Monash students Patrick Ng, Yasmin Poole, Ethan Ward and Connie Zai were amongst 35 students from across Australia selected for the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) program in November. Fully sponsored by the Japanese government, JENESYS is a flagship public diplomacy program that hosts young student leaders from around the world each year.
The Embassy of Japan selected delegates to participate in a study tour to Tokyo and Hiroshima based on their leadership qualities and interest in Japan. This year, the Australian delegation’s theme was “Building of Peaceful Society, History and Culture” and focused on building Japanese cultural and historical understanding.
Connie heard about the program through her Japanese Studies lecturer in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics. With a keen interest in global health and languages, Connie said the program had inspired her to continue learning Japanese. “Through this experience I was able to learn about the health effects of nuclear weapons, various aspects of the ageing population in Japan and how Japan effectively manages their resources when disasters hit. I gained a better understanding of Japanese culture and people through the homestay program.”
Aside from witnessing the main attractions of Japan, delegates were privileged to attend the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and learn about the atrocities of the atomic bomb. First year student Ethan said,
It was a very sobering experience, but also quite surprising and even impressive to see the turn around since the disaster. At the museum, we also had the opportunity to hear a lecture given by the daughter of a hibakusha (survivor of the bombing). She gave us a more detailed account of the events, as well as her thoughts and views on nuclear proliferation.
Delegates stayed with a Japanese host family in rural Hiroshima. Patrick said he learnt a lot about independence, as well as Japanese culture. “We learnt so much about the Japanese lifestyle and history, especially staying in the rural town of Akiota in Hiroshima with our host family and really living like a Japanese would away from the bright lights of the city. It was a great opportunity to practice the Japanese language, being put in situations where you needed to use Japanese to communicate, especially with a host family who aren't that familiar with English.”
The homestay was also a highlight for aspiring diplomat Yasmin. She said, “This was an incredibly rewarding experience, where we encountered firsthand incredible Japanese hospitality. They treated us to traditional Japanese experiences, such as mochi pounding, local Noh theatre and helping out on local farms.”
The program also included visits to the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park to experience an earthquake simulation and learn how prepare for natural disasters; Japan’s National Diet (House of Representatives); the Tokyo Police Department to learn about their operations and observe the large-scale emergency response department; the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (also known as Miraikan) which showcased Japanese innovation; and many beautiful Japanese shrines (such as the famous Itsukushima Shrine).
In the spirit of cultural exchange and promoting mutual understanding, delegates held a presentation on Australia to a local Japanese school, and later to diplomatic officials at the conclusion of the trip.