SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • Jin_Hongyuan Miscellaneous Thoughts on Fukushima

    It was not the first time to visit Fukushima.  I visited Fukushima for the first time in 2012 summer as a volunteer.  Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake (March 11, 2011), I was lost in my planned study abroad program in Japan, and by chance I found a recruitment of university volunteers to Fukushima on the bulletin board of Zhejiang University in China. When I called, it was a private exchange activity where a Japanese exchange student from Keio University contacted the Fukushima Prefectural Office and recruited university students in China to go to Fukushima. During the seven nights and six nights, we visited the villagers in temporary housing and visited agricultural facilities along with the sightseeing. The most impressive thing was that many young people fled outside the prefecture, but the old people who remained there were surprisingly strong and cheerful.  When I left Fukushima, I told “I will come back soon !”  But, it was seven years later that I could visit Fukushima again.  I visited Iitate in September, 2019 as “Fukushima Study Tour”. I was interested in agriculture because I have majored in agriculture in the university and I have a little knowledge about agriculture. I checked economy of Fukushima in advance and found that manufacturing is main. Contribution by agriculture is not so big, but some of the agricultural products are famous. For example, “Akatuki” and some of other peach breeds in Fukushima are very famous in Japan. There are some rice breeds which are as good as other breeds in neighboring prefectures like Niigata, Yamagata and Miyagi. Fukushima premier branded beef is also famous, and we can find “Akabeko”, which is a folk toy of cow, everywhere in Fukushima.  However, after the nuclear power plant accident, agricultural products from Fukushima suddenly came to the spotlight from all over the world. Frequent news such as foreign import bans. I also learned that all agricultural products made in Fukushima Prefecture that were not affected by the nuclear accident were suffering from reputational damage as "from Fukushima." In China, there is a proverb “好事不出門、懐事伝千里”.  It means “There are few people who care good things. But, bad news travels quickly”.  The same is true of Fukushima's agricultural products that are being beaten. According to a report by the MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), the change in prices of six kinds of products like rice, beef, peach and plaice etc. are showing below the national average, despite of gradual recovery. It is not radioactive contamination but a prejudice for agriculture that Fukushima people should challenge for their restoration.  Now, let us come back to Iitate. It is true that profit from agriculture are damaged by prejudice as the second damage. But they do not know their actual latent impact on their health by radioactive contamination, which comes from invisible radiation by cesium, which have long half-life period. Immediately after the accident, wind brought such radioactive materials and spread to soil of Iitate. This time, I measured radioactive rays by dosimeter by myself walking in the village and found that data on the surface of ground and muddy place shows higher figures. In the windbreak forests, the place, where the wind from the nuclear power plant blows directly, shows higher figures. In Fukushima, they removed surface soil physically in order to keep their living and production. There were various reports about this. Some of them reported that they have tried to bury contaminated soil into deeper place, but they could not do it by the opposition of the people who live there. There was a plan by country which contaminated soils would be reused as piling up soil for their new roads. There seems no good idea for contaminated soils and we saw a lot of durable plastic bags alongside roads temporarily.  After two or three weeks later of our trip, the 19th typhoon hit Iitate and the contaminated soil flowed out by heavy rain. It was a problem. When I saw the news of flowing out of contaminated soil, I had mixed feelings in my mind. I know “anybody do not like to touch contaminated water and soil”.  As a foreigner, I felt a sense of helplessness like a bystander.    Fortunately, when I saw the faces of the villagers in Iitate, I was very impressed with their spiritual strength and strong mind. Of course, it is understandable that many former villagers remain in urban areas without returning after seven years of evacuation. Therefore, I respect the villagers who return and stay alive after canceling the evacuation orders. Seeing many NPOs working hard for the future of Iitate Village, I was impressed by the variety of ways of life, and it was a memorable trip.  I saw many calves in Iitate rich in nature which villagers began to raise. I wish I could enjoy nice Iitate beef when I would come back next time. SGRA Kawaraban 616 in Japanese (Original) Photos of the Day  Jin_Hongyuan / 2019 Raccoon, Special researcher at Department of Integrated Bioscience, The University of Tokyo Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Cho_Suil “Korea-Japan relations are increasing chaos !? ”

