16-17 May | Tokyo


On the road again Credit: McGehee
On the road again
Credit: McGehee

We arrived in Tokyo after another full day of travel. Before we left Hiroshima, however, we had a seminar with reflections led by Justin Sia and Kimberly Reynolds, our two most recent student bloggers. The conversation was so interesting and productive that we continued long past when we originally thought we would catch our streetcar. The students explored many ideas about peace, justice, and nuclear disarmament. They had some very nuanced and insightful things to say about how one (we? they?) reaches current and future generations, how one reaches across cultures, how one gets people to care about these issues we have been exploring. It was a perfect way to conclude our time in Hiroshima.

After lunch, the group boarded another shinkansen bound for Tokyo. After one of our longer travel days, we settled into our accommodations near the famous Shinjuku Gyoen (park) and had a brief orientation before dinner on our own.

In the artists' studio space with Dr. Okuyama Credit: McGehee
In the artists’ studio space with Dr. Okuyama
Credit: McGehee

Early the next morning, we took the subway to Ikebukuro station and met Dr. Michiaki OKUYAMA, one of Prof. A’s colleagues and mentors and a scholar of religion from Nanzen University in Nagoya. He escorted the group out to the Maruki Galleries in Saitama, a suburb of Tokyo. The galleries occupy a former studio space of the artists Toshi and Iri MARUKI, who won the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize upon the 50th anniversary of the bombings.  Iri Maruki was born in Hiroshima, and she and Toshi traveled from Tokyo to Hiroshima soon after the bombing.  What they saw inspired a lifetime of painting and activist work on behalf of the victims.

Maruki Galleries Entrance Credit: McGehee
Maruki Galleries Entrance
Credit: McGehee

The Marukis are famous for having co-painted, over the course of thirty years, fifteen staggering murals known as the “Hiroshima Panels.” The panels, with unassuming titles like “Water,” “Fire,” and “Bamboo Thicket,” defy description as memorials to hibakusha and others, those who suffered agony as a result of the bombing. However, the galleries also feature a space devoted to the artists’ “Nanking Massacre,” “Auschwitz” and “Minamata,” expanding the realms of suffering and culpability in powerful ways. Other works by the artists, as well as Iri Maruki’s mother, are found throughout the galleries, as are testimonial films and a very peace-themed gift shop.

Credit: McGehee
Credit: McGehee

After our meditation on the overwhelming panels with Dr. Okuyama’s guidance, the highlight of the excursion may have been when the students found the artists’ secluded studio loft space. Not knowing what lay ahead, the students removed their shoes, climbed the steep and somewhat hidden stairs to this preserved space, and sat down on the tatami mats at the desks and low tables surrounded by books on all walls and overlooking the fields outside… to draw. The space had been provided specifically for this purpose, and the students were left in peace for quite a long time to relish the experience.

We shared a group lunch at an extraordinary restaurant in Saitama to discuss our impressions before returning to Tokyo and bidding farewell and thanks to Dr. Okuyama.

Credit: Kim
Credit: Kim

That evening, we trekked out to an historical hotel near the Tokyo Tower to meet Emory alumni for a dinner provided by the Emory Alumni Association and Oxford College Alumni Board. We finally were able to meet our able, self-sacrificing host Mr. Kentaro TAKAHASHI, a Goizueta Business School alumnus. Our Global Connections group and an intimate group of Emory alumni dined on beautifully presented washoku, or traditional Japanese, kaiseki (multiple courses) meal. This evening of congenial networking and friendship building let the students ask some of the more detailed cultural questions that had been building for them since our arrival, and the students left the dinner glowing with appreciation for our hosts and for the Emory Alumni Association that supported the dinner.

With Japan Emory Alumni Association Members at Tokyo Tower Credit: Henkind
With Japan Emory Alumni Association Members at Tokyo Tower
Credit: Henkind

On the fly, in the middle of dinner, Kentaro arranged for us to visit Tokyo Tower, so after dinner, a few alumni accompanied us over to the Tower and arranged for our admission. We were dazzled by this vantage on the city and returned to our hotel quite late. I mused on how, as in Osaka, a morning spent reflecting on catastrophe and caring concluded with climbing high over a city for a contemplative view from the air.

We offer warm thanks to the Maruki Galleries for their mission, to Dr. Michiaki Okuyama and Mr. Kentaro Takahashi, for truly above and beyond work on our behalf, and to our friendly and engaging alumni hosts.  We thank the Emory Alumni Association and Marifel Verlohr for their organization and support of this event and the alumni meals, and we offer particular thanks to Tammy Camfield and the Oxford College Alumni Board for supporting all Global Connections participants’ meals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *