soon methylmercury poisoning was found in new-born babies because their mothers had eaten local seafood during pregnancy. Darkness and gloom enveloped the whole Minamata region. The disease did not only destroy people’s health but also shattered our trust in humanity.

Countless tears have been shed. The health and lives lost cannot be restored. We have learned this lesson with our visit to the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum and wish to prevent another such disaster from ever occurring again. Every participant in World Campus — Japan program is willing to pass on the message of the misery caused by pollution and the preciousness of life.

(Matilda Liu, China)

Kumamoto City, Kumamoto

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)