Summer Travel Grant 2017 Recipient
Ngan Vo Thi Bich
I am so grateful to receive the 2017 EWCA Summer Travel Grant to participate in the Japan-American Student Conference 69th (JASC) which was conducted in Japan this past August. I just finished this intense but amazing trip in which I learned a lot about Japan and gained new perspectives about the crucial relationship between Japan and America.
During this trip, I had a chance to travel to four cities including Kyoto, Ehime, Mie, and Tokyo with sixty-seven other American and Japanese delegates, in order to listen to the lectures of guest speakers who presented various topics consisting of politics, diversity, environment, business, Japanese culture, music, religion, etc. We also had opportunities to discuss with the local communites about current issues that Japan is coping with, such as shrinking population, regional revitalization, environment, and cultural reservation. Our perception and understanding about Japan become sharper when we visited to Ise Grand Shrines, Tea Ceremony, Meiji School Classroom, Ama Diving, Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama Castle and more. More importantly, roundtable discussions were kept going throughout this trip to solidify our understanding about the topics that we chose including City, Media, Health, Governance, Minority, Culture, and Ideology.
Eventually, we all presented our findings and recommendations about these topics at the final forum conducted in Tokyo on August 26th. The forum received great attention from the public and community. In this final forum, my team presented “Approaching the City from Multidimensional Perspectives” in which I contributed by presenting about homelessness situations in big cities. I choose homelessness to present to audiences because it is a problematic issue not only in Hawaii but also in other large cities worldwide.
During this unforgettable trip, I especially gained invaluable lessons about a model of sustainable city from the site visit to Yokkaichi Pollution and Environmental Museum for Future Awareness at Mie Prefecture. Yokkaichi Asthma, which was caused by the burning of petroleum and crude oil from petrochemical production from 1960 to 1972, is one of the Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan. Yokkaichi is a case study of how a triangle local citizens-government-business sector can cooperate to make a better city. Local citizens play the role of watchdog who raise their voice by filing a lawsuit against business sectors if any pollution causes serious issues for human health and the environment. Government listens to citizens’ voices, proactively investigates the problems, and issues strict regulations governing business’s activities. The business sector must then immediately act to correct pollution problems by applying new technologies to the production process, tracking the degree of pollution over the years (which must be proved to be significantly decreasing), and making sure that the pollution is under control.
After the Yokkaichi Asthma event took place, the local government built this museum to remind people about their responsibility to make the city better. High school students are those who convey that message by presenting to visitors what happened in the past, what takes place currently, and the future visions for the city. From my viewpoint, this is a smart way to raise awareness in young generations, on how to preserve cities. Compromising with the business sector, especially for economic growth, is never a good deal for human life or the environment.