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Japan Study Abroad Peace & Justice Studies

The Conflict of Opposing Views

June 7, 2017

Conflict is the oldest, and the most basic reaction to opposing views. While in Japan, we experienced opposing views and conflict in multiple and different ways. Most of these thankfully were resolvable in the end. There is, however, something to gain in listing some of these conflicts and opposing views, and thinking about how they may be resolved.

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The basic culture shock we experienced provided some interesting conflicts in itself. For instance, one of the traditions in Japan that a non-Japanese person might find difficult to adjust to is the tradition of taking off one’s shoes when entering certain buildings. If unprepared, this can lead to travellers in Japan spending more time sitting and fiddling with their shoes, putting them on and taking them off, than really appreciating their surroundings. Some would call this conflict borne of this clash of cultures simple and easy to deal with, and indeed it is, but it really shows that humans, when faced with conflict, can either choose to embrace that change, if only for a temporary time, or they can resist these changes.

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Another example is going from a place like the peace park in Hiroshima, where the idea is to end war and conflict, to the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, where the day to day life revolves around potential armed conflict in Asia. For some, it became very easy to see the people in the peace park as delusional, head-in-the-clouds, idealists, or to see the Marines as fanatical, conflict driven, and warmongers. It is not so easy, however, to look at both groups and not see them as mutually exclusive. I viewed the peace park workers and volunteers as people trying to show the world what it’s like when a city is destroyed by war; and I saw the Marines and other personnel as a force that has stabilized the region and prevented war. One way that this tie between the two former belligerents, the US and Japan, could be clearly seen in Iwakuni, was through the presence of Japanese Defense Force planes along with Marine Corps equipment. In this way I saw how former conflict between the two nations has brought them closer together, and encouraged them to commit to making sure that no other cities receive the same level of devastation as Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It was in Nagasaki that another conflict struck me. This conflict hit me especially close to home. I understood this as the conflict for the soul of Japan. We learned that Nagasaki was the center of Christianity in Japan. That being said, Japan is a multi-religious society, and the presence of Shinto and Buddhism especially are strong. In the early part of Japan’s history the Shinto leaders of Japan persecuted the Christians. At the height of this conflict, 26 Christians, including 4 children, were executed by local authorities in Nagasaki, and were later beatified, and made saints. At one point Christians were forced to trample on images of Jesus and Mary to prove they were Shinto. After the 26 were martyred, the Christians were relocated to a certain part of the city. They flourished, however, in the end that was the area where the atomic bomb was dropped.

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All in all, these conflicts helped me better understand the complex history of Japan and the United States.They help us understand why our world is the way it is and what we can do to make sure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of our past. For today Asia experiences conflict between Japan and China, North and South Korea, and there also are conflicts on the India sub-continent. However, for the most part Asia is in a relative state of peace. In a few years this might change but for now we seem to have moved from a constant state of war to a state of peace.