Kimura takes part in Japan-America Student Conference

For the first time in 13 years from Chuo University



Participants pose at Glacier National Park in Montana.
Participants pose at Glacier National Park in Montana.

  Chuo University has some students who are globalization-oriented and keen to take on new challenges. Hono Kimura, a first grader of the Faculty of Law, Department of Political Science, is one of them. She participated in the 68th Japan-America Student Conference (JASC) that took place in four U.S. cities in August 2016, becoming the first Chuo student to do so in 13 years. JASC, initiated in 1934, is aimed to promote international communications and understanding at student levels. About 70 participants from both countries spent a month together during the conference whose key theme was: “Addressing Our Changing Future: From Self and Community to the World”. English is the official language in the annual event which can be joined by anyone as long as they are students from both countries. “I had a lot of valuable experiences,” Kimura said in an interview with Hakumon Herald.


During a month-long session, they visit Boston.
During a month-long session, they visit Boston.

  -What motivated you to take part in JASC?



Kimura: I think students should keep acting with a clear sense of purpose and without being afraid of taking on a challenge in order to lead a fulfilling college life. JASC brings together Japanese and American students who have broad communication abilities backed by specialized knowledge, linguistic proficiency, logical ability and tolerance of different opinions. I decided to take part in it, thinking I might be able to identify some abilities I lack by testing out my own abilities in such challenging environment.

 木村 充実した大学生活を送るためには、明確な目的意識と挑戦を恐れず行動し続ける姿勢が大事だと思っています。JASCには専門知識、語学力、論理性、異なる意見に対する寛容性など、様々なコミュニケーション能力を兼ね備えた日米の学生が集まります。ハイレベルな環境で自分の力を試すことで、私に足りない能力を具体的に把握することができると考え、参加を決意しました。

Perceived lack of knowledge and debating skills



Hono Kimura answers questions during an interview with Hakumon Herald.
Hono Kimura answers questions during an interview with Hakumon Herald.

  -What were the results?



  Kimura: I realized an overwhelming gap in ability between myself and other participants. It was a good event in the sense it helped me find out the challenges I face. I found most participants have been active on the front lines in specific fields like a graduate who specializes in national defense policy and a student who studies child rearing by homosexual couples. I only regret that I failed to make the most of that opportunity for my own growth. After perceiving my lack of knowledge and poor debating skills, I became hesitant to join the discussions for fear that the expression of my opinions might stagnate the whole debate. Since then, I simply kept on listening to others all day long. This prompted me to make up my mind. I said to myself, “I’ll never feel this much miserable again. I shall overtake them one day!”

 木村 圧倒的な実力差を感じ、自分が抱える課題を発見できたいいイベントでした。防衛政策を学ぶ院生、同性愛者の子育てに関する研究をする人など、専門的な分野で第一線をゆく人ばかりでした。ただ、この機会を自分の成長に最大限に生かすことができなかったことには悔いが残ります。知識と議論の力が欠けていることを自覚してからというもの、私の意見がむしろ議論を停滞させてしまうのではないかという不安にかられ、議論への参加に委縮するようになってしまいました。それからは毎日、聞いてばかりの日々。「こんなみじめな思いはもう嫌だ。みんなを追い越してやる」と、決意を固めました。


  -Can you tell us about the theme you discussed?



  Kimura: Our Roundtable (consisting of four delegates each from Japan and the U.S.) had a month-long discussion on “Identity: Self and Nation”. We had at least three hours of discussion each day on problems experienced by the sexual minority (LGBTQs), physically disabled and Korean residents of Japan, for example. In our presentation on the final day, I spoke about the structural imperfection inherent in our society and culture that inevitably makes specific groups of people suffer from inequality.

木村 私の分科会は「個人とナショナル・アイデンティティー」というテーマで1カ月間議論しました。毎日、最低3時間のディスカッションが行われる中、例えば性的マイノリティー(LGBTQ)や身体障害者、在日朝鮮人の方が直面している課題について話し合いました。最終日のプレゼンでは、私はどんな社会や文化の中にも特定の人々が不平等に悩む構造があることを発表しました。

Keen about infant education



-Did you find anything new from the discussion?



  Kimura: Before I participated in JASC, I had thought of getting engaged in poverty reduction in developing countries as a member of an international organization. But I became newly aware through the JASC discussion that relations between society and individuals are quite complicated. I began to feel I need to listen to people who suffer from inequality and a poor environment and build up my experiences before actually trying to tackle issues. I will be visiting Laos in February 2017 on a JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) program to take part in workshops on infant education. In my opinion, sentiment education like music and arts is essential in promoting infant education in a developing country like Laos. I will be tasked with briefing local teachers on the outline of such education and giving them practical guidance.

木村 JASC参加前まで、国際際機関で途上国の貧困支援などに携わりたいと考えていました。しかし、社会と個人は複雑な関係に置かれていると議論を通して再認識したことで、不平等や恵まれない環境で耐える人々の声を聴き、実際に課題解決に立ち向かう経験がまずは必要だと考えるようになりました。今年2月から国際協力機構(JICA)のプログラムでラオスに行き、幼児教育の分野で現地研修に参加します。発展途上のラオスにおける幼児教育を発展させるためには、音楽や美術など情操教育の導入が必要です。私は滞在中に現地の先生に情操教育の概要を説明し、実践指導をします。


  -What has made you interested in infant education?



  Kimura: I love kids and that is my main motivation. For that reason, babysitting and after-school care for children are my present part-time job. Keeping in touch with children, it occurs to me that they cannot choose their living environment on their own. Some of them become handicapped in their later life because of inadequate education stemming from poor living conditions during their childhood, which is a crucial period for character formation. I want to help improve that situation.

木村 まず、子供が好きなことが第一の理由です。それが理由でアルバイトはベビーシッターと学童保育です。子供たちと触れ合っていると、ふと思うことがあります。彼らには自分の意思で生活する環境を選べません。人格形成の重要な時期に、生活環境が理由で十分な教育を受けられず、その後の人生でハンディを背負う子供がいます。その現状を改善したいと思っています。


  -Can you give some advice to Chuo students who are eager to participate in JASC?



  Kimura: Participants in JASC are all very much passionate. While they respect each other when they debate, they keep to what we Japanese call a rule of “tameguchi” culture (talking on friendly terms) and play hardball with each other irrespective of nationality, seniority and gender. Therefore, Japanese students talk so straightforward that it is too much of a stereotype to think Japanese are shy and gentle. They hit back at American students who speak only English, their mother tongue. I encourage Chuo students to try JASC if they really want to debate with high-level persons or meet with interesting persons.

木村 JASCの参加者はみんな情熱にあふれています。議論ではお互いの意見を尊重し合いながらも、国籍、年齢、性別にかかわらず手加減はしない〝タメ口文化(友達口調)というルールがあります。そのため日本人はおとなしいというイメージが全くのステレオタイプだと思うほど、日本人学生は発言しますし、英語を母国語にするアメリカ人の学生に食ってかかります。高いレベルの人たちと議論がしたい、面白い人に会いたいと思っている人はぜひチャレンジしてみてください。


  -Thank you.  (Interviewed by: Hideki Kato)