    While Korea-Japan relations are becoming increasingly chaotic, I would like to look back on my short life as a foreign student in Japan, my individual connection with Japan and I would like to mention about the Korea- Japan relation in the 21st century.  [TV animations]I was born in 1982 (Showa 57 in Japanese era ) and spent my student life in Seoul, Korea. When I entered “national school”, I have enjoyed TV animations like “Tetsujin 28”, “Mazinger Z”, “Tetuwan Atom (Astro Boy)”, “Science Ninja Team Gatchaman”, and “Honoh no Tokyuji, Dodge Danpei” etc..  In my junior and high school time, I have enjoyed “Slum Dunk”. *On March 1,1996, the name “national school” (vestige of Japanese colonial rule) was changed to“primary school”.  It was in 2001, when I became the university student, I came to know that those enthusiastic animations were imported from Japan. Actually, I was not so interested in Japanese people, Japanese language, Japanese culture and Japanese history. I wanted to be a teacher, so I enrolled in the Japanese Language Education Department according to my score in the entrance examination. I was shocked to hear those animations were made in Japan from a friend who was familiar about Japanese culture. It was because of the character`s Korean name and the Korean language they spoke.   When I came to Japan for the first time in 2006 for the purpose of learning Japanese language, I have been crazy, rather than textbooks, about colored “Slum Dunk” in 24 volumes which I bought at a nearby secondhand book store. I took it back to Korea and read it over repeatedly.  [Okinawa, Nagasaki, Yakiniku]  In 2006, during my language training period in Japan, I went to Catholic Church every Sunday morning together with my roommate. I went to Okinawa together with Japanese, Chinese and Korean believers in June and prayed for the war deaths in the battle of Okinawa.  I learned about the past and the present of Okinawa by visiting the battle site, Peace Memorial Park, Futenma U.S. Military Base and Shuri-Jo (castle). We stayed at a religious house for five days having breakfast made by the Sisters. We travelled in Okinawa by micro bus and I could not forget enthusiastic voice of an Okinawa-born clergyman who guided us. Especially, he repeated “I am not a Japanese” which made me feel embarrassed and made me to notice that I have to study Japanese more. It might be an instant when I changed and selected my way to a scholar.  This time, Okinawa tour was planned by the father of the church where I used to visit for praying, He was born in Nagasaki and took me to Nagasaki so that, I could visit Catholic churches, Endo Shusaku Literature Museum and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. I read the names of Korean victims whose name were inscribed in the Foundation of Peace at the Peace Memorial Park in Okinawa. I saw names of Korean workers who were victims of atomic bombs at Hiroshima on August 6 and at Nagasaki on August 9, in 1945. It made me realized sincerely that I, as a teacher, cannot teach Japanese without knowing their existence and meaning of Korean victims who came to Japan in the foreign land.    When I came to Japan first, I could not progress my Japanese conversation ability despite of Level 2 (N2) ranking at Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. I worked as a part-time at a Yakiniku restaurant. It was strange for me to see Korean words, like ‘kalbi’, ‘kimchi (Korean lettuce)’, ‘kakuteki (cubed daikon kimchi)’, ‘Oi-Kimchi’, ‘sanchu (Korean lettuce)’, ‘gukpa’, ‘ bibimbap’ and ‘chijimi (Korean pancake)’. Some people say that such Korean words in Japan began to be used currently after the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. The Yakiniku restaurant, where I was working, was run by a family.  I was able to take staff meals and enjoy free alcoholic drinks after work.  The staffs who were working there were all Japanese except me, so that I was able to practice Japanese by asking everything that I was worried about. There is no exaggeration to say that communications and understanding with profound Japanese, whom I met at Yakiniku restaurant, have broken my walls of prejudice toward Japanese and changed my life.  [A piece of memory at my national school]Going back to my national school time (March, 1989 - February, 1995), I would like to say about the Korean War which broke out on June 25, 1950. When the day, June 25 was near, we drew anti-communist posters and had anti-communist speech contests in school. At first, I thought that only demons and devils live in North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). On other hand, we sang the national anthem in which words like “Beckdu Mountain (白頭山) 2744m” or “Mountain Kumgang (金剛山) 1638m” are included.  We wrote posters and sang songs both of which are just for our hope “unification” and we were thinking that the North and the South will be unified in these five or ten years. In the year 1994, when I was in the sixth year at our national school, the Premier Kim Il-sung passed away. In our school, an announcement was made to turn on the televisions where his death was reported. I thought the unification of the North and the South would be materialized soon. Twenty-five years has already passed, but we are still divided.        [The Millennium between Korea and Japan starts from dialogue and human love]  On October 8, 1998, President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi agreed on the Joint Declaration on the Korea-Japan Partnerships toward the 21st Century.  In the Declaration, both of the countries agreed that they would talk about the ideal friendships and build new partnerships between two countries reconfirming the present amicable friendships.  