05 August 2016

January 2016 Japan Trip Sum Up!! (Sendai, Osaka, Kobe and Wakayama)

Seven months have passed since I had this trip with cool people that thought I would never hang out with! They are Prof. Tsukamoto, Mas Erick, Mba Rani and Mas Yudi! Well, this trip was kind of an impromptu one for me. I didn't even plan this, until I got a LINE chat from Prof. Tsukamoto on December 2015, asking whether I could go to Japan or not on January earlier this year.

I was in the middle of doing my job as a content writer intern in a web consulting company back then. As someone who was a newbie to sitting behind the desk for 8 hours in front of laptop, Monday to Friday... this very chat from Prof. Tsukamoto did bring a fresh, lively breeze to my daily air-conned life, lol.

Member of this trip. From Left to Right: Prof. Tsukamoto, me myself, Mba Rani, Mas Erick and Mas Yudi. Seeing this picture of us all smiling indeed makes me happy! :>

But first thing first, let me tell you about the trip itself; when, where, and what it is about!

When: the trip was started on January 18th-23rd, 2016. It was right in the middle of winter, anyway! 

Where: As you can see from this post's title, we went to four different cities; Sendai, Osaka, Kobe and Wakayama. On most journeys, we traveled by car. Prof. Tsukamoto or whom I affectionately call "Sensei" drove us everywhere! He said that he loved driving so much :D We did travel by air once, from Sendai to Osaka! And the rests are road journeys. Woohoo! So fun! 

What: This trip is all about learning Japan's past major disasters and how the Japanese cope with them. By saying the Japanese, I'm referring to the government, educational institutions, survivors, local community and individual. We met inspiring people and went to various disaster memorial facilities, as well as the stricken areas.

As for me myself, I did learn a lot from this trip! It's not that kind of trip that I would ever plan and go by myself deliberately... If Tsukamoto Sensei never asked me to join this trip, then I would probably never have the chance to step my feet at post-disaster areas and having a sentimental conversation with the survivors. I mean, there's only a very small chance for me to plan such a thematic trip on disaster. So, I found this trip is just extremely enlightening, as Japan and my homeland Indonesia have lots of things in common in terms of natural disasters.

And now I realized, that I've spent 23 years of my life living in countries that are prone to disasters , such as earthquake, volcanic eruption and tsunami. That's why, this trip literally brought a big impact to me and helped me to deepen my awareness towards disasters!

Okay, so let's begin the journey as I will take you from one city to another. Keep on scrolling! ;)


Januari 18th -- Arrival

Our arrival was welcomed by intense rain in Tokyo. Yep, we entered Japan via Narita Airport. Here we got to face an inevitable delay for our connecting flight to Sendai.

Arrived in Sendai Airport, meeting point with Sensei!

Well, just a brief introduction to the trip team. Here we have Mas Erick, the guy in checkered shirt. He is the head of International Relations Department of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). Mba Rani, a lecturer in IR Dept who also takes important role in Disaster Management & Humanitarian Action Research Center. Lastly, we also have Mas Yudi, a researcher in the Program of Humanitarian Action (POHA), Institute of International Studies, UGM. 

The three of them are UGM's IR graduates. We share the same Alma Mater, but I was graduated from the Japanese Studies Department.

On the way to the hotel. Sendai was snowing intensely!

All white everything as seen from my room at the 8th floor of Sendai Metropolitan Hotel

Finished our dinner, Mba Rani came up with an idea of having Karaoke! Haha

Mas Yudi was first reluctant to joint the karaoke. But then it seemed like he started to enjoy it. He even did a duet with Sensei :p lol. Simply forgot what song they sang to in this pic.

January 19th -- Meeting with The Survivors at Ishinomaki-shi and Visiting Tohoku History Museum

The journey was officially started on this day, as we headed to Ishinomaki-shi, the post-disaster area located east of Sendai. Here we had a meeting with the survivors of March 2011 Tsunami at Ishinomaki Shopping Street.

