Feelings about 3.11

Today was a day I thought about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 3.11 a lot.

First, in Kesennuma, we went to the memorial monument along the coast to pray for the people who have lost their lives, and to Iwaisaki Cape to make salt from the ocean of Kesennuma. We also saw the statue of the sumo wrestler who is from Kesennuma and a dragon pine (a branch broke due to the tsunami and it looks like a dragon). These endured the tsunami.

I also thought about the many people who experienced the earthquake. This place in which I am standing now may have been a home or a person at that time. I could not say anything.

After moving to Minamisanriku and having lunch, we went to hear the stories about the town from Mayor Sato of Minamisanriku. He has been mayor for 17 years, and he experienced the earthquake as mayor as well. We heard about the experiences of the disaster and how a change in the way of thinking before and after the earthquake occurred.

Through his words, what remained in my impression is “the most important thing is life,” the meaning of volunteers, and the significance of telling the story.

The mayor’s words were heavy as a person who survived from the disaster. In addition, I sympathized very much regarding the mayor’s view on the meaning of volunteers, that it was not the work that was actually important at the time, but the hope they gave the local people. Furthermore, to tell the story is very important to save lives of next generations.

I was ten years old at the time of the earthquake, but now I can think of it finally. I will continue to think about it and tell the story to future generations.

Keiichiro Tamara
Miyagiken Sendai Nika High School

Starting innovation around you

Today, we had a session and workshop by Mr. Takahiko Nomura, CEO and Founder, Future Sessions, Inc., Professor, MBA Program, Kanazawa Institute of Technology and Future Designer, Shibuya Future Design.

In the morning, he taught us about Future Sessions and social innovation through cross-sector dialogue, and about Project 30, their town development project through the collaboration of corporations, government and non-profit organizations.

When the private sector, public sector and social sector are separated mostly, what if three sectors collaborated like just after the Great East Japan Earthquake on 3.11?

I think that there will be strong innovation there. And actually that is Project 30. Three sectors gather, talk about local issues and create innovation. It was very exciting to think about.

We also learned how to ask powerful questions, build a trustful team and backcasting, to create our futures.

After eating lunch, we actually practiced town development. We went out to the Sasa-Hata-Hatsu area (new concept name of Sasazuka, Hatagaya and Hatsudai of Shibuya City), and walked around the green parkway there, exploring how to develop and vitalize the place through thinking how to inspire foreign travelers to come to the area. Lastly, we made a presentation about that.

Our group suggested the idea to making the parkway colorful. In our imagination, we planted flowers, built a birdhouse and a tree house, built a small shrine, and presented a place where people who like Japanese culture and nature gather.

It is a daily landscape for the Japanese, but how does this view look like from DC students? It is difficult for us to imagine, but I thought that viewpoint was very important to create innovation.

I want to be able to have a viewpoint from the outside, a viewpoint from the inside, and the user’s point of view. It is difficult, but I would like to be able to do it to understand the issues as well as positive points, and develop new perspectives and creative ideas.

Keiichiro Tamara
Miyagiken Sendai Nika High School

Keiichiro’s July 23

First of all, we talked about the differences between Japan and the United States in preparation for the final presentation.

We wrote the differences on individual stickies, then collected these on big papers to visualize our observations. Although it was an only about a 30 minute discussion, we put out a lot of opinions, so it was very difficult to categorize.

Some things which I thought were interesting are about community in the neighborhood and how to listen to people’s stories.

It is natural for you to greet and talk to neighbors in America. However, today, we do not know even their face of the neighbors in Japan, especially in urban areas. Despite urbanization keeps going in the United States. I want to learn the spirit of how to get good relationship in the community.

Regarding how to listen to talks, I think that Japan and the United States have good points and bad points each. In Japan, basically we don’t eat anything (including gum) during listening to the story. Also, you must take off your hat and look into speaker’s eye with straight back. I don’t know this is good points or bad points, but in the US these are basically forgiven. And Japanese can basically question only question time. However, compared with Japanese, Americans can ask questions as soon as they are interested in. I think these differences are deeply related to language and culture.

Secondly, we visited Halcyon Incubator. Halcyon Incubator is an organization that organizes programs to grow up social entrepreneurs, provides co-working space, and supports business by consulting.

Nowadays, I think we need to shift from doing operations to creating innovations.

This is America to me.

Finally, we visited elementary schools and taught children about Japan. We divided us into three groups – taught how to dress Kimonos and use Furoshiki, try to speak some Japanese, and do Origami.

I taught students to speak some Japanese language, for example simple Japanese greetings and numbers from 1 to 10. It was difficult for me to teach children, but I felt comfortable because the children were very cute.

It was a very fulfilling day.

Keiichiro Tamara
Miyagiken Sendai Nika High School

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum

On Friday, July 20, at the end of Week 1, the TOMODACHI USJYEP group spent the morning visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The experience was powerful, as always, and for many of the students (both from DC and Japan) this was new information, so particularly shocking. We asked each student to share a moment of maximum impact or significance.