Based on this agreement, “Common undertakings for foreign students from science and technology departments of both countries” was established. Korean students, who graduated high schools, were invited to the departments of science and technology of Japanese national universities and learned for four years. Since the year 2000 when this program started, about two thousand Korean students have studied under this program.  Regret to say, however, this program ended in 2018.  In October, 1998, there was a memorable change. The Korean Government released Japanese public cultures which were prohibited to import and we were able to touch with Japanese public cultures like movies or cartoons legally.  Unfortunate to say, I have to touch with “the accident at Shin-okubo station where a passenger fell down from platform”. At around 19:00, on January 26, 2001, a drunken man fall down to railroad track and a Japanese cameraman together with Korean students jumped down on the track to save him. But, unfortunately, all three of them were run over by the train to death. A plate for morning and praising for the death of victims were founded at stairs just between the platform and the ticket gate of the station. On January 26, every year, they have a remembrance event for Lee Su-hyon, Korean student who passed away at the accident. “LSH(initials of Lee Su-hyon) Scholarship” was established by voluntary fund-raising of the people and is said to be a symbol of friendship between Korea and Japan.          Success in the FIFA World Cup in 2002, which was jointly organized by Korea and Japan is still fresh in our memories. On December 19, 2002, Roh Moo-hyun was elected as 16th President against all the expectations. He visited Japan from June 6 to 9, 2003, held summit meetings and spoke with political figures. He also made a speech at the Japanese parliament, and appeared on the TBS news program, "Hundred People Hundred Heats, President Roh Moo-Hyun's Real Intent", and had heart to heart talks with Japanese people for around one and half hour. Looking back from now on, it is an exceptional thing and I think that it is necessary now.  It is the millennium now for both countries. Both of us, Korea and Japan, cannot forget have started to deepen mutual understanding through exchanges based on human love and dialogue. (To be Continue) SGRA Kawaraban 611 in Japanese (Original) Cho_Suil / Graduated School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, Fellowships from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala 
  • Hourieh_Akbari “We are still in Japan!”

    Thirty years ago, back in the 1980s, I came to Japan when I was only three years old with my family.  My father was an Iranian student in Japan. At that time, it was very rare for an Iranian to study in Japan and it is said that he was the first generation to study abroad in Japan.  Japan’s economy was in top form back then, during the “bubble era.” This news reached Iran as well and people in Iran were looking for jobs as this was just after the Iranian Revolution.  In 1974, the “Visa Mutual Waiver Agreement” was concluded between Iran and Japan and we could visit Japan without a visa. Due to such changes, Iranian youth began to visit and stay in Japan looking for jobs. It is said that in the year 1992, more than 40 thousand Iranians - the highest number ever - were in Japan. Our family was also living in Japan in that period.  I do not know why Iranians have been gathering together around Ueno Park in Tokyo. On Sunday, Ueno Park became a “mini-Persian town” and a place to exchange information over Iranian foods. Sometimes, famous Iranian singers or artists came to the park to have concerts. I have a memory of our family going to Ueno for Iranian foods, music and movies.  Looking back, I have a strange memory of my father whom I believed to have been busy in preparing his doctoral thesis. When I was in the third grade of elementary school, he went out around 11 o’clock in the evening a few times a week in a luxurious car and came back the next morning. Feeling anxious about this, one day I asked my mother about it, thinking that my father had a part-time job at night because he was busy in the day.  My mother told me that a lot of Iranians were in prison for illegally overstaying.  Japanese police stations were short of interpreters for Persian and Japanese at the time and asked Iranian students such as my father to interpret.  In 1995, we returned to Iran when my father completed his studies in Japan.  Other Iranian people who had been working in Japan also began to return.  After my return to Iran, I had the chance to talk with Iranian people who had been working in Japan. When I talked with my mother in Japanese in places where there were a lot of people, we communicated freely as we assumed that Iranian people could not understand Japanese.  When we talked in Japanese in taxies or supermarkets, I was surprised on many an occasion by taxi drivers saying “I understand Japanese” or “your Japanese is very good”.  In my schooldays, I was teaching Japanese to ordinary citizens at the University of Tehran.  Some Iranians who had lived in Japan took my class and told me about their memories of Japan in the 1980s, bringing up Japanese soberness and politeness.  In 2013, eighteen years after my first visit to Japan, I came to Japan again as an Iranian student. In my doctoral course, I started my research in the field of sociolinguistics, focusing on Iranian people who have stayed in Japan for more than five years.  