I would like to give my own perspective of the trip… the “youngest perspective.” Before going to Japan, I knew very little about its legacy, but much about its people. I had grown up hosting Japanese exchange students every summer, and every summer they encouraged me to visit Japan. Come visit! They’d beg me, but I never actually thought I’d make it to Asia. However, after hearing a good friend come back two summers ago from Japan saying, “Japan will blow your mind!” I decided, maybe I should truly experience this place—this place of Japan—the Land of Endless Discovery. Fortunately, the KezaiKoho Center helped me to see what this mind-blowing experience truly was about. What this land of discovery really meant.
As soon as I stepped off of the plane in Japan, I noticed a sign that was as is shown on the screen. Japan. Endless Discovery. Hmm… interesting, I thought. What is this endless discovery really about? This phrase let me to constantly “discover” the marvels of this country, its people, and its culture. During my trip, the educational, cultural, and personal discoveries did greatly impress me; but afterwards, I believe it was my dissemination of its influence that turly created the endless discover—through student imitation.
Epiphany #1: Students in Japan are much like students in the United States. They love to meet new people and learn about new cultures, while they hold onto their own values and traditions. Schools in Japan face similar challenges that American schools face. - need to teach my own students international values constantly
The sites of Japan are absolute treasures. Here, you can go and have a deeper appreciation for the Buddhist and Taoist traditions… you’re mind becomes awakened to the value of inner peace and serenity. The Japanese people have a deep respect for visitors—it’s a respect that’s indescribable. They welcome Americans with open arms and long to form lasting relationships with everyone. They also proudly welcome others to immerse themselves in their rich, distinctive tradition. Respect for others is essential for inner peace and maintaining lasting relationships.
Even in the private sector, where many see greed as the main motive, the Japanese value of respect for others transcends all businesses. One of my favorite quotes by the founder of Kyocera was success has three parts… attitude, ability, and work ethic. The most important attribute, to him was attitude. This attitude meant an openness to living positively with the hopes of bettering the world. I was shocked by the concept of corporate social responsibility: the need to give back to the community.
My self discoveries during the trip came through my daily reflection on my blog posts. There was one of our first nights in the hotel, actually, when a group of my fellows teased me about my obsession of updating my blog. They kidded me, “What are you writing over there?? A book?” Blogging was not only a way for me to process everything I saw everyday, but it was a way for me to see how this trip was truly changing me. It also allowed my friends and family to follow me on my adventures and learn about my endless discoveries. I think the most thoughtful blog posts came after my visit to Hiroshima and to a home stay. In the post, I really pushed others to think about the consequences of their actions and to once again praise the Japanese for their readiness to forgive and love those that used to be their enemy. In my second post, Becoming Japanese, I reflected how I truly felt like I was a member of the Japanese tradition.
As I traveled throughout Japan, obviously I was making personal discoveries, and my students and friends were living vicariously through me to have similar discoveries, but my most important motive upon return was disseminating my own discoveries to my students, faculty, and the greater community. I decided the most impressionable value to me besides respect, was the Japanese value of mottainai. I thought it could connect perfectly to my Macroeconomics classroom. To the Japanese, Mottainai is the feeling of regret when a resource is not fully utilized. After Ochi explained this concept to me, I knew how this translated into my class—into economic efficiency which is fully maximizing all of your scarce resources. So, after returning, I took this concept and imitated it in my classroom.
I decided to have students think about the idea of efficiency in the face of natural disasters. How could they use scarce resources in countries afflicted by disaster, or countries that face challenges with limited space. How could we best use scarce resources? Here is my project description I designed on rebuilding economies.
One of the groups chose to maximize space was a group that selected to invest in affordable, sustainable housing. This house was designed in a 3d program, Google Sketch, but I could not of course show that here. But here, you’ll see their desire to efficiently design a complex very similar to the Tokyo Dome. The complex has grass on the roof to limit circulation, and the group proposed having a green house outside for energy. Moreover, all of the energy was solar energy that the people used. They defended how this efficient use of all resources would provide for the people a sustainable future.
So, how do I know that my discovery led students to “discover” in this inquiry based project? Scott, my student who designed this project is now fascinated by Asia and is designing his comprehensive semester project around Indonesia. He is fully engaged… And his mom even wrote me to thank me. His discovery of the need to be socially responsible reengaged him into my class and ignited a “fire” to think critically about the Japanese value of efficiency.
So in conclusion, I would like to say… most definitely Japan is a land of endless mental, spiritual and cultural discovery. I feel more wise from the experience, and I know that my students and faculty have gained wisdom from the experience. This trip enables teachers to have the wisdom Confucious describes above… but to me, the experience was the bitterest, but instead the sweetest. Thank you for your time, and I hope you will all apply to experience this land of endless discovery.
Japan: TheLand of Endless Discovery Kezai Koho to Japan:Teaching Fellowship 2011 Susanna Pierce, International School of the Americas, San Antonio, TX
What Endless Discovery? Educational and Cultural discoveries through experience: Site Visits to Schools, Temples, and Businesses Personal and Communal discoveries through reflection Blog- Adventuresome Say Student discoveries through imitation Project
Student Discoveriesthrough Imitation Eco-friendly house to conserve scarceresources in communities overcoming disasters “Mottainai” efficiency
How did this project affect my students? Higher Student Engagement Greater Enthusiasm for learning about Asia and visiting Asia “I dont know what you did to light a fire under (student name), but you have my deepest gratitude.” Email from a parent about her son
Japan: A Place of EndlessMental, Spiritual and Cultural Discovery “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confuscious