Studying in Japan
September, 2022 to July, 2023; One year down studying and living in the high and subway country, the home for displined and popular martial arts of karate, kempo, aikido, kendo, naginata to mention but a few. It is an environmental friendly to convenient lifestyle and the delicious okonomiyaki’s farm-side. This is Japan and I am Patrick Muhirwa from Rwanda nicknamed “a country of a thousand hills”, and a student of the Peace and Conflict Studies department. From Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences [PIASS] in Rwanda all along to the prominent Tokyo University of Foreign Studies [TUFS] has been a value adding experience to both academic and professional settings of my life to which I learned, excelled, and grown.
Deep interests have driven my selection to study abroad in Japan and basically at TUFS. In fact, joining PIASS which already been in partnership with TUFS has put me in good position to learn more stories about Japan especially from the joint online events organized by the Inter-University Exchange project (Africa)-TUFS that often times took place and also interaction points with the Japanese students who stayed in Rwanda for their academic exchange programs.
My curiosity since then grownup in areas of Japanese History, culture, and development because by looking to the transition journey of Japan from the very tragic past of wars and the experienced bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the present incredible economic and technological progress, I thought that onsite learning would be more rewarding and beneficial in terms of getting first-hand knowledge that provides takeaways to contextualize in my country [Rwanda] which is also on its path to recovery and reconstruction after the 1994 Genocide.
Following my days-long trip from Rwanda to Japan; I did the fall semester registration in several departments of the school under the special guide meant for exchange students which is an English-mode provided by the student exchange division of TUFS. I have then enrolled to the classes relevant enough to connect my interests such as the social movements and democracy in Japan, post-war Japan foreign relations, topics in Japanese films, Japan’s politics and economy, global development and local society, international organizations and the sustainable development plus the helpful Japanese language [Integrated Japanese language program] which supported my daily interactions and research life in Japan.
In addition, I have been in conducive environment to participate and engage in various seminars organized at the TUFS and especially the consistent events of the African Studies Center (ASC-TUFS) where from a group of experts visiting the university and the center in particular gained crucial knowledge and skills for transformational mindset, plus also increase of my active role in the next research and career adventures of life. As most of these seminars focused on success stories, issues and effective solutions on African continent context of development and Peace was value adding exposure to my daily course work in the field of peace-building and development. Examples of some research seminars I participated in includes: The Indigenous Knowledge of People on Nature with Case Study of Ethiopia, The Africa’s Industrialization with Focus on Triggers and Enablers in Distinct Time Periods, Forced Migration and Refugee Issues in the Great-lakes Region among Others. Besides, I participated in sessions of international organizations who partners with TUFS in research, trainings and capacity building areas. These organizations present their intervention points and approaches across the world to the university students who are aspiring to take careers in similar fields of work. For Example; the recently was the International Organization for Migration (IOM) experts who works on the frontline in Ukraine with their colleagues in Tokyo visited the school and presented to us their intervention mechanisms connected to peace processes that the organization undertakes in areas like humanitarian responses and emergency management and the efforts to facilitate reconstructions.
Learning has not been a single way process in my case but rather as wide as both schooling and non-schooling fashioned. Luckily, I have had chances to travel in several parts of Japan such as Niigata, Hiroshima, Osaka, Chiba, Kanagawa and Tokyo in which lifetime memories and several forms of benefits were earned.
Bonds With a City for Peace
This is the first city on the planet that was attacked by an atomic bomb [Hiroshima], and now has been nicknamed a city for peace, with its unique efforts towards the global peace and security given its relevant initiatives. I have had an opportunity to visit this city and stayed for a week long at the Hiroshima Peace Park hotel during one of the prefectural programs entitled “Hiroshima-ICAN academy for Nuclear Weapons and Global Security”. Alongside other peace advocates from across the globe; basically from 20 countries have acquired skills for nuclear disarmament through learning both from the survivors [Hibakusha] experiences, field experts and visited the Hiroshima Memorial Museum that outlines all of what happened. With this, I got to know the facts of nuclear bombs and realized once again how important is peace and the long-lasting consequences of violence or inhumane acts.
I was also pleased to be among peace delegates to the global youth summit of the seven rich countries known as “G7” hosted by Japan this year in Hiroshima. It aimed at fostering disarmament and global network of trust for peace. In this unique conference that convened about 50 peace advocates from across the world with majority from these states, I got to expand my skill-set on issues of global security, inhumane and humanitarian aspects of the nuclear bombings and the politics around this issue. Through research presentations, workshops, focused group discussions and the sessions with Hibakushas gained a wide perspective and package to answer why urgent disarmament is, especially the nuclear disarmament in consideration of the emerging wars both intra-states and inter-states all around the world today. The strong and encouraging have been the end, where we together produced set of recommendations to the leaders of these states which are mostly the ones [Countries] to host, rely and produce nuclear weapons who have met in the same place immediately afterwards.
Being in Japan this time had not only offered me the diversified environment to live but also, its working sentiments embedded with practical engagements. Opportunistically have been invited to participate in two programs that aims “International friendships and cooperation” among which one was the International friendly run organized by the Japanese NPO called Active Middle International Association [AMIA] in collaboration with foreign embassies in Japan and the other one focused on Japanese Budo culture organized by the Nippon Budokan Training Center in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. From both, I was exposed to vast experiences especially in aspects of inter-cultural communications, inter-group relations and the skill-set of international cooperation.
How is Like Starting a new Year in Japan
I was very much curious to know how it looks like starting a new year in Japan because the first day of the year seems to be more ceremonial to many people in Rwanda. I realized this by being hosted in the family of my Japanese friend called [Rei san] who stayed in Rwanda as an exchange student and joined them on a new year seasonal trip to NIIGATA, the snow world. I had never seen snow before, that was my first time seeing it with my eyes. On the way, I could see in most places this particular decoration in the picture which is the Japanese best decoration of the new year as they explained to me. We had enjoyed immensely together and to me in particular experienced a lot, including testing different kinds of dishes, speaking little Japanese which was somehow fun because of the struggling kind of pronunciation but a good space for practicing the little I knew. It was really nice making such interactions with the family.
I knew kimono a long time ago but as a word, it was an amazing moment during the cultural experience organized by the Student Exchange Division of TUFS where I saw the fashion and dressed up in this style for the first time. This was a special occasion provided by the International Student Support Association of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS-ISSA) in collaboration with the Student Exchange Division at TUFS for the international students to experience the Japanese cultural practices which included Kimono dressing, flower arrangements, drawing calligraphy, playing Kendama among others which I really enjoyed much.
“Murakoze”! a Kinyarwanda word that mean “Thank you so much” and “ありがとうございました。In Japanese, is only the song I have for all people who made my stay in Japan so colorful and value adding. Special thanks; to the PIASS and TUFS, ASC-TUFS, Inter-University Exchange Project (Africa)-TUFS, and the Student Exchange Division for making study program accessible. Profoundly grateful to JASSO, Yazaki Corporation and Japanese sponsors who entirely supported to meet my life expenses while in Japan.