Mr. Satoh, the one who wore black leather hat and Mr. Inamura who wore brown cap, shared their tsunami experience to us. It was an unexpected noon, as they were still in the office when the tsunami warning started arise in the area. 

Can you imagine yourself running hastily, witnessing with your own eyes that a big tsunami wave is coming right behind you? That was what Mr. Satoh, Mr. Inamura and Mr. Kondo experienced on March 11, 2011. In that kind of situation, they were caught on thoughts to run as fast as possible, fleeing themselves. While on the other place, they also had wife, grandma and other family members to rescue. 

It must be one bitter and tough day. 

But luckily, all of their family members were safe. I was so happy when I heard this. 

As for Mr. Satoh, beside the office work, he was also running three shops in this shopping street. But two of the shops were swept away by the tsunami wave, leaving only one shop left. That is the "Men's Center DAN", the one that we took picture in front of it. By the way, DAN is Mr. Satoh's nickname when he was young.

Photos taken few hours after the tsunami

Ishinomaki Shopping Street current condition as seen on January 19th, 2016

Mr. Satoh told me that there was actually a shop right beside the DAN shop. Which now you can see, it's only an empty space now.

Ishinomaki Shopping Street was once a bustling and promising shopping street. However, things changed drastically after the March 2011 tsunami hit this area. Everybody started to leave this place and move to a safer place.

How about Mr. Satoh, Mr. Inamura and Mr. Kondo then? 

They chose to stay. 

They love this area and all the great memories they had here. I was almost bursting in tears when they showed us the opening ceremony of this shopping street. Everyone from children to the elders, all seemed so excited for the ribbon cutting ceremony. A lively traditional dance performances also filled the opening ceremony. It was such a joy, that might now only become a memory for the people of Ishinomaki Shopping Street.

All the golden times they ever celebrated, for some, it might be something that will never come back. As they decided to leave the memories behind and started a new life in new environment. But not for these great three men I met. They believe that they can bring back the liveliness even though they're fully aware that things will never be the same.

They said to us, "so many people being pessimistic and said that Ishinomaki Shopping Street is just going to collapse. But we don't buy that kind of thoughts and sayings. As long as we're here, this shopping street will always be alive."

At the moment I heard those words, I felt like mobilizing hundreds of audience to make a 5 minutes non-stop standing ovation. Come on, what is even more touching than "as long as we're here, this shopping street will always be alive" kind of sentence. What is even a tougher and braver decision to stay with your small circle, when hundreds of people thought it was a hopeless place to live in and decided to give up their hopes by moving to different cities.

Okay, but just don' get it wrong. It's not that I fully regard that their decision to stay is the best and the others who chose to leave have no love to their locality. No, of course, not. It can't be simply taken that way, can it? In this case, both staying and leaving are not an easy peasy matter. Both need struggles, resilience, courage and certain reasons to continue living. Being able to get back up all over again and make a decision for a better living after such an enormous disaster is a truly heroic thing. 

And I'm glad, I ever met the representatives of such heroic persons, in my young age. What a great life lesson :)

After having a deep conversation, Mr. Kondo then asked us to have lunch together! Shifting the calm ambiance we had during the conversation to a bubbling curiosity about our special lunch menu!

and, here what he had....

Beef tongue menu for lunch. Just so you know, beef tongue is Sendai's specialty that you really need to check out whenever you're here! It's so yumm! Anyway, it's a treat from Mr. Kondo! Hehe

Done with our lunch, we continued to explore another part of Ishinomaki. Hiyoriyama Park!

Hiyoriyama Park is a hilltop park, from which visitors can observe the stricken river estuary and waterfront districts. This park also served as an evacuating point for the Tsunami survivors due to its location on high ground. 

It says "Ishinomaki"

Over there used to be quite a packed area back then. And here's the condition after almost 5 years since the tsunami hit the ground. As you can see, the estuary flows smoothly to the Pacific Ocean. Yes, it's Pacific Ocean over there. That day when we came, she seemed so calm in accordance to the gloomy sky above.

