Being able to envelop myself in a country so rich in culture and so uniform in ideals and goals was immensely enlightening. I think I speak for the collective group that being in Japan had sparked thought about where we stand in our American culture and how different we are in comparison to the Japanese.
From the minute we stepped into Japan, we were greeted so warmly with sweet handmade signs from the Osaka Ohtani students. They didn’t want us to carry our own bags and helped us with any task they could. Even the various bus drivers that took us around places were very nice and willing to either help us load our luggage or help us onto the bus. We instantly were amazed at their kind and warm welcome. But it didn’t end there.
We were then further greeted by other students from the University, as well as faculty and staff. When our Moravian faculty told us, “These students are so excited to meet you,” I thought they just said that to get us excited or make us more comfortable with being in a new environment. But these students were genuinely so incredibly excited to see us, teach us, and guide us for the entirety of our trip! Having such partners as these students from across the world gave us all such a personal connection to Japan.
During our time in Osaka, we stayed up kind of late just talking and hanging out with our new friends who were staying with us. They were so interested in us and we bonded in many ways such as our favorite singers, snack foods, and even childhood television programs. I can confidently consider these students great friends and partners of peace. I miss them so!
The peace and warm welcomes didn’t just end in Osaka, it continued on throughout each step of the way and each day of our journey—from museum, to peace park, to shopping in our free time. Along the way, the Japanese citizens were willing to help us as much as we needed. They are people of little conflict and in the words of one of the Hibakusha, “We Japanese do as much as we can to avoid conflict”... “conflict does nothing but tear the bond between people.”
Now this doesn’t mean that there is no conflict, it just doesn’t normally show in everyday life in Japan like it does in America. It seems so easy to just pick fights on the streets or yell at the top of your lungs at other people you don’t even know, but in Japan it seems like everyone keeps to themselves and they lend a helping hand whenever possible.
A clear piece of evidence of their endless helping hand is when Kristen, Catherine, and I all took a taxi to the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park and after the taxi drove away, Kristen noticed her phone was missing and that it was left in the taxi. We went to the other taxi drivers for help and, language barrier aside, they did everything they could to track down the taxi and get her phone back. Eventually the taxi came back and her phone was returned. If this were to happen in New York City her phone would have been gone from the second it left her hand.
The gratitude the Japanese carry is outstanding and amazed me every day. I found myself jealous that our society can’t think the way that the Japanese do. All they want is peace and harmony, so let’s work toward that instead of dwelling on the next thing our fearless leader President Donald Trump has to say about dropping missiles in whichever country he’s feeling this week. It’s a shame that nuclear weapons stand as a protective shield over each country in possession of them. Protection should come from within and rise from trust in each other, as humans.
I woke up every morning in each city with the biggest smile on my face because I knew that the day ahead would be consumed with further knowledge and exploration of such an amazing country. A country filled with refreshing harmony, unconditional help, and determination to work together. The Japanese people won’t let you walk away empty handed. We were graced with magnificent people from Nagasaki sashimi-making farmers, to Mt. Misen gift shop keepers, to 7/11 merchants who made sure we were fed, educated, and pleased with our service. They work hard no matter where they are placed in life, and take nothing for granted as each piece of life has meaning.
It is amazing to me that after such devastation this country experienced, they immediately started to rebuild, reconstruct, and research to get back to a normal society. They weren’t discouraged; they weren’t threatened by destruction; and they weren’t going to be stopped. We know they feared further attacks, but they didn’t sit around and wait for the next drop. The Japanese instantly asked for peace. What are we waiting for, America? Let down your guard and help make peace.
I will truly never forget this experience. I was able to fly out of that country with open eyes and an open heart, with a closed door on war and violence. I will never forget my trip to Japan and I am forever grateful for the lifelong friendships I’ve made, both Moravian and non-Moravian.