Otemae students speak at the Human Rights forum 2017 in Hyogo


On February 4, 2017, Aika Hasegawa and Mizuki Mikawa, two Otemae sophomore students from our Department of Cultural and Historical Studies and the IIE, were invited to talk about their participation in the Nagashima-UNESCO World Heritage Site Project at the Human Rights Forum 2017 in Hyogo - Symposium on Issues Related to Hansen's Disease.

Otemae has partnered with Japan's first national sanatorium for the treatment of Hansen's disease, Nagashima Aisei-en, in Okayama. For two years now, groups of students have spent a week in Nagashima to translate the history and struggles of the residents and the institution into English.We hope that having materials available in English helps more people to think about the suffering and harm caused by discrimination. Further, by bringing more attention to this issue, Otemae and Nagashima hope to create a world without discrimination and prejudice.

Aika and Mizuki were part of a discussion panel that was moderated by Kuro Kazuhisa, head curator of the National Hansen's Disease Museum in Tokyo. Fellow panelists were the head of the Residents' Association of Okukomyoen, Oku Takeshi, head of the Kansai Plaintiffs' Former Residents, Ichokai, Miyara Masakichi, a lawyer who has been active for the rights of survivors, Otsuki Noriko, and Kato Megumi, a social welfare worker in Osaka dedicated to the continued support and care of survivors.

For more than an hour, these panelists shared their experiences and interest in Hansen's disease to a large and engaged audience. The symposium ended with all those involved singing on stage with four yuru characters: Hyogo's character Habatan, Mamoru-kun and Ayumi-chan, two characters for human rights, and Oku Komyo-en's mascot character, Komyotan.

The final message from Aika and Mizuki? Young people have a responsibility to hear these stories, to understand them, and to share what they've learned. It is only through education that we can ensure discrimination and prejudice have no place in our world.


Mizuki and Aika, in yellow t-shirts, centre, at the symposium
The cute yurukyara
A visitor looks at their work on display

Author of this article

Kathryn M. TANAKA

Kathryn M. TANAKA

Cultural and Historical Studies


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