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UK Students Visit Japanese Sister School

Report - by Will Woodward

In July ten students from Lady Manners School in Bakewell travelled to Yokohama to attend their sister school (Kanagawa Sohgoh High School - Kansoh) and study the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The schools were initially linked by the British Council Tokyo, and 20 Kanasoh students visited Lady Manners in March.

The July visit was the culmination of a joint Year 9 second year history project considering the question 'Was the bombing of Hiroshima justified' taught in the context of Japan's role in the Second World War. The students who produced the ten best responses were chosen to take part in this second part of the Joint Curriculum Project.

A total of four school days were spent at Kanasoh. 18 second and third year students from the English Language Presentation Class had spent several weeks working on the question, before broadening their research to cover current issues such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The students were able to attend a range of different lessons, and were even given special lessons in Iai-dō (a Japanese martial art associated with smoothly controlled swordmanship) and Japanese paper-making. One of the highlights of the trip was being welcomed into Japanese family homes, where the students, most of whom had never left Europe, were able to try natto, sleeping on futons, and using traditional Japanese toilets. They also got to see some sights, such as Yokohama's spectacular Minato Mirai development.

What really made the trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience was being able to visit Hiroshima for three days with ten students from Kanasoh. They toured the Peace Memorial Museum, the Genbaku Dome, and the Peace Park, where they spent two minutes contemplating the event.

The group was able to meet two hibakusha (victims of the atomic bombing). The first testimony was very moving, and her memories of losing her baby born after the war helped the students understand the unique nature of the atomic bombings. In two cases hearing the testimony of the survivors drastically altered the students' perceptions of the bombing of Hiroshima.

While in Japan, the Lady Manners students were able to study a topic to a depth impossible in their weekly 75 minute history lesson at school, spending an average of three hours per day working on Hiroshima. The final outcome was a joint presentation class on the students' findings. Students from both schools took turns in expressing their ideas about Hiroshima, and the responses were surprisingly diverse. Having also visited the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, Tokyo, some Lady Manners students broadened their thinking on bombing of civilians to include the fire-bombing of Tokyo in March 1945.

Thanks to the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, the British Council and Sakae Suzuki and the staff and students of Kanagawa Sohgoh High School.