"Discovering Japan in the 21st Century: Reconciliation with the Past" Project

About the US-Japan project

A "life changing" ten-day study tour of Japan in May 2016 for ten Detroit-area K-12 educators and school board officials, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Peace in the Pacific, culminated a year's worth of preparatory work and learning in the "Discovering Japan" project.  In addition to their in depth understanding of Japan-American relations, the trip allowed the participants, individually and in teams, to develop specific classroom curricular units and innovative future learning plans on aspects of that relationship, ranging from educational approaches in the two countries to the meaning of peace. 

Participants represented the cities of Detroit, Pontiac, Ann Arbor, and Troy Michigan schools.  Indeed two of the participants, from Detroit's Osborn High School and Troy's Athens High School, resolved to begin an urban/suburban student study and exchange program in 2017 with Japanese counterparts.  

The tour's detailed itinerary included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, Shiga Prefecture and Kusatsu (Michigan's sister province and Pontiac's sister city), and culminated in Hiroshima just three days before the arrival of President Barack Obama. Indeed while in Hiroshima the group received publicity and was quoted in the Los Angeles Times whose Beijing correspondent was there to meet the President.

Preparing for the trip 

After an initial meeting and orientation, the group participated in monthly preparatory meetings and seminars leading up to the Japan trip itself.  These sessions dealt with Japanese culture, history, politics, geography and society, international relations, East-West encounters, communication styles, leanguage, technology, nuclear issues, cuisine and what to expect along with what would be expected during a visit. 

Key presentations were given by Dr. David Magidson and Mr. Ueda, who discussed aspects of Japanese culture, communication style, customs and practices.  These meetings also dealt with team-building and preparation related to Japan in general and the specific research teams and agendas.

Community mini-conference and participant research presentations

During the project's day-long concluding mini-conference on June 17,2016, where the educators presented their curricular research reports to a community audience of about 60 people (civic officials, family members, students, faculty and staff), nearly all the participants cited their experience in Hiroshima as life altering. 


 The educators presented to a positive and receptive audience during the day-long mini-conference on June 17, with a community audience at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at the Wayne State University Law School.

Teacher pedagogical reports ran the gamut of peace and cultural related studies including:

  • "An Honest View of Peace & Conflict between the US & Japan - Past, Present, and Future" for use in high school Japanese curriculum
  • "A Japanese Cultural Fair for Special Education Students"
  • "Teaching Kids About Peace: Recommended resources" comparing the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and Rwanda
  • "Was the use of the Atomic Bomb the best way to end WWII? Cold War, Non-proliferation, and the Current Debate"
  • "International Tour Proposal - Japan: Land of the Rising Sun" for students of Detroit's Osborn Collegiate Academy of Mathematics, Science, and Technology



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