I aimed at an investigation of the actual situation of their use of the Japanese language.  I tried to listen to their life stories as much as possible, because their life stories relate to their abilities of speaking Japanese after their studies of the language.  Students were included in my field of research, of course. However, it was also true that many Iranians who came over to Japan in the 1980s were laborers. Some of them were married and had their families in Japan, and some of them were running good Persian food restaurants or supermarkets.   Whenever I start my interviews with these individuals, sitting in front of them and asking them to “please, tell me your “life story”, I always have a strange feeling. They came to Japan in their twenties and are in their forties or fifties now. I came to Japan as a schoolgirl and am an adult woman now. And I am sitting in front of them as a researcher. Our paths might have been different, but I have a feeling that we share something in common.     It is a fact that “we are still in Japan.” We love Japan and are sharing our memories, be they happy or terrible. We thank Japan for Japan has made us grow and gain many experiences. We are sharing wonderful lessons with each other.  Hereafter, I will continue to look into the Iranian community in Japan.  Though we are living in Japan with some similar background and reasons, we will grow and have our own way of living.  I would like to convey the stories of our small communities to the Japanese people.   SGRA Kawaraban 601 in Japanese (Original) Hourieh_Akbari / 2017 Raccoon, Researcher at Chiba University (Graduate School of Humanities and Studies on Public Affairs) Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale
  • Kimiya Tadashi:“How to overcome the critical situation between Japan and Korea?”

     Just after the G-20 Osaka Summit in June 2019, the third North Korea-United States summit was held at Panmunjon (板門店), Korea.  And on July 1st, immediately after the G-20 Summit, the Japanese Government released a press release about the regulatory measures of the METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)’s licensing policies and procedures on exports of controlled items to the Republic of Korea. At first, given the timing of the announcement, most people thought that it was a “countermeasure” against the government of President Moon Jae-in who did not respond to the judicial decision regarding the wartime laborers by the Korean Supreme Court in October 2018. People anticipated that it could be possible that the Japanese Government would take countermeasures against this if the assets of Japanese companies in Korea would be forcefully cashed by the Korean government for reparation purposes, which would result in visible damages to Japanese companies.  The rights of Korean sufferers, who could not get any relief, should be reinstated.But, it should be done on the basis of “The Agreement for the Rights to Claims between Japan and Korea” which was signed in 1965 as the foundation of the “promise between the two countries”.  However, the Korean Supreme Court has tried to supersede the conditions of the agreement, despite the sentences being “perfectly and irreversibly” declared by interpreting “an extent of the agreement” in narrower terms than the “intention of lawmakers”.  Such an understanding might be supported in South Korea. However, in Japan, it has hardly been accepted.  These differences should have been resolved as “diplomatic issues”. Accordingly, South Korea should have sought agreement with the Japanese side through negotiation or made a proposal which does not go against judicial decisions and the agreement.In any case, this issue should be handled by the government of President Moon Jae-in.  Response by the government of President Moon Jae-in after the judicial decision was slow. President Moon himself, who had the experience of a counsel for a similar lawsuit, might have held the conviction that Japanese companies should provide compensation. Surrounding staff members might have thought favorably of President Moon. In Japan, there is the opinion that responsibility for this judicial decision should belong to the government of President Moon. However, the “original judgement” was made at a small claims court in the Supreme Court in May 2015, the last period of President Lee Myung-bak. Park Geun-hye, the following President, tried to take some countermeasures considering the potential destructive impact it might have on Japan and South Korea relations.  But, she failed as she was soon impeached and dismissed.  Furthermore, the head of the Supreme Court was arrested under the government of President Moon, the reason being that he exercised illegal “judicial monopoly” by trying to adjust relations between administration and judicature.  In Korea, people strongly believe that the Korean Government should negotiate with the Japanese Government to accept the judgement by the Korean Supreme Court and the Japanese Government and companies should abide by the judgement. I personally think it should be left to the judgement of the companies whether they follow the judgement or not. As for the Japanese government, they consider that the judgement by the Korean Supreme court is against “The Agreement for the Rights to Claims between Japan and Korea” which was made “perfectly and irreversibly”. This means that if the judicial procedures in Korea proceed as is, the Japanese government would have to take some “counter measures”.  