Japan Field Study Trip

Japan Field Study Trip 2014

1. Introduction

The privileged beneficiaries of the Sasakawa Fellowship of the WMU Class of 2014 had the opportunity to visit Japan at the invitation of the OPRF/The Nippon Foundation from 11 to 18 May 2014. This annual event sees some students of succeeding classes of WMU visit Japan to learn more about the Japanese society, maritime industry and to personally meet Dr. Yohei Sasakawa.
This year twenty-two (22) students from sixteen (16) countries were on the trip. They were accompanied by two members of the WMU faculty - (Ms. Momoko Kitada) and myself. I took the opportunity to accompany the class since this was the first such opportunity after my appointment to a Nippon Foundation Chair in WMU as Associate Professor.

2. The trip

Prior to the groups arrival, there had been communication between the Section Chief of the Maritime Affairs Division (Maritime Technology Department) of the Ocean Policy Research Foundation (OPRF) (Mr. Shinichi Ichikawa) and the Registrar of WMU (Ms. Sue Jackson) which ensured a smooth process with respect to travel arrangements, visa acquisition and notification of the intended schedule for the trip.
The WMU Group arrived at the Narita Airport in Tokyo on Sunday 11 May 2014 and we met by Mr. Shinichi Ichikawa and Ms. Miyoko Wada. Despite the relatively long travel and a rather tight schedule in the week prior to the arrival in Japan, all members of the group responded with alertness and eagerness to the very cordial welcome given by Mr. Ichikawa and Ms. Wada. Transfer by bus from the airport to the hotel was followed by an orientation session in the hotel. During the bus transfer, and due to the fact that it was a rather clear day, many in the group had their first opportunity to see the famed Fuji San. On arrival at the hotel, the WMU group was fully briefed by the trip organisers (including from the OPRF Mr. Eisuke Kudo, Mr. Eiji Sakai, Mr. Ichikawa and from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), Mr. Hidetsugu Wada and the tour guide Ms. Miyoko Wada) about the intended schedule and expectations from the hosting organization(s).

Monday 12 May 2014

On this day the WMU visited the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) of Japan. They were welcomed by the Director-General of the Maritime Bureau of the Ministry, Mr. Toshiya Morishige. His welcome statements were followed by an in-depth presentation on Maritime Policy in Japan given by Mr. Akira Fukaishi of MLIT. An insightful and beneficial question and answer session followed. The discussion of questions, which the students had sent in prior to the meeting, was very helpful in clarifying issues for the students.
After this meeting at MLIT (and lunch) the students went on a bus tour of Tokyo. The two accompanying faculty members had to honour an earlier appointment and could not join the WMU group on this trip, but subsequent reports I have received indicate that this went very well.
What could be said to be the highlight of the trip was next - a visit to The Nippon Foundation. This interaction with Dr. Sasakawa was as always, particularly meaningful to the students and they pledged their commitment to the ideals that had seen them become beneficiaries of the Sasakawa Fellowship, which were further clarified and upheld by Dr. Sasakawa in his remarks. Of particular mention was the stress he put on the need for global recognition of the shared resource mankind has in the oceans of the world and the associated necessity that we all become committed to protecting this resource.
Monday ended with a welcome reception at the Kasumigaseki Building. The WMU group was formally welcomed by a group of key contributors to the maritime industry in Japan and by many friends of WMU! It was an excellent evening affording many opportunities for the students to network – meeting old friends, making new ones and establishing many professional and social relationships.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

The first visit on this day was paid to the Research Institute of Maritime Engineering (RIME) where the group was met by Mr. Minoru Kitahara (among others). The WMU group was introduced to the functions and governance framework of the establishment and shown around the testing facilities of RIME.
The group next visited Mitsubishi Kakoki Kaisha Ltd. (Kawasaki Works). The cutting-edge technology used here in the manufacture of particularly SJ purifiers for ship engines, was of significant interest to the group and all were very impressed with the level of automation.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

The group transferred by air from Tokyo (Haneda Airport) to Okayama. Interesting pictures of the transit over Mount Fuji were captured by some members of the group. The group after arrival at Okayama Airport visited the Nakashima Propeller Company and the Mizushima Industrial Complex. This was an excellent opportunity for the students to see Large-scale propellers - a part of the ship that is often hidden from view - and also to see the critical manufacturing process that yield the efficient end-result for ship propulsion. The Director of the Nakashima Propeller Company, Mr. Yasuhiro Kawai and his staff were very welcoming and shared their knowledge with the group during a presentation and tour of the facilities.
The propeller factory visit was followed by a comprehensive boat tour of the industrial complex and associated port area of Mizushima.
In the afternoon the group proceeded next to Sanoyasu Shipbuilding Corporation. The group was delighted to be afforded the opportunity to go onboard an almost complete new-building (a woodchip carrier) whose owner had expressed a willingness for the WMU group to visit all parts of this new ship. This was greatly welcomed by many in the group, given the opportunity for a comprehensive exposure to the inner workings of a ship.

