Japan Peace Leadership: Reflection

I feel extremely grateful for my experience in Japan with the BLI and my cohort. Despite the preparation activities and research we did leading up to the trip, I still wasn’t sure what to expect as we left Detroit, which I believe served me well. Everyday, every experience, every city we went to was unique, and that is the beauty of traveling to a country that is very different than your own on a premise of cultural humility. From a student’s perspective, I felt invigorated by the constant and multi-dimensional opportunities to learn.

This was my first time traveling outside of North America and Europe, and the traditions and ways of life I was able to gain exposure to helped broaden my worldview. There is much to admire and respect about the culture of Japan. I immediately noticed the hospitable and kind nature towards travelers, the commitment to caring for the planet, and respect for older family members. I would also describe the Japanese culture as resilient and strong, facing adversity with bravery and not wasting or using resources frivolously. While in Japan, I was forced to face my American identity, which I take for granted while in the United States. This was a cultural experience I will never forget.

While in Hiroshima especially, we focused on studying peace leadership. After the atomic bomb struck the city, Hiroshima and its people decided to create the narrative of peace to navigate the future, rather than rebuild in a context of revenge or hatred. I didn’t encounter venomous remarks towards the U.S. at all during my time there. I thought about the way America reacts when attacked, and the way I personally react when I’m attacked. In all honesty, my nation and I historically share a defensive or aggressive disposition. This experience made me realize the power of choice. Peace as a tool to moving forward is a powerful choice, and I believe the leaders of Hiroshima saved the city and its people by pursuing peace over anger following the attack. This was extremely eye-opening and valuable for me to see. I think other nations and individuals can learn from the example Hiroshima set as it transformed into the Peace City.

This trip also provided me with the opportunity to study myself and my interpersonal relationships. We journaled on the mindful mindset every day of the journey, and we had the opportunity to spend three nights at a Buddhist monastery in Mt. Koyasan. This experience provided me with self- reflection time that I haven’t managed to carve out for myself since I started my college career. It was invaluable to me and I’m committed to incorporating these practices regularly in my life from now on, as I immediately felt their benefits. And apart from my relationship with myself, I feel lucky to have made fantastic friendships with my cohort members. Each of us brought something different to the table as we went through the program, yet we were bonded by an interest in peace and a goal of becoming more mindful leaders. This was a special moment to share as a young adult with other aspiring leaders.

By, Christiana Cromer

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