From Glasgow to Japan

From Glasgow to Japan

Issued: Thu, 14 Jun 2018 13:56:00 BST

From Glasgow to Japan                         

Earlier this year a group of 14 University of Glasgow Community Development students and 2 staff members got the opportunity to travel to Japan to participate in the Fukushima Ambassadors Program XII.

The program was organised and hosted by Fukushima University’s International Centre and Japanese Government which provided a fantastic opportunity for both sets of students to share learning and create new possibilities.

Why Fukushima?

On the 11th March 2011, the Fukushima region was struck with a triple disaster, the Great East Japan Earthquake, a tsunami and then the Daiichi Nuclear power plant catastrophe. The program provided us with information on the devastating impact across the Region as well as a number of site visits across the region. Moreover, during this time we had the good fortune to witness communities coming together and fighting their way back to creating a new normality for themselves and others.

Project visits included entering evacuation zones, these are communities that at one time had over 11000 people living and working in them and now 7 years later remain closed off and untouched because of the nuclear disaster. We visited the fishery and agricultural agencies that demonstrated the lengths they were going to; to prove that Fukushima produce was safe for consumption and in most cases safer than foods we buy back home. We heard many stories from communities across the region that despite the negative labels and stigma that now follows them, work endlessly to overcome and challenge this image.  We spent some time volunteering in Namie town supporting families clear out homes and community spaces contaminated by the disaster, in preparation for moving back. 

One of the many highlights was the opportunity for us to attend, in Tokyo, the International gathering of the Fukushima Update Forum. Three BA Community Development students were invited to present their findings on their Fukushima experience, including a discussion concerning their fears about coming to Fukushima and how that had shifted since their time spent there. They challenged Tokyo and the rest of Japan to get behind the Fukushima Communities by buying in their goods and produce thus sending a strong message that the area is safe and open for business. They spoke of the resilience they witnessed by communities in places like the Futaba region and beyond who were reclaiming their land and creating their own legacies for future generations.

We drew many similarities from what we saw and heard in Fukushima and none more so than the determination of local people to take back control and make decisions that will enhance their lives and help build stronger and safer communities. Their passion and commitment was something that resonated greatly with the BA students and reminded them of the importance of the work they do alongside communities across Scotland ensuring their voices get heard.

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