FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

208too much time on academic subjects other than the one(s) we happen to be teaching.Today’s photo gallery starts with current students introducing new students to the FMU song, representatives of the new nursing and medical school classes presenting their official statements to FMU President Shin-ichi Kikuchi, and an address by Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato. Then comes a selection of shots from outside the auditorium, where student club members queued to form a boisterous receiving line for new students.May 12, 2011For nearly two months after the big earthquake, our campus was unusually calm. Please do not misunderstand. Disaster response and patient care are serious undertakings. But, life consisted of adults doing adult work. Include in that statement the handful of students who stayed around as disaster response volunteers. The rest of them we shooed away.Well, they’re back. Later this month, Year 5 and Year 6 students, in their white coats, will start rotating through the Department of Blood Transfusion and Transplantation Immunology. I’ll be doing a lot more with them now that Dr. Kanno is providing medical direction at the Fukushima Red Cross Blood Center.I also teach one section of English presentation skills to Year 3 students. Today was the first day. They are free to migrate between sections the first few weeks to decide which one they want to be in for the rest of the term. Nominally, they are choosing one of four teachers, each with a unique style and syllabus. I suspect the students are choosing each other as well. Learning seems to be more of a group activity here.This morning in my section, about 30 students filled a room better suited for about 20. I’m counting on some attrition, but four who stayed after class to ask questions opined that a good group of 30 would be OK. Today’s crowd was pretty good. They did most of the talking. I got the ball rolling with a one-minute talk on a subject they selected. Then I took one question. After I answered, the questioner became the next speaker, I became the timekeeper, and from then on everyone rotated though questioner, speaker, and timekeeper/chair roles. The goal of this course is not only to teach presentation skills, but also other things needed to participate in, and to organize, a professional conference.May 18, 2011At dinner last month, a neighbor said that he missed the days when students were eager to march in demonstrations. Coming from a man in his 60s who never had the luxury of a university education, this surprised me.It also surprised me to learn about Kidoutai – Japan’s riot police. A drive to Tobu World Square during Golden Week gave me a chance to see Kidoutai buses heading in the opposite direction. Were there riots to quell? No. They were bound for the coast to help sift through rubble. Special attention is paid for artifacts of memorial value, such as photo albums, and physical evidence of lives lost.Mayo Clinic colleague Pat Cahill has emailed a few times to say that he recommends this narrative to people taken in by histrionic reporting about Japan. Yes, our situation is serious. In a different social context, humanity’s potential for violence could eclipse nature’s. But riot police are not bashing heads. Their current priority is giving voice to those who have been silenced.As for the living, maybe last month’s dinner companion had a point. A society that cherishes free speech might build a better future if enough thoughtful people speak up.May 22, 2011Front-page news on a Fukushima City flyer included pictures of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visiting disaster refugees at a city gymnasium-turned-shelter. Another mailbox item was from an apartment resident serving as our housing association chair. It included a message that Fukushima City’s spring cleanup day has been postponed due to ongoing concerns about outdoor radioactivity. People still show initiative as a matter of civic pride. While reading this message, I could look out the window and see homeowners cleaning out a rain gutter between our street and their property line.Sunday’s Mainichi Shimbun, a national newspaper, showed current and contingent evacuation areas around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Also on the front page was a picture of Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Words to the World