Lesson on ecology and pollution: Minamata disease

Minamata disease museum in minamata kumamoto
Minamata disease museum in minamata kumamoto

On Friday we visited Minamata Eco town and learned about the Minamata disease. Since Minamata is approximately 90 km from our home stay city, Kumamoto, it was a day full of travelling and beautiful countryside viewed from the bus windows. We also had a guest student in our group, as my host sister joined us for the visit.

Our first stop at the Minamata Eco Town was enlightening in many ways. In Japan, like in Finland, people are very careful about recycling, but even though I recycle myself, I have never given much thought to how the lifecycles of the recycled things continue. At Minamata we learned about recycling and saw how glass bottles are recycled and reused in Japan, and I have to say that there were many glass bottles! All the workers seemed very passionate about their job, which I have to give them credit for, especially since some of the job includes checking an endless line of reusable glass bottles for cracks. Later we could also buy different glass products made out of used glass bottles by the manager, Mr. Tanaka. We also learned that it takes about 20 wine bottles to make a square meter of asphalt, which is an ingenious way of reusing glass!

The second activity for the day was Minamata Disease Municipal Museum. Even after a small briefing we had already had about Minamata disease, there was still lots of new information at the museum. We also had the opportunity to listen to the story of a Minamata disease survivor, Mr. Nagamoto. He was born with the disease, and his story was very touching. Firsthand experience and the feelings he could describe made the whole thing feel much more real: after all, although the pollution of Minamata took place in the 60’s it was not until 2004 that the prefecture was sentenced responsible for the disease. Although Mr. Nagamoto has suffered from the disease his whole life and will continue to do so as long as he lives, he talked about the things matter-of-factly without bitterness and smiled often, which is, I think, something admirable. The disease itself and the suffering it caused for Minamata citizens, whether they were victims or not, was a rather difficult subject, but the beautiful view from the museums roof and the positive attitude of the survivor helped to lighten the mood a bit.

All in all, the day’s activities were very informative and interesting. Protecting nature and recycling seems now even more important to me than before. It is terrifying what we can do to the environment because of ignorance or indifference, and the extent of catastrophes such as Minamata is unbelievably large. I hope that the highly ecological ways of Minamata will spread so that we can prevent things like this from happening again.

Heidi Ropo, Finland

Arigatoo Event

Group photo in shushu the arigatoo event place
Group photo in shushu the arigatoo event place

The day started out by all of us rehearsing for the Arigatoo Event at the Kori Community Center. The time went by so fast with people goofing around and enjoying each other’s company. Some of us even went to the nearby shopping center and had pictures taken in a Japanese photo sticker booth, or “purikura”. It was so much fun, even though we were in a hurry to get back to rehearsing.

Around 4 o’clock we moved to the location of the Arigatoo Event, Shu-Shu. It has a really pretty view over Omura, and you can see really far in clear weather. It was really nice to see how the landscape and mountains change with the time of the day.

Finally it was time for the event! Even though I was really nervous, I also knew that I was amongst friends and that it really did not matter if I may not be the best singer or dancer. They will cheer for me anyways. I am really amazed by how energetic and helpful people are! Everyone was really helpful and the night enjoyable. I will never forget this.

At the Arigatoo Event we had a lot of important speeches from the LOC and the representative of the mayor’s office for example. But what surprised me the most was that the venue, Shu-Shu, normally wouldn’t be open on that time, but due to the influence of the LOC’s we got to have this party in such a nice place. I am very grateful for this!

After speeches we had dinner with our host families followed by our dancing performances, picture slideshow of our time with our host families in Omura, thank you cards being read and ending with our singing performance. The last song I was really nervous about because I had a solo representing my country. But feeling the energy from the audience and my friend made me relax and I was able to have fun. It is not about having a nice voice, but the fact that you do it to create joy.

Then the local orchestra played and we all got to dance! It was SO much fun! I really missed dancing and being able to dance with both host families and friends was really nice. Everyone was happy, energetic and especially the boys drew attention with their group dancing. Everyone really gave it their all during this event. And I am really grateful to have been able to say “thank you” to the host families, LOC’s and everyone else involved in this trip in such an enjoyable event.

It is sad to think about this being our last day in Omura, but at least we were able to say our thanks and make people enjoy themselves, creating laughter and smiles. I am pretty sure not a single one of us will forget this day – ever!

Arigatou Gozaimasu!

Anna-Louise Lydom, Denmark

Kayaze Elementary School

Class in Kayaze day5  Omura
Class in Kayaze, Omura

Ok, so today was fun, but so, so, tiring. The principal of Kayaze elementary school as well as the teachers were so nice to invite World Campus International Japan to experience a day in the life of a young Japanese student and I was lucky enough to together with Krysta and join the youngest of them all; the ichinensei, the first graders. After a demonstration of the daily agenda by the student in charge of the day, it was time for us to introduce ourselves and where we came from, and some eyes widened when they realized how far we had traveled.

When it comes to the lesson itself, math was on the menu at first and the teacher demonstrated some addition as well as the implementation of counters in the answer. I can honestly say that as a ichinensei myself, but as a university student, I felt at least at par with the kids. When the first break came I was glad that Mr. Nishimura had warned us beforehand, since suddenly we were surrounded by a rough dozen of half sized people who wanted to talk and play with us.

And so on did the rest of the day go, and I can honestly say that I have found a new respect for elementary school teachers whom with strength, kindness and patience, all out of this world qualities, guide the students through subjects. Their only proper break was during the lunch hours when the students themselves did their best to defeat the WCJ participants in the sun with games like dodge ball. And they certainly did.

I just want end with a big thank you to the principal, the teachers and the students for welcoming strangers to their school and sharing a piece of their lives. I am really glad to have experienced this and I will most likely treasure this experience for at least a dozen decades. Arigatou gozaimasu!

Daniel Solvold, Sweden

Visiting Nijinohara Special Education School

Nijinohara school students Omura
Nijinohara school students Omura

Today we went to Nijinohara Special Education School and played alongside the students there. After an introduction to the history of the school and what its purpose is we were divided into three groups. I was in group A along with Juuso, Aimee, Joseph and Towa.

After we had gone to our individual groups we did introductions in Japanese to the first-year students. After the introductions were finished we started playing games with the first-year students. The game was basically “fruit-basket” but instead of becoming a fruit you were to pick your favorite color. When everyone had picked their colors and I had my favorite blue we were told to pair with somebody of the same color. Some of the students were slower, some faster and some shy. However, there were not a single student or WCJ member who wasn’t having fun.

After a while the game ended and we moved on to the next game. The goal of the second game was to, after splitting into four teams, bring colored balls from one box out of three located in the middle of the room. You would go one at a time but you were only allowed to pick up the balls with a ladle. My team came in at the shared last place with 21 balls. The team that got in second place got 23 points and the winners had carried 24 balls to their “home”.

We then went over to saying our farewells, and the students had prepared a song which included the five of our names. All in all it was an amazing experience, not only did the students enjoy themselves, but I was recognized from last year by one of the teachers and ended up talking to her for a while.

Isak Odén, Sweden