International cooperation is the commitment to work towards strengthening global peace-building and economy development by thinking about and solving global issues such as international disputes and poverty. In a short interview conducted by Professor Yamada with three of his students, the students shared their experiences and thoughts of joining non-government organizations (NGO) where they devote themselves to supporting refugees and contributing developing countries.
Mitsuru Yamada, Professor of Faculty of Social Sciences
Professor Yamada did his master degree at Ohio University. After returning to Japan, he became a teacher at Japanese high schools when he actively participated in grass-roots campaigns. He later completed his doctoral degree at Tokyo Metropolitan University and became a professor in 1995. He has also participated more than ten times in election monitoring in Asian countries. Since 2009, he has been involving in fieldwork in countries such as East Timor and conducting research on them.
A 3rd year student from the School of Social Sciences. Miyanabe participated in an internship program with non-government organization, JANIC. He is also involved in activities that aim to raise awareness of refugee problems in Japan.
A 2nd year student from the School of Law. Uchida is active in participating activities organized by NGO and school student clubs that deals with refugee problems.
A 3rd year student from the school of Social Sciences. Kaneyama is a student from professor Yamada’s seminar. He participated in the fieldwork to East Timor in 2016. He also participated in the internship program at Care International Japan.
First encounter with international cooperation
Tell me what got you interested in wanting to contribute to the international community?
When I was in high school, I was a member of the brass band club. In the club, I had the chance to study and perform music pieces such as Miss Saigon, which revolves around themes on terrorism and war. There was once when professor Yamada came to my high school and gave a talk on how we can contribute, as a global citizen, to the existing problems in the world. After listening to the talk by professor Yamada, I decided to apply for Waseda University and join professor Yamada’s seminar. During my studies at Waseda, I also actively participated in AIMS 7 where I have the opportunity to actually travel to developing countries and interact with the local people there.
I used to live overseas when I was a child due to my father’s work and the country I spent most of my time outside Japan was Thailand. In Thailand, there are many street children and they would beg for food and stuff on the streets. Looking at them made me wonder what differentiated me from the rest of the street children and why they had to beg on the streets. After entering high school where I learned to how to do research, I decided to look up on information related to refugee and poverty. Now in Waseda, I’m studying international law and I’m actively participating in activities and events that due with these such issues.
In my case, it is slightly different from the two of them. I wasn’t interested in the global issues at all even when I first entered university. But two year ago, my friend who is part of the student planning group for refugees living in Japan invited me to help out at the group. I had never had any experience related to that and thought that it would be a fresh experience and decided to give it a try. These people who we called refugees were actually second generation refugees living in Japan. As such, there speak really fluent Japanese and they go on dates like normal Japanese people. In the past, I used to think of them as pitiful group of people who I sympathized with, but I soon realized that the term ‘refugee’ overgeneralized these group of people. I later got interested in this complicated issue, and have been contributing in the student planning group before I knew it. Also, in 2016, I went to Myanmar during a study tour and it made me even more interested in wanting to contribute to the global society.
Engaging with other cultures
When I was young, I had the chance to travel around the world in countries such like Afghanistan on backpack. These experiences had changed my thinking and affected my life. So I want to ask you, how did you feel after participating in activities such as volunteering work in developing countries?