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A journey to Japan

Matilda Simmons
Saturday, March 03, 2018

EARLY this year, a group of university students and volunteers embarked on a journey that would open their minds to the many opportunities out there. For island students from the Pacific, it's a dream, as described by Shahenoor Ali, a second-year student at the University of the South Pacific.

Shahenoor had travelled under the JENESYS Project (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths) from January 24 to February 1. The 2017 JENESYS Project is a people-to-people exchange program between Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.

Participants were from 14 Pacific Island countries including Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji and Vanuatu.

According to Shahenoor, there were two groups that went to Japan on January 24. This was group 4A under the theme "Trade, Investment and Tourism" and group 4B under sports. They were part of four groups that started travelling from November last year.

"This trip not only enhanced my knowledge on the theme and of Japanese culture and lifestyle but also provided me with an opportunity to interact with people from other Pacific Islands," said Shahenoor.

"In such a short span of time, that is, eight nights and nine days, we did a lot than we would've been able to do."

She added many initiatives and projects practised by the Japanese were inspiring and one the Pacific could follow.

"I am left awestruck with this program as at such an early age I know things that will surely assist me in my career in future and also information I can pass out in my country," she said.

"For example, the various ways that rubbish are disposed in Tokyo can be implemented in Fiji as this type of rubbish disposal is already being executed in some schools."

The nine days on the trip was spent visiting Origami Kaikan, an International Origami Centre, where they got to see all the paper artwork done there.

"It was a really big area and there was a market as well. Later, we visited the Pacific Island Centre at Megi University which was pretty interesting. The following day we took a two-hour flight to Nagasaki. Nagasaki was where an atomic bomb exploded in the air on August 9, 1945 during World War II," she said.

"The city was totally destroyed and many lives were lost. We were firstly briefed by the deputy mayor of Shinkamigoto and then proceeded to the Japanese noodle making place. Here we learnt how Odon noodles are made and had a hand at doing some of the processes."

Another interesting tour the participants had was visiting many hidden Christian sites in the Nagasaki region. Shahenoor and her colleagues visited one of the churches at the foot of the mountain, about 50 minutes' drive away from Goto Town. These churches were discovered in 1865.

It is located in once secluded areas where Christians secretly settled, avoiding cruel persecution and keeping their faith in God. The once desolate locations show how the people devoted their meager resources and made tremendous efforts, in spite of their extreme poverty and desperate situation.

The style of these churches has also earned a reputation as a rarity in the architectural world, because it combines different techniques, both Japanese and Western.

"The last day in Nagasaki was a visit to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and The Nagasaki Peace Park," Shahenoor said.

"Walking through the museum was quite disturbing and this visit made me realise and appreciate the fact that I am living in such a peaceful country as Fiji where we do not have to live under constant fear or threat of wars."

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