Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Nippon Kempo and Judo Photographic Exhibition

I am holding a photographic exhibition In the student lounge 2 (next building to the CIE building).
Being the first student at this university to do a photographic exhibition, ever since September I have been eager to share my passion for photography and martial arts with other students at Kansai Gaidai.
I am happy that I had the opportunity to meet the judo and Nippon Kempo club members.

Visual Anthropology of Japan Photographic Exhibition Poster

I hope that you all will go and take a look at my pictures and perhaps share some opinions. I will be really grateful.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Hiroshima part 1

I guess that everybody knows about the tragic event, which took place in August 1945 at 8:15 AM. So did I. Prior to my visit in Hiroshima this autumn I talked about this disaster in one of my presentations at university in London. I didn’t elaborate my research about too much because the atomic bomb was not the main focus.
On the 31st of August I came to Japan and I didn’t know I would have the opportunity to go to Hiroshima with my politics and history classes. I never thought that I would have had the opportunity to meet and listen to an Atomic Bomb survivor, but I did and I will never forget this wonderful experience!

On the 9th of October we went to Hiroshima. I was very excited yet very afraid about this trip. I didn’t know how it is going to be. I never seen or talked to someone who survived the atomic before.

I woke up, I packed my bag and I went to Hirakata station. The bus was full of students from Kansai Gaidai. We met our teacher there and we all went to Osaka Shin station where we took the Shinkansen. Being born in a poor part of the world makes me fully appreciate everything that is modern, new or different from my home country. We found our car seats, we settled down in perhaps one of the fastest trains in the world. I spent so much time staring at all details around me.

Shinkansen's details

After a while my teacher came and asked me for “a favour”. He asked me if I could give the victim a gift at the end of her speech. I felt so lucky… We arrived in Hiroshima, we took the streetcar and we arrived near the peace park (more precisely in front of the A-dome). I was shocked for several minutes; I left and I saw the bridge, the park and the museum. Everything was new and clean, fully recovered after 60 years. I didn’t know if this applied to its citizens too…

Walking towards the Peace Museum


I finally entered the museum, had a glance at some items at the first floor and then rushed to the conference room. I was listening for the victim for one hour and it completely changed the opinion about the world I live in. Nobody at the time knew that an atomic bomb was dropped. She didn’t know what was happening to her family since she was on the way to school alone when the tragedy happened. She also didn’t know about her future after the atomic bomb. I could barely keep myself from crying.
Anna-Lotta and I walking towards the Peace Museum

I was also embarrassed when one of the students attempted to read a melodramatic speech using posh British English...or maybe Canadian English. Why? We were born in the same country. Almost everybody looked at me. He was instructed not to do so but obviously, he didn’t care. He wanted to do something interesting or fascinating, but it definitely failed.
At the end of the meeting, I went with 3 of my friends and I gave her the present. I will never forget that handshake. My eyes were tearing and I continuously asked myself why this happened.
Peace Park
I felt like I just came from a funeral and I could not pay attention to all details the museum offered at that time. So, I visited the museum twice. I certainly will never forget all of the special moments this trip to Hiroshima offered me!

Peace Park

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A Japanese Prison

Five weeks ago I told my Japanese teacher that I was going to prison and she was shocked. She asked me: why are you so excited about? What did you do Grigore-san? And I replied I am going with my fascinating teacher to visit a Japanese prison.

After one hour of driving to Shiga Prefecture we finally arrive; the place was very clean.  We were welcomed by 3 guards and we we sat in a conference room where we watched a documentary about the prison, had a tour around the prison, which was followed by a question and answer session.

I discovered that Japan is not really happy about admitting people to prison. One may say that there is a theory about the sociology of crime in this country, and therefore there are about 2 million crimes are reported per year, 95% of which are disposed of. I also discovered that it is preferable to confess, admit, apologize, express your deepest sorrow for committing the crime rather than hiring a lawyer. I thought that Japan, lawyers evade truth.

Then I asked myself: “Why does it matter if I did something wrong? I confessed it and don’t need to waste time and money on a lawyer who might not be successful enough in order to help me. I guess this process is actually pretty easy and also honest, isn’t it?”

I visited is a “Class A” prison. In Japan there are 8 classes of prison: juvenile prison, gaijin prison, women’s prison, class B, etc. The institution we visited is about 40 years old, and it looks incredible. (Compared to a Romanian one, it can be considered Heaven). Prisoners are 26+ years old, and all of them are sentenced for no more than 9 years. interesting, isn’t it? Apparently there are no gang members but we discovered that was an 80+ year old murderer who had killed a family member and therefore he is spending 6 years in jail. The rest of the prisoners were mostly involved in robbery, embezzlement or economic crimes.

The tour around the prison was extremely interesting.  There is a factory where prisoners work and this is because according to the Japanese constitution, every Japanese citizen must work, and prisoners are of course citizens. “Woooow,” I thought, ”this will probably never happen in the country where I was born.” Prisoners in Japan make many different items such as bed sheets, carton bags, futons and wooden ornaments. These things are then sold and the revenue goes to the Ministry of Justice. I am wondering what prisoners in other countries do.

One may argue that another important fact is that the Japanese reward their prisoners which means more work = more food plus, a mark on the uniform to indicate that this prisoner has been well-behaved for a period of time. (blue=6 months and red=1 year). Moreover, prisoners also are welcome to join clubs: music, literature, sports, and even calligraphy.

I was surprised when I first saw a Japanese cell because  it looks more spacious, cleaner and even more fun than my own dorm room: and I forgot to mention…each cell has a TV set.  Prisoners can order books, magazines, manga, and board games online and from the library.

The guards in the prison don’t carry guns. The prisoners in the factory work with knives. Escape attempts? Organized violence? None! I am wondering why…

After a prisoner has done his time, he goes through a graduation ceremony, and receives a certificate with cute Japanese calligraphy that says that he has successfully completed “the program”. Isn’t that kawaii?

So if I am not successful enough in my life should I commit a crime in Japan, confess and go to  prison?!