Jenesys 2016, Japan
From 29th November to 5th December, 5 students and 1 teacher from Dunman High School and Raffles Institution respectively participated in JENESYS 2016 (Theme: Economics) 4th Batch Sub-Theme: Economic Partnership, Trade and Investment. Through the programme, participants were introduced to Japan’s economics, society, culture, politics and foreign policy. A deep impression was left on the participants as they were impressed with the Japanese society and culture of cleanliness, hygiene, eco-friendliness, hospitality and humility. This was witnessed constantly throughout the trip. Furthermore, JENESYS provided a platform for developing understanding and reinforcing relations not only with the host, Japan, but also the other participating countries (i.e ASEAN Member States, Timor-Leste, India). Our group consisted of participants from not only Singapore, but from the Philippines, India, as well as Malaysia.
On arrival to Japan, participants were given an orientation to Japanese society as well as an introduction to the development of the Japanese economy. The theme of this year’s JENESYS was Economics, hence participants were lectured about Japan’s economy in addition to Japan as a whole. Japan faced an ageing population of 127 million, with 25% of it being 65 years old and above. What the participants found interesting was that majority of the people had the religions of Shintoism and Buddhism at the same time, meaning that they had overlapping religions. A little of Japan’s history was shared to the participants, from the isolation for over 200 years to the Meiji Era, which was about modernisation where the Japanese aimed to learn everything. Japan had shifted their focus over the years, from light industries to heavy and chemical industries to knowledge intensive industries. Another point emphasised was that Japan’s economy is experiencing a long lasting stagnant economy, as growth rates were not as ideal as the past decades. As of recent years, Japan has a government debt 230% of their gross domestic product, as well as a balance of -$138 billion, which means that Japan is facing a deficit.
On the day participants arrived to the Gifu Prefecture, the main region of interest, via the famous Japanese bullet train, the Shinkansen, they were given a lecture on said place of visit and had gained many insights on the culture of this part of Japan, which they otherwise would not have known. The Japanese took pride in their own creations, like the unique “Mino Washi” paper, as well as the nature around them, for example the prefectural bird “Raicho” and the beautiful rivers such as the Nagara River.
Participants also visited the Chicory Village, a unique village which focused on the production and development of the Chicory plant which was managed by the older generation of Japan. This was to combat the problem of ageing populace of Japan by employment. We could see the passion and innovation of the friendly employees from the short tour of the Chicory plant and the various uses of the Chicory plant in products.
Participants had many hands-on activities whilst visiting places such as the Science World and “Kakuyama Seitosho”, a pottery manufacturer. They were able to make their own stamps made from limestones and experience painting on ceramic plates, which they could keep as souvenirs.
Company visits, such as to Okuma Corporation and FEATHER museum, were also part of the programme as many working adults had taken part in JENESYS. Despite being students, the participants have learnt much from the trip. The tours in each company were interactive, as the coordinators explained to us the processes and products that the companies had. The common points between the two companies include having the employees think for the best for customers and delivering the best products to them, in addition to the smoothness and effectiveness of the process of manufacturing.
Participants experienced various aspects of Japanese culture by taking part in Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, learning about astrology and Japanese folklore via a Planetarium show and appreciating live exhibitions of Koto and Iaido. They also explored Gifu Prefecture Oogaki City accompanied a guide which shared on Oogaki City’s pride of its pure water and the history behind various locations. Places of interest namely included the Hachiman Shrine, the hometown museum Kyoudo Kan, Haiku poet Basho’s Oku no Hosomichi Musubinochi Kinenkan Musuem, Funmachi, 3D Theater, Musubi no Izumi as well as the Oogaki Castle. In addition, participants also visited local traditional Japanese stores.
The following day, participants visited Ochobo Inari Shrine and explored the busy markets surrounding the shrine which sold various Japanese snacks and items. Afterwhich, the journey in Gifu was concluded with a visit to Gifu Media Cosmos, a multipurpose facility which was a centre for Knowledge, Friendship and Culture, consisting of Gifu City Chuo Library, a Multicultural Plaza and exhibition galleries and studios.
On the final day of the Japan trip, JENESYS participants which were split into three sections to visit three different areas of Japan gathered back in Tokyo to do group sharings on their respective findings and future action plans. Participants of the Singapore group were no exception. They were able to consolidate findings and share it with other countries and groups and in turn gained different perspectives from other members as well as new knowledge from groups who visited a different region. The trip was concluded with a Farewell Party with performances from the respective participant countries which showcased their unique cultures and participants were able to forge relations by interacting with people of other countries.
Learning processes for the students:
Through this programme, we gained insightful knowledge of the Japanese culture, the Japanese manners and the values they always hold close to their hearts. Also with the accompaniment of friends from Malaysia, The Philippines and India, we learnt more about the various countries in addition to that of Japan.
From visiting Shrines like Ochobo Inari Shrine and the Hachiman Shrine, we got to know of the most authentic Japanese culture. Thanks to the government and also the efforts of the locals, the old traditions in the shrines are preserved, and as visitors, we definitely had a great time experiencing the rituals in the shrine, like cleansing oneself before entering the shrine, and making a wish to the gods. Through this, we can see that the Japanese really do respect their traditions and make it a point to treasure them, even at these age that traditional cultures are slowly eliminated from our society.
Next, in the tea ceremony, we experienced how mannered the Japanese are. Bowing is necessary every time the host comes up to serve the guest, both the host and the guest. While the guest is served well with the sweets and the tea, the guest should also show their appreciation for what they get by bowing back to the host, with both hands placed in a triangle form on the ground. In the tea ceremony, the Japanese kept to this saying “ichi go ichi ai”, which means that it is a once in a lifetime meeting with each other, and hence we should appreciate every minute of the ceremony.
Through visiting the chicory village, we got to know of the strong passion that the elderlies in the village had. This village is powered by the elderlies, and they had this passion to contribute to the society even as their capabilities decrease by their age. This also shows how bonded the Japanese people are, how they are willing to use every bit of their life to make Japan better.
One to two quotes of students’ reflections:
I have visited Japan multiple times in the past, but this is the first time I have travelled to a prefecture that is not widely known. I have always saw Japan generally by her famous prefectures like Hokkaido and Tokyo, but after participating in JENESYS, I have learnt much about the Gifu prefecture and that individual parts of Japan have their own specialties. I became interested in knowing more about the other parts of Japan and perhaps I would travel to other less known prefectures in the future. Thanks to JENESYS, I am now intrigued by the Japanese culture more than ever.
16Y5C32 Koh Hui Wen
After attending JENESYS, I have learnt many things that I had never thought I would learn in my two years in JC, like machine manufacturing in Japanese corporations, or how the Japanese economy works. It was such an eye-opener to learn things outside of the designated syllabus, and to actually witness all these processes with my own eyes. Many of the things we have learnt during this trip are things that we are unable to learn through textbooks, or sightseeing trips to Japan. Moreover, not only have we learnt more about Japanese culture, we have learnt more about the other participating countries and their customs. JENESYS was truly an enriching trip.
16Y5C23 Jodie Gan Shiying