Striking a pose in front of the Torii gate of Kashima Shrine

Goodbye Mr. Satoh, Mr. Inamura and Mr. Kondo! Hope we could meet again someday, with another great stories to share. May you always be healthy, prosperous and happy! <3

Now, let's head to Tohoku History Museum in Tagajo City!

It was so cold even the pond had frozen!

Inside the museum

On the way back to the hotel for dinner . Can you spot the moon? :)

January 20th -- Visiting Sendai Castle and Fellowship Meeting at Tohoku University

On our last day in Sendai, we left the hotel at 3 p.m. and made a short visit to the ruin of Sendai Castle, before finally heading to our main destination of the day. That is the Tohoku University.

Posing with Sensei! xD

So you know, Tsukamoto Sensei is now Professor in Osaka University's RESPECT Program. Our first meeting was on June 2015 exactly. He's someone humorous and humble and kind and the list of good things goes on... 

He's an outstanding figure in disaster & risk management and surely got amazing milestones in this field! And now, he's also a visiting professor in my Alma Mater and some other universities in Japan. I know, he's something!!

Presentation by the member of East Japan Earthquake Students Volunteer Support Office, Tohoku University

The presentation was about the details of March 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami, the students' volunteer activities right after the tsunami hit and the volunteer support office's current activities as well as targets to achieve. 

During the presentation, the student also explained to us that the elders still can't get over their trauma. They refuse to talk to everyone. The more they refuse to talk, the more they isolate themselves and live in days without conversation. This case was then resulting to deafness, as the student said.

At the end of the day, we understood how huge and severe the impact resulted from this biggest disaster in Japanese history. 5 years have passed, but the the recovery hasn't shown a promising potential to the stricken areas. Lots of victims are still living in temporary housing even until today. 

I don't know how to express this, but to me it's so satisfying to hear and gather information about the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami from various angles. Once. we heard it in a more emotional way from the survivors on the previous day. And then, on the next day, we also heard the same story BUT in a more technical way with some precise numbering for victims, damages and any other aftermaths when we visited Tohoku University. 

It was indeed a thought-provoking meeting!

Group photo with all the fellowship meeting members!

And here's some snaps of us, in the morning of the last day. Exactly before we started our activity.

Beef Udon Nabe to warm up the chill morning we had

Everyday we spent in Sendai was literally awesome! 4 days 3 nights were full of lessons,  memorable meetings, laughter, yummy foods and watching funny quarrel between Sensei and Mas Yudi almost every time, but mostly during dinner! xD

With this, let me end the unforgettable Sendai story. Let's move to the next city! Whoop! ;)


January 21st -- Flew to Osaka and Dinner with Osaka University RESPECT Program's 

Basically, we didn't do much here in Osaka, except of what I wrote in the subheading. Osaka served as our base to move to Kobe and Wakayama on the next and the other day.


January 22nd --  Visiting The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial and Fellowship Meeting with NPO Takatori Community Center

See that red tower? It's the Kobe Tower as snapped from the car.

The orange balls above represent earthquake magnitudes. The M7.3 is magnitude for The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995). While the biggest one on top, the M9.0, is the East Japan Earthquake's magnitude which later led to tsunami. No wonder that the March 2011 is the biggest disaster to date in Japan.

Anyway, if you plan to visit Kobe, you might want to give this Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution, The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial a go! (I know, its name is just very loooong ahaha). There's one section where visitor can experience the scale of destruction inside a studio that was design as close as when the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake struck. Complete with the real-looking fake fire, cracking building and shaking ground. So many lessons we can learn from this kind of place! Hence, making your trip be more memorable ;)

You know, Japan is just so good at making people aware of how fierce and frightening every calamity is. Which is, a REALLY good thing! The government's effort to educate and prepare the people to be ready whenever disaster strikes indeed makes me feel envious of the Japanese. They build such museum, memorial park and other spaces where people can learn and experience the hardship of every disaster.

I do wish that my country also has this kind of memorial building to educate people about disasters, instead of only keeping constructing new malls and hotels. 

