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.
The first stop in the 2007 World Campus -Japan tour was Ueda, Nagano. Participants and staff from around the world met each other and had no idea what to expect. But with time and experiences during the first two successful weeks, we have all become even more excited, are getting to know each other better and looking forward to the upcoming cities and adventures. Here are some highlights from our first community visit.
The Wasshoi event was a fun and energetic activity that was not only shared by the participants of World Campus International, but also by the whole community of Ueda. Wasshoi is a summer festival and the sound made while lifting heavy objects here in Japan. During this festival, people carried portable shrines called omikoshi. It was quite a sight! Those carrying these large wooden objects were having such a great time and that positive energy carried over to everyone else nearby. Some of the World Campus participants and host families even joined in on the fun by dancing with Ueda locals. It was a great experience to take part in this Japanese tradition.
With our city theme being “Educational Systems”, we had a chance to listen and talk with the Superintendent of the Board of Education for Ueda City and were also invited to visit all the schools in the Maruko district of their community. As you can imagine, the children at these schools were quite excited to take time out of their regular routine to engage with representatives from around the world!
We realized and talked about the distinct differences between the Japanese school systems and the systems in our own countries. This discussion also included special education and adult education and the efforts made to meet these needs in Japan. One issue that was highlighted and very emotional was the discussion of pressure put on students as well as “bullying”. Although the Japanese are a highly educated people with an almost 99% literacy rate, there are still challenges with overcoming the social pressures that very much contribute to one’s school experience.
Well, that’s all for now. We do want to sincerely thank all the people in Ueda city for making our stay in their city so comfortable and rewarding! Domo arigato gozaimasu.
The international participants and staff of the World Campus – Japan Class of 2007 arrived in Ueda City, Nagano on July 20th to kick off the next 12 weeks of activities in 10 Japanese communities!
For the entire 3 months of the program, 46 people from 15 countries are currently expected to stay for one, two or three sessions to experience and get behind the scenes access throughout Japanese society. Each session lasts about one month and a few more people might still join during the second and third sessions with applications continuing to come in for the 2007 program.
The current 2007 class members are from Belgium, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Qatar, Uganda, Uzbekistan and the USA.
In each city visit, participants learn about and share knowledge regarding city specific themes, Japanese language and culture through seminars and hands-on activities in the areas of business, politics and social activism. One of the most unforgettable parts of the program is the opportunity to live with host families in each community!
The class will stay in Ueda City up until August 3rd where they are learning more about the World Campus – Japan program, beginning to understand and experience Japanese culture and are preparing for their weekly Thank-you Event all as part of their Orientation. Ueda City is also where the “Educational Systems” theme has begun.