Period: June 4th – June 10th (7 days)
4th – Hiroshima
5th – Miyajima/Takamatsu
6th – Teshima
7th – 8th – Kyoto
9th – 10th – Ogaki
Hiroshima – Urban Resilience
On the 4th of June 2017, Tokyo Tech students met with Georgia Tech students at the Granvia Hotel in Hiroshima at 2pm. Together we all departed for Hiroshima Peace Park. Students were told to take a tour and convene at the museum at 5pm. We broke into smaller groups and walked around taking note of the bomb dome, saw different memorial and monuments emphasizing the tragedy of the nuclear weapons, toured the museum and finally assembled to return back to our hotels at about 7pm. Particular monuments that I took note of during the tour include the children’s peace monument, the peace flame and the peace bells.
The Children’s Peace Monument (JSPSD students and other High School students)
As I saw a bunch of school children around these monuments, I reflected on the number of children that were victims of the atomic bomb.
Looking at the city from a bridge at the park, I saw that beautiful things can grow from tragedy, that cities can be resilient no matter the disaster.
Opinion – It’s a place everyone should visit to vicariously experience what war is all about especially when it is done with nuclear weapons. To see what could happen in a split second when atomic bomb detonates and how that singular momentous act could affect generations after.
Miyajima – A blend into the environment
7am on Monday morning, we checked out of the hotel, departed Hiroshima and using a ferry from Miyajimaguchi, we arrived at Miyajima at about 9am. From the boat just as we got to the Island, we could see its most historical and cultural structure; the O-torii Gate which we later walked out to, when the tide was low.
We were given four hours to tour the Island however we wanted in smaller groups, my group went to the Itsukushima Shrine, the Daishoin Temple, Momijidani Park and the community as well. Here are a few things noted:
- Safety was displayed in a somewhat efficient form – Safety boats prepared for the emergency of high tide, Speakers placed at strategic locations all around the island
- Culture highly valued – The momiji symbol appeared to be very dear and markings were seen in even manhole covers along the streets
- It was curious to see the normally skittish deer walk calmly and with ease on the streets and allow humans to be around them
- The shops had the more elderly people working, I didn’t see any kid around
- Recycling was not neglected even up in the hills of the hiking paths
- It was really quiet even with the mild buzz of tourist. Seeming like the natives can still live in peace regardless of the inflow of tourist
- The area seemed to be incorporated into the environment, houses were built into the hills, and it appeared like nothing was being destroyed in order for them to exist there.
- History is preserved
- Economic activity was tourism
Opinion – Miyajima Island is a beautiful place that displayed cultural and environmental sustainability.
We departed for Takamatsu in the afternoon after our tour of Miyajima Island and arrived early enough to have a brief tour of the area. We visited the cultural heritage; the Tamamo Park where we saw the ruins of Takamatsu Castle and a garden of Bonsai plants. We walked around the central part of the town a little and noticed there were very few people around, even in shops, restaurants and bars. The water drains were not flowing properly, some buildings were very old, middle aged and old people were working in the various places visited and very few young people were around.
Early in the morning of the 6th, we left Takamatsu via Ferry to visit Teshima Island. We were given a tour by Ryo Ishii – daihyou of Kousou Shikoku, who gave us information about the island, answering questions as well. Firstly, we were shown a sample of the garbage that was dumped in the Island.We later watched a video giving the history of how Teshima became a garbage Island and how it was transformed to a society with a vision for a new greener and recycling society in the future.We were told that the facility serves as a place where people can learn about the environment and are reminded of the need for a symbiosis between the environment, nature and culture.We learnt that it took 14 years of digging up the waste; finishing this last March 2017 and that it will take roughly 10 more years to complete the water treatment process.
The waste dug up are transported to Naoshima Island for processing, we were shown some recycled products from the process. No tax based economic value is being given to Teshima island from the revenue generated from the waste processing done at Naoshima, but the people are satisfied because the image of Teshima products have been raised again and all products from the island can be seen with a better light.
Lastly, we learnt that the area of the dumpsite will once again be returned to a national park and the island may become more viable for tourism.
We departed Teshima Island at 11.05am for Uno where we were to have a brief lunch snack before going to Kyoto
Kyoto – Culture and Sustainability
We stayed at the Piece Sanjo hotel in Kyoto for two nights, we were allowed to tour Kyoto and discover its cultural sustainability by ourselves. We divided into different groups based on common interest of places we wanted to visit. Some of us visited, Arashiyama, Ginkakuji, Philosopher’s path, Fushimi Inari, Sanjo streets and market and various places.
One major thing to be noticed about Kyoto is that history and culture has been preserved throughout centuries. Along the philosopher’s path, one could still see some wooden houses modelled after the building styles of the past.
We saw that the culture of Japan is very embedded in the design of the city, it’s a buzzing city but unlike Tokyo which I couldn’t help but compare with, the rush of people was not there; people seemed to be moving with ease. Shops open late in the morning and some close in the afternoon to open again in the evening. The environment is very green-minded as houses were more spacious to afford larger gardens and more folks were dressed in Kimono outfit.
