Greetings from Japan

Japan, which is equivalent to the size of California, is the world’s second largest economy and leader in exporting automobiles and high technology products.  It has a population of 127.6 million and has the highest literacy rate in the world.  Young people my age are held to a high standard and only have one chance.  In the United States young adults are able to make mistakes and start again; in Japan there is only one chance.  Young students are pressured to succeed and for this reason Japan has one of the world’s highest suicide rates.  Suicide is the leading cause of death for people under thirty years of age.  Unfortunately, the recession and unemployment has heightened the suicide rate.  I visited Yokohama, Odowara, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kobe.

In Tokyo I experienced the high population of Japan and stayed in a capsule hotel.  This was an experience in itself and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Japan! I also visited shrines and temples and enjoyed typical Japanese food.  The Japanese people are very friendly to Americans and love to practice their English whenever they get a chance.  We certainly experienced many stares and curiosity from the people passing by.  The train system is extremely complex and efficient!  I have never even taken BART by myself; therefore, to look at a map that is in all Japanese and to try to make your way from point A to point B it took some help from locals!  Also, Japan is very expensive, everything was very comparable to America.  For example, a meal of Tempura was 2,000 yen, or 20 USD.  When trying to find a hotel to stay for the night many were around 180 USD per night.  Many students are excited to visit China that way we can see our dollar go farther!  Also Japan has a lower crime rate than the United States.  No one locks up their bikes or worries of theft.

In Hiroshima, Japan I visited the Peace Memorial Museum and saw first-hand the destruction that Weapons of Mass Destruction can have on a town.  The Memorial Museum was built to memorialize this tragedy and is both disturbing and educational.  The atomic bomb was dropped on the people of Hiroshima sixty-four years ago.  At the center of the city lies the “A Bomb Dome” which stands as a symbol of Hiroshima.  The atomic bomb was dropped approximately 600m above the dome.  In 1965 the ruins of the building began deteriorating.  Some called for the demolition and removal of the dome, but, in 1966 it was decided that the dome would be preserved permanently.  And in December of 1996 the dome was registered on the world heritage list of UNESCO as a symbol of the drive to abolish nuclear weapons.  Inside the museum lie powerful images of terrible suffering.  The museum helps in comprehending the realities of nuclear war, remembering that one of today’s weapons is equivalent to 2,000 Hiroshima bombs.  The exhibits include pieces of charred clothing, melted tires and glass bottles, and photographs of devastated buildings and contorted bodies.  The temperature that day was said to be 12,632°F.  At the park exit is a statue of the A-Bomb children which includes the figure of a little girl who passed away of leukemia caused by atomic radiation.  She believed that if she could fold 1,000 paper cranes (a symbol of good fortune and long life) her illness would be cured.  She died after making 1,300 paper cranes.  Many visitors to the park still make cranes and leave them behind in remembrance.

Japan is eager to take the steps necessary to live in a world without nuclear weapons.  The goal is to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020 and the essence of this idea is embodied in the Japanese Constitution.  Whether the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol has a positive future or not depends on the collective efforts of all.  Needless to say, Hiroshima is a strong city.  One of the walls inside the museum said that after the bomb was dropped, nothing was to grow for 75 years, and that Autumn, buds sprouted.  I have a lot of respect for Japan and for the people’s willingness to forgive.  I was apprehensive about visiting the memorial center because I felt that there would be animosity towards all Americans.  However, the memorial had a section in which it spoke of the positive relations between the United States and Japan and that no grudges exist.  There was also a center dedicated to the children whom were affected by the bombing, whether it be due to the effects of radiation or the loss of lives, and paper cranes were left in commemoration of the children.  Also, every August 6th a celebration and prayer service is held in honor of the lives lost sixty-four years ago.

Aside from Japan, taking courses away from Dominican has also been an experience in itself.  At Dominican the largest class I have ever taken has been about 15 students; on Semester at Sea my largest class consists of over 250 students.  I am used to the individual attention and being able to engage in discussion throughout the entire class period.  In my larger classes at Semester at Sea there is typically only time for one to two questions at the end of each discussion.  Another big difference is that attendance is not taken and professors do not even know I am in their class! I will be happy to return to Dominican and to be back to my everyday routines!

Monica Campos, class of 2011 (Political Science Major)

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