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GLFP 10th Cohort visited Kumamoto.

Apr. 11, 2024

For three days and two nights from February 10th through the 12th, 2024, on GLFP field trip, 9 of the GLFP 10th Cohort, faculty and staff visited Mashikimachi, Kumamoto City, and Minamiaso Village in Kumamoto Prefecture. The main purpose of this field trip was to provide the students with valuable opportunities to experience "earthquake disaster learning" and to "think about Multiculturalism", respectively, in each destination.

On the first day, we arrived in Kumamoto from Haneda Airport as scheduled, and went on the Higashimuta Village Study Tour to Mashikimachi. After being lectured about the situation at the time of the earthquake by the guide using videos and photos, we then walked through the affected village with the guide to observe the fault trace of the surface rupture produced by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake sequence, receiving an overview briefing about the damages suffered by the village, which was struck twice by a magnitude 7 earthquake. The 10th Cohort listened attentively to the explanation with solemn expressions all the while intensifying their awareness of the crisis encapsulated by the phrase "Today you, tomorrow me", perhaps because the Noto Peninsula earthquake of 2024 had just occurred on New Year's Day this year. This study tour reminded us of the importance of local communities and the significance of mutual assistance in the event of major disasters such as great earthquakes.

In the evening, we spent time in Kumamoto City, strolling through Suizenji Seishuen (Suizenji Park), a vast Japanese-style landscape garden, and also visited the restored Former Residence of L.L. Janes(home of Kumamoto's First Western School Teacher), which was devastated by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. These experiences enriched our understanding of Kumamoto Prefecture's history.

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On the morning of the second day, the students were divided into several groups and visited Kumamoto Castle under the guidance of local guides. Amidst the still-unhealed scars from the damage to Kumamoto Castle caused by the Kumamoto earthquakes in April 2016, we were briefed in English on the ongoing restoration work, expected to take at least another 30 years, as well as the history of the iconic Kumamoto Castle. In the afternoon, at the Kumamoto City International Center, three foreign residents (Kumamoto University faculty members and Kumamoto Islamic Center member), who have been living in Kumamoto since the earthquakes gave a lecturer on the various problems and difficulties, they faced due to linguistic and cultural differences at the time of the earthquake. The session was marked by an active exchange of opinions and questions from the students, who engaged in fruitful discussions on the topic, resulting in praise from the lecturers and center staff members. NHK WORLD-JAPAN featured the session on its platform "Chatroom Japan" under the title "#22:Lessons Learned from the Kumamoto Earthquake" (the program can be viewed here). Thanks to the participation of students studying abroad at Kumamoto University and local high school students in the second day's activities, the GLFP 10th Cohort seemed to enjoy interacting with peers of their generation that they would not normally encounter in their daily lives in Tokyo.

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On the third and final day, we visited the Kumamoto Earthquake Memorial Museum KIOKU in Minamiaso Village in the morning and in the afternoon, headed back to Tokyo.

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Over the span of three days, we have learned that as long as we live in disaster-prone Japan, natural disasters are inevitable, however, disaster prevention and mitigation are achievable through preparedness. The field trip led us to reconsider the importance of disaster readiness and resilience, as well as our coexistence with nature. It also provided a significant opportunity to contemplate how we would act and what we could do for those around us during the unprecedented circumstances of a major disaster.

Blessed with fine weather throughout the entire period and the warm hospitality of the local people, the GLFP 10th Cohort further deepened their bonds of friendship.