2017 Tateshina Report
June 30, Friday, the sky is slightly clouded. Our group departs from Shinjuku. After a delicious buffet-style lunch we visit the Suwa Shrine. Walking through the moist air, we look at the enormous trees, purchase our good-luck charms, and take the first commemorative photograph. Finally, we arrive at the Taiko Tateshina Sanso Lodge, built in the shape of flying-geese. We see a never ending forest from our rooms' windows. There is no deer in sight, although we are told that there are some around. I look forward to the evening bath.
In the evening we begin our work in groups. One year olds, fellows and former fellows, professors with a long career, everybody mingles and gets to know each other. Then, we participate in an interesting activity. Everyone gets a sheet of paper pasted onto their back. Then other people write their first impressions of us, what they think or feel about us, on that piece of paper. For example, if you were compared to an animal or a color, what would that be? I take the pen firmly into my hand and begin to write on other people's backs: serious, beautiful etc. I smile while writing; others smile to me as well, as we continue to write these words that you always wanted to know about yourself and can never actually know. It is not a tattoo, yet it feels so weird to have the gaze of others verbalized onto your own body. At the end, everybody takes the piece of paper from their back and presents it to the group adding some comments.
July 1, Saturday, it is sunny. We spend the whole day thinking about peace. What is peace actually? Professor Nam Kijeong from the Seoul National University gives us a lecture. He shows us diverse materials, music clips, literature, paintings, and makes us think about the war and peace, especially throughout the twentieth century. He introduces two approaches, realism and liberalism, and explains the shift international relations from focusing on the study of war towards the study of peace. He also investigates the definition of peace in different languages and religions and pursues the question of peace not only in the field of international relations but also in the life of each individual person. He suggests that peace can be viewed as an understanding and consideration towards people in a minority position. He is a scholar, professor, and a human being who thinks very seriously about these issues. Is there peace inside of me? Is self separate from the others? Or are we actually connected? His talk takes a philosophical turn towards the concept of subjectivity.
In the afternoon we work in groups, each group focusing on a separate topic: guns and myself; an apple and myself; how many people are involved in making a pair of socks?; and, how many people are needed to make a computer? We present the result of our discussions in form of posters, power point presentations, and a theatrical performance. As a member of the apple group, I take on the role of a narrator for the apple dance. An apple is a fruit that is part of our daily lives, yet it is also very useful when thinking about the philosophical problem of subjectivity. We all realize anew how both computer and a pair of socks are fruits of endless relationships between people. This insight appears at first to have nothing to do with peace. Or perhaps it does?
After dinner, there is a lecture about the image of North Korea in the Japanese media. Professor Li Gangzhe from the Hokuriku University asks us about our opinions, mentions his visit to North Korea, and explains the diplomatic relations with North Korea in the past few years. It is a very interesting talk.
July 2, Sunday, it is sunny. After breakfast everybody gathers. Because I caught a cold I cannot participate. Later I learn that after a brief meditation everybody looked back at the past three days: delicious food, hearts opened towards each other, issues debated, and the images of peace.
When the time to say goodbye comes, we smile with thanks to the couple running the Tateshina Lodge, wave our hands, and try to keep the image of the forest sealed in our hearts. On the way back home we get excited about buying fruits in the local super market. I am still drinking the juice made of Nagano prefecture pears when we arrive in Tokyo. Tokyo is so hot that the chilly air of Tateshina appears like a dream.
By Magdalena Kolodziej (2017 Raccoon)