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Why Japan Matters

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By Patricia Burleson

There are many reasons that Japan still matters, most of them well founded in economic statistics and geopolitical analyses. For this commentary, I decided to bypass those and focus instead on my personal experiences and those of local high school students. Students quoted here were participants in one of eleven annual study tours I have led in Japan.

I think that Japan matters because there are many lessons about life that can best be learned from the Japanese. Students say:

Signs in the US tell citizens what not to do and threaten punishment
if rules are broken. Signs in Japan encourage good behavior.
I learned that it is possible to appreciate religions other than my own.
I admire the strong moral base that prevents Japanese from stealing
or defacing public property.

The kindness I experienced from the Japanese has inspired me to be
patient and compassionate to foreign tourists.

I think the world needs to learn from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After visiting the Hiroshima Peace Museum, students say:

The meaning of the museum was to educate, not to blame.
I felt a universal compassion that I had not known before.
I learned that humility is t he key to ending war and violence.
I now believe that the most pressing problem in our world is nuclear weapons. I have decided to regularly donate to “iCAN” and do all I can to ensure that something like that never happens again.

I think Japan matters because there we find a shared sense of responsibility. Students say:

It was interesting talking to one of the young teachers and realizing his hopes and aspirations were similar to mine in terms of world peace and helping others.