However, how can we justify “counter measures” which the Japanese Government took before Japanese companies experienced any visible damages? Furthermore, they explained that they decided to take “export regulatory measures” for security reasons given that strategic goods or techniques are being outsourced to third party countries (such as North Korea or China) . in the belief that they would not get any support internationally for their “counter measures”.     In any case, we cannot deny either side regardless of the explanation by the Japanese government of what they regard as “protective counter measures” against the encashment of assets of Japanese companies in Korea. This measure has led to great tumult in Korea.  Far from being effective, the Japanese counter measure has brought about “solidarity” in Korea by encouraging a hardline stance against Japan. At first, Korean parties, both conservative and opposition, criticized the “no policy” stance against Japan by the Moon government. But, this criticism against the government changed to criticism against Japan. The wartime labor (victims of forced labor) issue, which was the reason for the “great tumult”, disappeared into thin air and Koreans now think that Japan is trying to make Korea yield through spiteful actions. Behind the act of boycotting (non-selling and non-buying) of Japanese goods in Korea, there seems to be a Korean “simple sense of justice” rather than anti-Japanese sentiment which came from the historical experience of Korea.   If Japan seriously considered this issue not as a simple “expedient” and did not consider Korea as “a problem country” from a security viewpoint, that would be a big change for Japanese diplomacy and security from previous standpoints.  We cannot deny the Abe administration’s new policy which can be called a “re-definition” of Japan and South Korea relations”.  They even deleted the sentence “Japan shares basic values, market economy and democracy, with South Korea” from governmental documents and even stated that they lowered the diplomatic order of priority for Korea.  As proof, Japan showed that South Korea sided with North Korea rather than staying with allied nations such as Japan and America, or that South Korea showed their ambiguous attitude in their response to the confrontation between America and China.  Japan should give a convincing explanation about not only South Korea but also America which shares an alliance with Japan and South Korea. Needless to say, Japan should give this explanation to a domestic as well as international audience.    At present, however, Japan has not given any explanation about their change in attitude toward South Korea for security reasons. We cannot evaluate the “counter measures” this time because there are a lot of incomprehensible parts to it. It may be difficult also to withdraw the “measure” without any reasons.   As for the judicial decision for the wartime laborers, which was a cause of the great tumult this time, I think it is necessary for Korea to present their proposals which are compatible with the judicial decision by the Korean Supreme Court and the Agreement for the Rights to Claim between Japan and Korea. Providing relief for the victims (wartime laborers) should be the basis of this proposal. It should not be on the basis of how to compensate the victims by Japanese companies. In other words, it should be on the basis for compensation by Korean and Japanese companies to take part in voluntarily under the initiative of the Korean government. It is necessary for the Japanese government also to boldly withdraw their “counter measure” if their anxiety can be cleared by talking with South Korea about national security.      Relations between Japan and South Korea have been unsymmetrical and complementary, but changed to symmetrical and competitive and compete with each other now under “justice”. So, it will be difficult to solve this issue on a so-called zero-sum basis: namely, either one side will be correct and the other side wrong. As far as this game continues, both sides will only end up miserable like the so-called “chicken game”.  This confrontation, which started directly from historical issues, is now extending to affect the economy and security.     What should we do?  It would be difficult to relieve or dissolve this confrontation without a clear government standpoint and direct negotiations. Japan and South Korea should consider the intentions of the other first.  They should judge what their top priority would be, how they would get it and what they would sacrifice. Then, it is necessary to proceed with their intellectual (not emotional) negotiation consciously and distinguish it from their diplomatic, security and social viewpoints. Not only political leaders but citizens also have to keep this situation of both countries in mind.  Now, there is a movement by nongovernmental organizations and/or local governmental bodies in Korea to discontinue their exchanges with Japan.  I want the government of President Moon Jae-in to be clear on their standpoint and forthrightly state whether this is an act that is necessary or not.  SGRA Kawaraban 604 in Japanese (Original)  Kimiya Tadashi /Professor of the University of Tokyo (Liberal Arts)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale