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Greetings from Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima!

Reflections from Around Japan

Dear TGS Community,

We are getting close to the end of our term in Japan, but the past week has had us traveling across the country and exploring different parts: Nuclear Debate team was in Nagasaki and the nearby area exploring the effects of atomic bombing as well as the future of renewable energy in general; Conscious Consumerism team was in Tokyo, learning about Japan’s fisheries, aquaculture, exploring the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, and learning from the sushi masters; and finally, our Marketing team was in Tokyo as well, exploring marketing strategies used in Japan, visiting a marketing fair, and learning from marketing experts.

I hope you enjoy the reflections and the photos.


Image Credit: Barton Hodges
Image Credit: Barton Hodges

Conscious Consumerism in Japan

Poem by Justin Smith-Hoopes. Galleries by Lindsay Clark

Thirty. Million. People.

A glimpse into the organised chaos, the perpetually flawless nature, the embodiment of Tokyo.

What became of us, upon arrival,

Was a most trivial of moments.

Strolling into Tokyo, the renowned city

Where dreams are, well, reality.

Maybe this was my experience.

The ability to hear a scientist

In the forefront of preservation

Speaking to us about a passion.

A Lot of fish, enough to hate that smell. Forever.
 Fish with a slice so sublime, it is reborn.

Fish so ready to eat, that sushi was made. By us.

All this after moving faster than a speeding bullet,

Not arriving by bird or by plane,

But by locomotive.

With the tall buildings surrounding us, bounding towards the sky.

And us, just a group. A group now caught in time.

Sushi weXplore

Okonomiyaki (Savory Pancakes) weXplore

Washoku (Traditional Japanese Food) weXplore

Image Credit: Freedom II Andres
Image Credit: Freedom II Andres

Reflections on Nagasaki and the Nuclear Debate

by Ava Ploeckelman

I would describe this WeXplore as part family road trip and part school museum visit, as we spent our time traveling by bus, ferry, and foot to and from museums, energy parks and power plants. We went to 3 different cities and many small towns, often stopping at either 7-11, Family Mart, or Lawson’s for lunch in order to spend more time to engage with experts, tour guides, and information booklets.


On our day in Nagasaki, we explored the soul of the city by choosing our own itinerary. One group ended up in a museum for tropical diseases, and the other “…went so many places I don’t know where to start,” I went to museum dedicated to the medical effects of the a-bomb in Nagasaki, where I discovered how visible the effects of radiation can be. I assumed that any damage that happened was on a smaller, maybe cellular scale, but the museum gave visuals of healthy and affected organs that were very striking. I also learned about how the bomb had destroyed the hospital in Nagasaki and killed many of the doctors, making it hard for citizens to receive treatment afterwards. The one thing I didn’t see content on was the effects of radiation on the brain of victims. Since radiation has the power to break down stomach lining, I wonder if it would have an effect on the structure or composition of the brain. I also wonder if alpha and beta particles could have a long term effect on the brain as well. Overall, the museum brought a lot of clarity to past topics and introduced me to new ideas and concepts as well.   

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Photo by Mak A.
Photo by Mak A.

weXplore Nagasaki: The Lessons Beyond Science

by Mak Atireklapwarodom

The Nuclear Debate module has been pretty fun for me, but I’m not the biggest fan of history. Therefore, after hearing that on this weXplore we will finally be focusing on some science stuff, I could not wait to finally learn the things that I’ve been looking forward to. I thought I’d be having so much fun getting to know how things work and how the world might be in the future.

Besides nuclear, solar and wind power seems to be an excellent candidate (Kitakyushu Next Generation Energy Park. Photo by Mak

I was right. I enjoyed the trip, and things are a lot clearer in my mind now than ever before. With that being said, I underestimated what this trip gave me by a lot. By this, I was right that I’d learn a lot about science, but I overlooked a lot of aspects. I gained a lot more insights than just science, and from all of that, this experience will be ingrained as one of the most notable events in my already notable high school life.

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Harumi Matsumoto and Her French Bulldog

by Julia Guizar García

I made this drawing to commemorate a conversation I had at the end of my day in Nagasaki. I had been sitting on a bench in the park next to the harbor, rotating to observe towards all cardinal directions. I was jotting down notes on the general movement of people, and in some cases, I expanded on more precise behaviors that surprised me. During that time I was experiencing that progression as an outsider, there seemed to be a thick invisible barrier between me and the humans around me. Nevertheless Harumi Matsumoto’s French bulldog didn’t seem to perceive anything besides thin air filling the space between us. So the dog ran towards me hoping for a playful greeting, little did the puppy know that she had unlocked a pivotal experience for me as a stranger to that city.

Harumi Matsumoto briefly asked me where I came from and why I was there. I figured this meant the door was open for me to to ask for information on her, and very kindly, she shared stories with me.

She told me about Nagasaki’s history, having been the only city in Japan with three open harbors for boats from the Netherlands and Portugal, back when the rest of county was closed to foreign exchange. She suggested that because of that, the city developed into adopting and adapting to diversity, and now the people of Nagasaki are very friendly and warm to foreigners.

“People here are open and kind, at least I think so.” (Harumi)

As I asked her about what made the place unique and what she would want me, as a visitor, to take away, she confirmed her own theory and opened up to me, telling me the story of her father who grew up in Nagasaki: Her father worked at a Mitsubishi factory in the center of the city, until one day a friend of his asked for a favor; to exchange facilities so that he (the friend) could be in the city. Kindly, the young man (yet to become her father) agreed, and so they went ahead with the deal. For that day the father went to work to the outskirts,“My father was in the other side of that mountain” *she said as she pointed towards the mountain that can be seen in my painting*. That day, August 9, 1945, the bomb was dropped in Nagasaki. The dear friend passed away as her father watched the mushroom cloud raise above the city.

As for more details, she couldn’t tell, “He didn’t tell a lot, only once that I asked him.”

I want to express my profound gratitude to my new friend for having shared her story with me.

Zara Reflects on Her Time in Tokyo

by Zara Garcha

Tokyo was ever so different to Hiroshima. I stepped into the train thinking that when I stepped out, yes the place that I would be in would be different from the start, but I never knew just how different it would be. I often associate aeroplanes with change in scenery, but it was fascinating to see how a few stops away on a train, I was in a completely new universe.  

A change in my surroundings evoked a longing for routine and conformity, when Tokyo is anything but those two. No idea is a wack idea in Tokyo, no article of clothing is considered ‘weird’, and even if it was, ‘weird’ is the new chic. It was the only place in the world, where being eccentric and odd was the norm. Not only was it the norm, but it was encouraged. A safe haven for misfits and creative minds, one could say. It was the perfect blend of a modern city constantly changing and evolving, yet underneath all of the glitz and glamour, laid culture, history and respect. Shibuya crossing was no exception from this balanced ratio of modern spunk and old school manners. Anytime someone would brush up against me, an apology followed, which is rare in comparison to the metro system in New York (despite Tokyo having the busiest train station in the world). People were bold and carefree yet polite and composed. A land of perfect balance, Tokyo is.

Photo by IQ Remix
Photo by IQ Remix

Marketing in Tokyo: Our Experience

by The Marketing Team Japan

“Tokyo gives the most authentic glimpse of the future” student Zaki (Pakistan) reflects as we returned from our week of exploring the art of marketing in Japan’s capital. Throughout the past weeks in Japan, nine of us have been specifically studying global marketing as well as Japanese unique and diverse marketing tactics. Not only have we been studying these concepts, but we are applying them as marketing and branding consultants for Mazda and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF).

The group traveled to Tokyo, the biggest city in the world, to sit down with local experts in the field and to witness firsthand the large-scale marketing and advertising techniques found everywhere you look.

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TGS / Iraq Peacebuilding and Entrepreneurship Summit

by Educator Nick Martino

To teach students to be Changemakers, they must be exposed to them, often. After overhearing a rare conversation in Arabic here in Hiroshima, I did what all good global citizens and travelers would: offered them peace.

Asalaamu alaikum (peace be with you), I said.
Wa alaikum salaam (peace be unto you) They responded.

Due to my lack of true Arabic skill, this quickly turned into an English conversation that revealed this small group of men were visiting Hiroshima as part of a United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) delegation. After this discovery, our conversation passionately jumped from entrepreneurship to the Lean Canvas curriculum to peacebuilding techniques and strategies applied in the tribal regions of Iraq. The whole time I sat there thinking, this is what our students need — especially our students from non-western backgrounds. Students need champions that look like them. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the success of the blockbuster hit Black Panther.

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Who Gets to Tour a Japanese Power Plant?

by Educator Chelle Marshall

Nuclear Debate Module students recently travelled to Genkai Nuclear Power Plant which has an interpretive center that educates visitors about nuclear energy process and the status of nuclear energy in Japan.  During the tour, students viewed life sized models as well as scale training replicas of the inner elements of the nuclear reactor.  We were able to see actual crew members training on the simulator replicas to hone their team work as well as upgrade their knowledge on new protocols.  We learned that training and working in teams is a big part of not just the nuclear energy sector, but most of the Japanese industrial organizations.  They also heard about the state of the art safety protocols at Genkai that we were advised during the tour,  enabled them to be one of only five generating stations to be restarted after the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Our students are aware that Genkai staff will be pro-nuclear as they prepare to debate the topic of nuclear energy in Japan; they are fortunate to have this direct and illuminating experience.  This is one of the foundational elements of our experiential and place based programs at THINK Global School.

4 days later, back in Hiroshima, students heard the opposite perspective from Bo Jacobs, historian of nuclear technologies and radiation technopolitics, currently a professor at Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University in Hiroshima, Japan.  Mr. Jacobs spoke to a combined group of students from Hiroshima International School and our Nuclear Debate Module students about the scientific process of radiation – highlighting the difference between gamma radiation and alpha and beta particle radiation and the resulting differences in their medical effects on humans and effects on the environment.  He commented on the negative impact on the environment of any kind of nuclear energy generation as well as the ongoing problem of nuclear waste.  His counter perspective is a tough position to accept as we grapple with a growing world populations demand for electricity and our concerns for the dependence on depleting fossil fuels and their critical environmental and climate impact.

In the upcoming week the group of ten students will grapple with this conundrum as they prepare for their nuclear debate.  What better way to prepare to become a citizen of the world than to gain first hand perspective?

Hibakusha Update

Since arriving in Japan, we’ve learned that the Japanese government will begin funding the cost of storytellers, from Japan and abroad, to share the testimonies of the hibakusha who survived the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Learn more about that development here.

Until next time, さよなら!

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Ready to embark on the educational journey of a lifetime?

A passion for travel. A strong academic record. And the desire to improve the world as you experience it. If this sounds like you, you just might be our ideal candidate! Start your application with a five-minute inquiry form - you never know where you might end up.

It all starts here.

Apply now