Thursday 15 May 2014

On this day the group transferred from Okayama to Akashi in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan on the famed Japanese “bullet train”. On arrival at the station the group went by bus to Osaka Martis on Awaji Island via the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge (the longest suspension bridge in the world). At the Osaka-Wan VTS Centre the WMU group was introduced to the operations of the Centre in regulating traffic in the busy Akashi Strait and to the wider operational context of the Japan Coast Guard. Of particular note was the humour of the Section Chief of the Center, Mr. Nobuo Saitoh, during a good presentation of the administrative layout and functions of the Centre.
The group then proceeded to the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Centre (E-Defense). Group members were impressed with the scale of the operation here using the three-dimensional full-scale earthquake testing facility with the world’s largest shaking table. The significant work being done by Japan to respond to the threat of a potentially hostile environment was appreciated by all.

Friday 16 May 2014

Given that many of the students from WMU are studying in the MET specialization (almost 45% of the current MET class at WMU), the next visit to the Marine Technical College in Kobe was very beneficial. The students, as with the previous visits, received a presentation about the operations of the Institution and then were given a tour of the facilities.
The next visit to the Kobe Port was just as beneficial. Again the group was given a comprehensive tour of the port. As with the other visits, the resourcefulness of the Japanese people was evident, this time in the presence of the reclaimed Port and Rokko islands, which were shown to the group during a boat tour of the Port. Given the level of port security required by current international legislation, I would like to particularly note the profound gesture of the Port of Kobe (and the private Container Terminal, Kamigumi Co. Ltd.) in welcoming the group to all parts of the port and allowing for the taking of pictures for the academic benefit of the students.

Saturday 17 May 2014

This day was reserved for something less technical – visits to some of the symbols of the religious underpinnings of traditional as well as contemporary Japanese society. These included a visit to the Heian Jingu Shinto Shrine and to the Kodaiji Buddhist Temple. At this second site, many of the students took the opportunity to participate in a session of Zen Transcendental Meditation.
Subsequently the group visited and took a walk through the historic and beautiful premises of the Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Later in the evening of this day, the WMU group was joined in a farewell reception by many of our very cordial hosts. It was an evening filled with gaiety and a welcome time of sharing ideas and time together with any old and new found friends!

Sunday 18 May 2014

The WMU students and one accompanying faculty member departed as scheduled from the Kansai International Airport and after a safe flight all arrived safely back home, bringing to an end this year’s official WMU Sasakawa Fellowship Class of 2014 Field Study Trip to Japan.

3. Conclusion

Japan has a lot to teach the world! To name just a few, the nation has a very rich historic culture that is still intricately woven into the fabric of contemporary Japanese society. A constant awareness of the sometimes hostile natural environment in which the Japanese live, together with this rich culture has created a resourcefulness and ability to adapt that the rest of the global community can learn from. I believe that this lesson was not lost on the WMU group, particularly the students, as it applies to the maritime industry specifically and to the wider Japanese society.
Beyond that however and as was pointed out very clearly by Dr. Sasakawa when the group met him, we have a lot in common as humanity and the responsibility of protecting the common heritage of the oceans is our common responsibility. Japan (as evidenced by the work of The Nippon Foundation) believes in this. This value-system was reinforced in the students during the visit and I am certain that Japan’s example(s) will be a worthy resource for all of them to draw from when they arrive back in their own local contexts.
The hosting arrangements (accommodation, transport, meals) were excellent. The feedback has been positive - as expected. I believe that the feedback survey conducted will reflect this. I will only suggest that the few recommendations given in those student responses be taken into account for the organization of the next trip.
It remains for me, in this report, to say thank you to the organisers of this trip. Primarily I would like to mention and thank the staff of OPRF. I express sincere gratitude to Mr. Shinichi and Mr. Kudo. Their significant work paid off in the delivery of an excellent trip and I highly commend them. Many thanks too to Ms. Miyoko Wada, whose truly excellent tour guiding and translating skills made our trip even more meaningful.
The WMU group was informed early on in the trip that it had unfortunately missed the popular cherry-blossom season. Though that was regrettable, the group really did have an excellent and filled schedule, which immersed it in many delightful scenes and culture of Japan. Perhaps more importantly there was significant engagement with technical practices, policies and procedures that should serve all the group members well in their professional quest to be worthy maritime ambassadors to their own local communities as well as to the global community. By all accounts the trip met all expectations and gave to the students an important entrance into the community of Sasakawa Fellows.
I unreservedly applaud all parties for the excellent arrangements and hosting of this year’s trip.

Domo arigato gozaimashita!

Michael Ekow Manuel
Associate Professor, WMU