Racquel: The Holocaust Museum as a whole was a lot to take in all at once. It was very moving, and really helped me understand what that time period was like. One exhibit that specifically caught my eye, and touched my heart, was called “Daniel’s Story.” It walked me through the life of a young Jewish boy before, during, and after the Holocaust. I had the ability to attempt to understand many of the struggles he went through, and all the pain he endured. I watched as his life went from peace and happiness, to disaster, devastation, and hopelessness. This exhibit really allowed for me to see what it was like to live under Hitler’s reign, as a Jew during the Holocaust era.

* discrimination
* prejudice
All terrible things start from discrimination and prejudice (black, white, Jewish, man, woman)

Arjernae: The survivors who spoke out after the Jews were freed from the camps was one of the many things that shook me. Also, the fact that people who were hospitalized were being murdered by hospital staff without the families’ knowledge. That they were experimenting and taking people who weren’t really sick hostage, just to burn their bodies and come up with a cover story about how people’s loved ones died, because of “sickness,” is sickening itself.

Noa: I Iooked at the exhibit on children’s shoes. I can imagine the view of the many children.

Jerusalen: “You are my witness” (Isaiah 43:10). I think when I saw the biblical quote on the wall, it hit me that the quotes said in the bible can relate to so many problems in the world, the people affected being Jews. The quote from a bible has a great impact on their relationship with religion. That stuck with me while seeing all the other exhibits. I think the other thing that impacted me was the room where you could light a candle for the Jews and soldiers. The tranquillity in the room made me feel peace.

Minori: About 8 people slept in a tiny space together. When one of them died, others used his things, such as shoes, clothes. Also, when they wanted to pee, they just peed while lying in bed, so others experienced the bad smell. I realized how important storytelling is through this experience.

Miles: I viewed a short film within the first exhibit. Firstly, the ambiance of the theater was fitting for the rest of the museum, was extremely dark with industrial features. The film was about the religious persecution Jews faced throughout history well before the Holocaust. Starting during the Crusades, thousands of Jews were killed by the hands of Christians. Jews were also painted as devilish/demonic figures with art pieces depicting them drinking children’s blood. The film also touched on how Martin Luther expected Jews to convert to Christianity during the Protestant Reformation. So when Jews decided to keep their faith, he called for the burning of synagogues and Jewish people’s homes. I found the film extremely interesting because I wasn’t aware of the long history of violence and persecution towards Jews prior to the Holocaust.

Anika: An image of babies piled up in the ground of the camp because they’re dead (dead babies).

Carlos: There’s a billboard in the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit which is a question to the public at the time:

What impacted me was the response:

“Yes 93%” and “No 1%” and “Don’t Know 6%.” I was impacted by the level of racism and discrimination that used to be, because they used to get scared that I’m related to.

Keiichiro: I was affected by the “Smile Photo” in the Holocaust Museum. I felt discomfort for it. Why? Why do they smile? The Holocaust is said to be so terrible. But at that time, people who live in Germany (not Jews) are smiling.

Shunsuke: “Amcho” is a word that was used by Jews to identify themselves as Jewish when they weren’t allowed to name themselves as Jewish during World War II. It’s kind of a secret word in Jewish. Jewish is human. They all have names, born, personality, and others like us. However, they didn’t have any rights or opportunity to name Jewish. They were discriminated against as aliens. As they were heading to their death by inhumane ways.

Noa: I looked at this – children’s shoes. I can imagine the view of the many children.

Naoki: When war has happened, human beings can do that.

The Program Begins

First, we had an orientation program by Benjamin. He taught us about diversity and stereotypes visually to understand easily.

We can’t change our stereotypes in contrast to generalization, but we can understand each other more and more deeply. Although it is said we know each other about only 10% like iceberg. We can talk or discuss to become more close. Even if you put on yellow glasses, you can’t take them off since you were born, you can’t see blue permanently. But if you get a partner with blue glasses, you may be able to see something from a viewpoint of blue a little. We should know each other more deeply.

Second, we took a Photography Workshop by Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, that is a journalism organization focused on under-reported stories, news which we usually don’t focus on. We learned about journalism and photography then. Photography can be categorized to 4 groups – Portraits, Landscapes, Details and Actions. Important things are what you take, how you take it, and how you convey your picture’s story. You can combine 4 groups, and think where is the best angle to the objects. We can become a photographer easily.

Third, after the lunch, we went to the City Exploration by Bus. We went to Hains Point to look out over Washington D.C., the Anacostia Museum to learn about the history that showed the city fighting for civil rights for African-Americans, and one of the participants’ house and neighborhood. In contrast to Japan, neighborhood has very good relationships in D.C. They hugged each other, and talked about themselves. I often think about my local area, we have almost no relationships. So I’m jealous and I decided I will actively talk to my neighbors after this program.

Lastly, we shared each way of thinking by drawing paintings of our mind. I think we are getting to know each other gradually. We have not known each other well, because we have spent time together for a short time and moreover our language barrier. So, it’s a very good time for me and I guess for all of us. And I want to share my mind to others regularly.

Keiichiro Tamara
Miyagiken Sendai Nika High School