Done learning about another major catastrophe that ever happened in modern Japanese history, we proceed our agenda of the day: visiting the NPO Takatori Community Center.

NPO Takatori Community Center (hereafter called NPO Takatori), is an NPO that has been actively providing recovery support for foreigners in Nagata Ward, Kobe City during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995). At that time, the percentage of foreigners living in this area was 8%, consisting of mostly Korean-Japanese (Zainichi Korean), Vietnamese and Chinese (Kanaji via Matsuda&Kume, 2012).

Ever since, the NPO Takatori has become an important community oriented organization in Nagata Ward and its surroundings, and played a significant role in creating a multicultural mediating base for foreign residents in Kobe City.

With Mr. Junichi Hibino, the Senior Managing Director of NPO Takatori

NPO Takatori comprises ten activities, and one of them is the broadcasting station, FM WaiWai Radio. It was launched soon after the earthquake, which transmitted information in Korean and Vietnamese. Now, FM WaiWai Radio has developed its broadcasting activity to ten languages!

Inside the FM WaiWai radio broadcasting room

It was very windy and cloudy on the day we visited Kobe. But so glad, since all of our plans went smoothly. We met another inspiring people and got inspired more and more, day by day! So much to be grateful for about this trip ;)


January 23rd -- Visiting Tsunami Educational Center (Inamura no Hi no Yakata)

The banner is about a celebration towards the establishment of "World's Tsunami Day" that falls every November 5th.

In front of tsunami survival capsule. This capsule can load up to 8 people if I'm not mistaken.

The entrance gate

Inside the Tsunami Educational Center, there is the Disaster Simulation Room. What a different atmosphere form the entrance, right! In here, visitors can learn about disaster prevention in various forms of game by touching the entrance card to the machine.

Anyway, the time when we visited this educational center, a group of elementary school students was also having a school excursion here. They really had fun with the game, and every one wanted to be the Inamura Ranger! I personally love and adore how Japanese always try to make learning as fun as possible.
Tsunami simulator 

So, that was all we had in Tsunami Educational Center or Inamura no Hi no Yakata! Oh, and haven't I told you that they also have a 3D Tsunami Video Theater? You might want to check this place as well if you ever come to Wakayama! ;)

On the way back to Osaka, we dropped by a small port near the Tsunami Educational Center. Nobody was there except us. I'm a first timer for Wakayama, and my first impression about this city is that it is so calming! It might be a good getaway if you're tired of jam-packed, big cities and longing for a laid-back rural ambiance!

Oh, and here's some more photos about our breakfast in Wakayama. We were having udon, ah so happy!Udon is my favorite Japanese food which I will never get tired of, I guess..

So pretty and tasty udon

So, yeah! We've reached the end of the post! It indeed took me so long to make this sum up post. I was thinking so hard about what should I write, which photos that worth featuring, etc. 

Because you know, there are just soooo many stories and memories during this one-week trip! So a decision to pick only the core stories ain't an easy deal, really. Oh and another the thing is, I didn't bring my camera along, so I fully relied on my phone camera... and Sensei's camera! So most of the pic here are also taken by Sensei as he always took picture in every occasion, lol.

Aaannnddd, last but not least, I can never thank Prof. Tsukamoto or my dearest sensei enough for allowing me to join this trip! I supposed to be the interpreter during this trip, but you know my Japanese ability isn't that advanced yet... and sensei supposed to know that from the very beginning, but he still gave me the chance to polish my ability. He's so kind, you know... 

Do you understand that feeling, when you found someone that appreciates you, even when you're still literally nothing... And that your future success might be the thing that he/she once sowed in your life? That's just how much I owe Sensei for his kindness and every opportunity he ever offered to me.

I do thank God for arranging this fate in my life to meet Sensei. He really has no idea, how much I adore him for being a very fatherly person. He always encourages me to learn and polish my Japanese language ability, even up till now!先生、いろいろとありがとうございました!:)

Well guys, I'll see you again on the next post! I wish you have a great summer holiday!



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