My Initial Research (About Me)
In response to Tom Gill, Brigitte Steger, and David H. Slater, "The 3.11 Disasters",
I came to Japan hoping to focus on the evolution of Japan from a country utilizing harsh torture practices during World War II to a country that hardly shows up on Human Rights Watch. However, I realized this topic could be studied at home, on the computer. I wanted to explore a topic that was important to me and allowed me to utilize my time in Japan as a tool for my research. After talking with Julie I came to the decision to pursue research regarding LGBTQIA+ issues in Japan. As someone who identifies as part of the community, this topic both interests me and holds great importance. Initially, I wanted to pursue the legal side of LGBTQIA+ issues, but due to the limited investigative journalism found in Japan and the language barrier, this route was unavailable to me. Through my digging, though, I found that HIV and AIDS remain large problems within Japanese society. This struck me because most modernized countries have eliminated the threat of AIDS, even if HIV is transmitted. As a result, my research will be focused on the AIDS problem in Japan: what cultural values contribute to the problem, the legal and educational issues surrounding it, and the potential solutions to the problem.
In Response to Ono & Ono, "Race and Ethnic Relations in Contemporary Japan"f
The excursion to Hiroshima started our second week in Japan and set the tone for my week. Before going to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum I thought the experience would be emotional because of the loss of life and I also assumed the museum would be very anti-American (perhaps justifiably so). However, my experience in the museum was for more emotional than I expected and the primary focus of the museum was promoting peace.
For a long time I believed the United States violated all human rights when it made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I learned in an American foreign policy class in college that most political theorists believe dropping the bomb didn’t even contribute to ending the war. However, experiencing the museum was an entire different feeling than I had gotten learning about the bombs in class. The downstairs exhibit presented the burnt clothes and items of children, along with their final words or parents’ last memories of them. Walking through this section the reality of the bombs hit me, more than it ever could when discussing it in class. The people become real, their ancestors become real, and the reality of what happened is sitting right in front of your eyes. The more I walked through it, the more I felt guilty. No, I did not make the decision to drop the bomb, but my country did. Not only did we kill all of these people, but we also brought the world into the nuclear era we live in today. In the middle of my walk through this portion of the museum I had to excuse myself to the restroom to openly cry.
A couple of days after visiting the museum, I spoke with my parents on the phone. After explaining how emotional the day was in Hiroshima my dad explained to me how the dropping of the bombs was necessary to stop the war and save thousands of lives. I was so angry when he said this to me and began arguing, with jumbled thoughts and too many emotions to make a compelling argument. After reflecting on what my dad said I became even angrier with the way the American classroom and media has taught us our history. My father did not create this theory on his own; he was taught by the media and from his textbooks that the United States was justified in making this decision. I strongly believe a museum needs to be opened in the United States showing the reality of the atomic bombs in Japan, just like the one we visited in Hiroshima. This story is just as much a part of American history as it is Japanese history. We, as Americans, owe it to the world to start recognizing the reality of the atomic bomb.
The emotional nature of the week continued when I visited Todai-ji in Nara. Todai-ji was one of the greatest Buddhist temples ever built in Japan. The temple used to house all six sects of Japanese Buddhism, each with their own shrines, libraries, and monks. The great bronze Buddha that sits inside the temple is a great reminder of the power that the temple used to hold over the Japanese government and Buddhism as a whole. However, it was emotional because the significance of the temple largely died out as the center of Buddhism moved away from Nara. This made me emotional because of the historic significance of the temple. For a monk to be ordinated he had to go to Todai-ji. Now the temple no longer holds ordination ceremonies. The passing of time in this nature always saddens me.
Additionally, I’m really interested in studying the differences between Osaka and Tokyo because the differences I saw while I was there were astounding. Both cities make the top ten largest cities in the world and they are not very far apart, yet elements of the culture struck me as very different. This was really interesting to me.
In response to James Orr, "The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Post-War Japan"
My first week in Tokyo has been a magical one, with a constant inflow of new cultural expectations and values, food, information, and fun. There have been two days throughout the week that I know in the future I will pinpoint as a turning point for me, both academically and personally. Though the entire week has taught me new things and challenged my previously held beliefs and ideas, these two days were incredibly special.
My first few days were rough. This is my first time really travelling alone, out of the country, and to a place where I am unfamiliar with the language and customs. It took me a couple of days to adjust to my new environment and I worried I wasn’t cut out for this study abroad program. However, on Tuesday we were given the ‘Mapping the City’ assignment. This task was daunting because I had to navigate on my own, plan my own day, and enjoy being alone in such an unfamiliar place. I was assigned to visit Ueno and I think I was really lucky because Ueno consists primarily of a large, peaceful park. I went out on my own and I fell in love with having that time to myself, sitting with the locals, and immersing myself into Tokyo for a few hours. I wasn’t a tourist when I was sitting with everyone else in the local neighborhood park; I was just living in Tokyo for a few hours. This day was special to me because I conquered the anxiety I had surrounding the trip. I transitioned from being nervous and stressed to enjoying Tokyo and the class materials.
The second day that I will always remember is when we watched the documentary “Hafu” before heading to Yokohama. This documentary, paired with the two readings from the night before, provided me insight to a social problem I never knew existed in Japan. I was unaware that mixed race individuals were treated so poorly by the mainstream public in Japan. This documentary and the readings hit a lot of people within our group pretty hard because of personal experiences of not belonging due to being minorities in various groups, cultures, or societies. This made what I learned from the documentary even more real and intense. As someone with so much privilege there are a lot of things I forget to think about. One moment I think I understand many of the complexities of racism and then I come face to face with an issue I hadn’t really thought of or paid attention to before. The concept wasn’t hard to understand; it is simply that I had never previously focused on the aspect of not belonging among certain racial groups in the United States. Japan’s hafu prejudice flows over into much of American society’s prejudice toward Americans of Asian decent.
Additionally, the Yasukuni Shrine and its accompanying museum left me thinking about how governments and societies represent their history to the public. The United States is just as guilty as Japan of presenting a biased version of historical events. Japan passes over their crimes during World War II and the United States brushes over Japanese internment camps. These comparisons were fascinating to dive in to.
I have had an amazing two weeks and I look forward to the next two!