CheFuKo began the “Ukraine and Fukushima Children’s Exchange Program” in 2017.
This program invites several children from Ukraine to visit Fukushima, the site of a nuclear disaster similar to the one that took place in Chernobyl. Through interacting with Fukushima locals and learning about the current state of Fukushima, the children have the opportunity to engage in an enriching mutual cultural exchange. Last year, we were unable to conduct the program due to the COVID-19 pandemic restricting travel; however, we hope that the program can resume in the near future.
In this installment of our new series CheFuKo Activities, we will share some details from the 2019 Children’s Exchange Program.
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During the trip, the children visited an elementary school in Minamisōma City which was affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. The children played board games with their Japanese counterparts during English class to learn about each other’s favorite things and hobbies. They were shy at first, but it didn’t take long for them to open up to their peers. Although Japan and Ukraine are far apart, the children were able to find many things in common while still being surprised by their differences. They tried the school meal as well, but one of the children, Denis, found the Mapo tofu too spicy.
During the tea ceremony, the children tried green tea and Japanese sweets for the first time, and even got to try preparing the tea themselves. They used chopsticks to try and catch nagashi sōmen, Japanese noodles eaten from a bamboo chute. The children struggled at first, but got better as they practiced. The restaurant also let them pick up cherry tomatoes, which proved to be a challenge that the children were up for. On a different day, the children went to eat at a buffet. One of the boys, Rosti, was so excited that he took more waffles and ice cream than he could eat. Our staff were busy trying to finish all the food he had gotten!
Since Ukraine is an inland country, the children got to see the ocean for the first time. Each year, we take the children to the ocean to experience the vastness of nature and see how the world is connected. At Sensō-ji in Asakusa, the children tried on rental yukatas. Rosti was hesitant at first, but by the time we went back to return the yukatas, he didn’t want to take it off! Trying on these traditional Japanese outfits were a good way to personlly experience Japanese culture.
The children learned many things during this exchange program which helped them develop their own word views and expand their horizons. Read more about the children who participated in the program here and here.
At the TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center, Sōma City Memorial Hall, and Interim Storage Facility, the children learned about the nuclear accident and earthquake that took place on March 11th, 2011. The children listened intently, perhaps reminded of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In order for their generation to learn from past and not repeat the same mistakes, they seemed to feel it was important to understand what had happened in Japan.
As they packed their bags to prepare boarding the airplane, the children found that they had stuffed their suitcases to the brim with gifts for their families. They were worried at first whether everything would fit, but after some negotiations and trading items amongst themselves, they were finally ready to leave.
After saying our goodbyes, the children returned safely to Ukraine. Their 8-day visit was over at last.
We hope that the children who participated in the program will go on to fulfill their dreams and do amazing things in the future!