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Students talking in a group outside while on a trip to Japan with text "Legacies of WWII"

Peace & Justice Studies: Legacies of WWII

June 21, 2018

There is no place in the world I would rather travel than Japan. Japan has had a major effect on my childhood, whether that be electronics and goods from Japan or my favorite food, sushi. When I saw the opportunity to take a course in Japan, I wanted to go as soon as possible. However, one major event I was looking forward to was meeting Japanese students from Ohtani University and hearing their opinions on important topics such as peace.

Moravian student Ben Wilder posing in front of Japanese temple or shrine

I have never left the United States so I was anxious about visiting a country that does not speak English as its primary language. I was happy to learn, however, that most people spoke decent English which made me feel more comfortable. It was an incredible experience to try and orient myself through a completely new environment with different challenges. When we first arrived in Japan after almost two long days of traveling, it was very refreshing and relaxing to meet very supportive students at Osaka Ohtani University. They wanted to help us fit into the culture and to do activities correctly. They taught us where to eat and how to behave. The most interesting event we participated in was a discussion on peace. One of the most popular questions that we were asked was, should we have nuclear weapons?

Before I arrived at Osaka, I believed that nuclear weapons should never be used but the governments should use nuclear weapons as a sense of security. After meeting with students from Osaka and Nagasaki University, I think nuclear weapons should be banned and not allowed to be owned. I realized after this discussion that I was not only wondering about the differences in language but also about the differences in beliefs about world peace. Weapons that are created are meant to be used. After hearing testimonies from survivors of the nuclear weapons and learning about the effects of the weapons from the Atomic Bomb Museum, I have learned that the first step to building a safe world from nuclear devastation is not for every country to own nuclear weapons for security but to ban nuclear weapons from the world entirely. Steps are already being made in today's politics to make this change possible. In 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize, and is working towards a safer world with zero nuclear weapons.

Moravian students and Japanese students pose with a wild deer in the street

Another concept that I found interesting and hope to focus on throughout my education is when should war be taught in school? Japan has a very different structure of education and I am interested in the effects on how war is depicted based on teaching.  Do students learn about war better when they are younger or older? Students from Osaka Ohtani University did not learn about major wars for most of their childhoods, while the United States briefly mentions wars at young ages. By either explaining war when children are too young, or teaching children about important wars in late high school, students may not have the time or knowledge to truly comprehend the powerful messages war teaches. If students understand the meaning of some wars, and not just the numbers, many more students would be interested in  peace education, making a move to create a safer world. War must be taught and understood to protect future generations from the pain victims experienced. I believe that we must educate students about war to help prevent future mistakes, however students need to understand what they are studying by being a mature age. Because of the experiences I created in Osaka and lessons I learned, I have a greater understanding of my own culture traditions and the impact of language differences, and a greater comprehension of peace because of my trip to Japan. I cannot imagine traveling to a better place for my first class abroad.

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