Students participated in an authentic tea ceremony with a Maiko in Kyoto, Japan and were welcomed into homes across Japan to partake in this honorable ceremony. Click here to watch a student-produced video about the tea ceremony. Whilst my anthropology students sunk their teeth into the tea ceremony, my global studies students
were asked to choose their own topic of investigation to
create a publicly shareable creation for our class blog
World Wide Walkers. The range of projects completed was
vast and the products were impressive. After visiting the
ancient capital of Kyoto and wrapping up our unit
on Feudal Japan we focused our energy to our
host city, Hiroshima.
“It is impossible to remain indifferent to Japanese culture. It is a different civilization where all you have learnt must be forgotten. It is a great intellectual challenge and a gorgeous sensual experience.
- Alain Ducasse
Living in Hiroshima, Japan for five months was an unforgettable experience. My students and I began investigating Feudal Japan and the role of the Samurai in their rigid caste structure. Anthropology students read Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice, an ethnography by Kristin Surak (2012) in order to understand the symbolic importance of this secular ritual.
We supplemented our digital research by visiting the beautiful Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum to investigate the prelude to Harry Truman dropping the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II in 1945. We welcomed guest lectures by Dr. Robert Jacobs, a researcher on the effects of atomic weapons and a Hibakusha, a local survivor of the Atomic bomb from Hiroshima. Both lectures gave us important first hand accounts of the aftermath of these powerful weapons and left us thirsty for more knowledge. My students were asked to step into Harry Truman’s shoes and decide whether or not to use the Atomic Bomb. I was surprised when the majority of my students decided to follow the course of action taken by Truman. The few dissenting opinions called for one more test of the weapon before its use, citing that the testing in the Pacific atolls explained by might be devastating enough for the Japanese to surrender. The class debated this concept and agreed that another test in the atolls wouldn’t have led to the surrender of the Japanese. The visit to the Naval Academy of Japan to read the letters of the young kamikaze pilots confirmed the resolve of the Japanese military.
The dropping of the bomb was validated to me by Japanese citizens at the museum, who thanked me, as a representative of the United States, for ending the war and the loss of life that would have certainly increased with the ground invasion of the Japanese islands. The large project undertaken during this semester was our Graphic Novels for Change Project, where students created Graphic Novels to represent another human rights issue. Students read both Nagazawa’s Barefoot Gen and John Hersey’s Hiroshima before emulating their styles to create their own.
My biggest personal take-away from Japan was learning how to implement the Japanese concept kaizen, or continual improvement into my life. Through learning the use of the samurai sword, to practicing Aikido and the Japanese tea ceremony I became more aware of the deliberateness of every action. Having the right intentions and being mindful are traits that I learned in Japan, but remain with me everywhere I travel.