by Lise Charlotte Josephine Weerden
Today the first full day of the MIRAI 2016 winter program has not only arrived, but has already – almost – passed by. It was a day full of exchanges, insights and memorable moments. A good start of the week to come, and without a doubt a day to remember.
Following a plate full of Japanese and Western breakfast foods combined, we headed to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, where we were introduced to the history and culture of Tokyo – formerly known as Edo. After an introductory movie on the capital’s history – ranging from the early Tokugawa period to the Olympic Games in 1964 – we were able to visit the museum’s exhibitions, which comprised an interesting mix of both original and replicated items. Talking about our first impressions over lunch in a local restaurant, we travelled to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the early afternoon, where we received lectures on three topics of importance to Japanese foreign policy: disarmament and non-proliferation, the country’s policy towards Africa, and United Nations Security Council Reform. Moving the discussions beyond general information provided in written documents, the government officials managed to provide a truly insightful session. Although the nature of the topics left ample room for discussion, Japanese punctuality ensured that we left the Ministry on time to arrive only a couple of minutes later at the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower to enjoy an amazing view over the city. Panorama views are almost always impressive, but Tokyo simply takes it to the next level. Following some free time we ended the day on a special note, with a get-together dinner with host students from Waseda university. Meeting local students and being able to exchange thoughts, ideas and experiences – related to anything ranging from academic differences to food culture – was a unique and valuable experience.
Overall, the first day of the MIRAI 2016 winter programme can be characterized by more and more participants getting to know each other, by interesting exchanges, and by newly gained insights. If we are only able to gain this many new experiences, and learn so much both about each other’s and Japan’s culture in one day, I am beyond curious what the upcoming week will bring. As Kofi Annan once said, “Tolerance, intercultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected.” Following my experience today, the MIRAI program seems an excellent acknowledgment thereof, and an important initiative in a world that is becoming closer and more fragmented at the same time.
Pictures by Lise Charlotte Josephine Weerden, Inga Menke and Tinna Sveinsdottir