Ogaki City – Nonmetropolitan Sustainability
At 9:30am on June 9th, we were welcomed at Ogaki Kita High School by Miss Lauren who provided us with some brochures about Nishimono, Gifu prefecture and by extension, Ogaki.
We were told about the Super Global High School program being done in the school, taken on a brief tour of the environs and classes then the schedule for our activities at the school was also distributed.
Out of the six periods in the school, with lunch in between, we were to use four periods to interact with first year students of Ogaki Kita High. The first year classes were divided into seven classes and within those four periods, the JSPSD students were broken into groups to interact with all the classes. My group met with classes 1-1, 1-6, 1-3 and 1-5. Within each class, each JSPSD student met with a group of students between two to five and discussed with them, Ogaki and the neighbouring towns where they lived.
The Ogaki Kita High students explained about their towns and cities using the STAR framework and the following resulted from our discussions;
- The population of Ogaki is about 161,936 and is the 2nd largest city in Gifu prefecture. It is famous for its historical castle, fresh water, Mizu Manju and the Ogaki festival. Also the movie; Koe no Katachi had a setting of Ogaki.
- Some of the places the students go to have fun include; Aqua walk, Aeon shopping mall, Rock City, Ogaki castle, Ogaki castle park, Sunomata castle ruins, etc.
- Some of the students lived in neighbouring towns such as Tarui, Godo and Mizuho which are affected by similar problems in Ogaki city.
- The issues highlighted include:
- Decreasing population
- Aging population
- Lack of local economy
- Lack of attractive jobs
- Emigration of the youths to bigger cities
- These issues were discussed further and out of 18 students interviewed, only 4 students wanted to live in their hometowns and city. The others wanted to go to Nagoya, Kyoto, Tokyo or Gifu city. Their reasons include: higher salary, beautiful places, more factories, more education options, availability of bigger public offices. A small percentage would like to commute between Ogaki and Nagoya/Gifu.
- Ideas on possible solutions were shared, some of which are: the need for introduction of good historical/fun places, more factories/companies, attractive jobs and cheaper housing and the need for safe and secure city planning to make the environment ideal for rearing children.
- When asked what other cities they would like to model Ogaki after, apart from the major ones such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, etc. Students suggested Fukuoka, Kanagawa, Ise at Mie prefecture, Kochi, Kyogo
We finished for the day as we watched the students cleaning up their classrooms and environs, and then convened for a brief meeting to discuss feedback and the agenda for the next day. Souvenirs from the school were given to all of us JSPSD students.
The following day, June 10th, involved a tour of Ogaki with selected Ogaki Kita High School students from the English club serving as our guides. We met at the south entrance of Ogaki Station and breaking into four groups, we began our tour at 10:20am to return back at 2:00pm. My group led by two Ogaki Kita High students visited the Ogaki Castle Hall, Ogaki Park, Kyodokan, the Oku-no-Hosomichi Musubi-no-chi Destination Site, (where the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho ended his 5-month literary journey)
We also saw the Yahata shrine and the Sazareishi stone which is featured in the Japanese national anthem.
Amidst our tour, we broke for lunch and at the end returned to the station for a final good bye to the Ogaki Kita High School students and staff before embarking on a return journey back to Tokyo.
Opinion – Touring Ogaki, walking along the canals, seeing rice paddies between houses, the people playing in the park and visiting its historical places, one could see a potential link between tourism, community and agriculture.With a focus on urban agriculture, increased tourism by properly maintaining its attractive sites and publicising the city to the outside world (especially taking advantage of it being featured in UNESCO) and building a communal link between the aged and the young, there is a massive potential for sustainable economic growth.
Other notes: The trains were different between small cities/towns and big cities, trains had full seats for more passengers in small cities…maybe because of more elderly folks in these regions, while Tokyo and Kyoto had more standing room in their trains
Apart from the beautiful scenery and experiencing the deep cultures (visiting temples) and food that can only be found in Japan such as eating a delicious Udon at Takamatsu, snacking on the famous Miyajima Island’s Momiji Manchu, savouring the uniquely made Okonomiyaki of Hiroshima, swimming in the pleasure of Kyoto Macha, tasting the Mizu Manju of Ogaki, etc., there is much knowledge to absorb when each of the places visited is looked at critically from the view of what the JSPSD program is all about. Through this trip I was able to glean information about the differences between the rural cities, towns, urban cities and the culture embedded within influencing either the growth of the area or its decline. Sustainability from its three main aspects; economic, social and environment could be seen in varying degrees across the different places. And one couldn’t help but compare every single place with the buzzing city of Tokyo. This helped to throw light a bit on what makes Tokyo what it is today and why some of its greatness might not be ideal in terms of a complete sustainability package. I have learnt a lot from this trip and I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in it.