WESTERN BALKANS – RYCO, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, has successfully implemented the third youth exchange program, “Western Balkans Meet Japan – A Bridge into the Future.” Over a 7-day period, from 28 February to 6 March, 23 young people from across the Western Balkans, accompanied by the Head of the Local Branch Office of RYCO Mrs. Krenare Gashi-Krasniqi, had the opportunity to participate in the MIRAI youth exchange program, which took place in Tokyo and Hiroshima.
During the exchange program, the participants had the chance to visit Sophia University, where they engaged in a fruitful discussion with students and a professor from the Department of Education, who focus on peacebuilding. The participants shared their understanding of peace and how they perceive threats to it and worked together in groups to come up with solutions to overcome such threats. The visit also included a campus tour of Sophia University. Furthermore, the participants had the opportunity to learn about Japan’s efforts towards peacebuilding, not only in Japan but also in the Western Balkans, through a visit to JICA HQ and JICA Tokyo. Additionally, during their visit to Hiroshima, they were hosted by JICA Hiroshima and representatives of an organization that deals with peacebuilding, where they engaged in an insightful discussion on how Japan dealt with its past, particularly the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
On 6 March, the 23 participants, including graduate and undergraduate students, and young professionals, took part in the final reporting session of the visiting Japan Program of MIRAI 2022/2023 in the presence of Mr. NAKAMURA Kimitake, Ambassador in charge of the Western Balkans at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan where they engaged in group presentations on how they will make use of the insights and learning they gained through their participation in this program after returning home. Lastly, Ms. Krenare Gashi-Krasniqi, on behalf of all the participants, expressed gratitude for the granted opportunity to discuss and practice peacebuilding through learning from the Japanese experience.
The participants were particularly impressed with the systematic approach taken by Japanese society to build good relationships with Americans and not cultivate hate towards them. The visit also included a peace tour through the Peace Park Memorial, which left a profound impact on the participants, changing their perspective on life and giving them the courage to move forward.
“The trip to Japan opened my eyes. Traveling through a long distance and getting to live on the same day twice taught me how lucky we are to be alive. The following days I spent in Tokyo and Hiroshima I felt like I was living in another reality. The architecture, food & beverages, beliefs, and lifestyle were completely different and the calmness and peace reigning in the cities showed me why Japan is such a beloved and captivating place. I had the chance to meet and exchange with Japanese people from all sorts of backgrounds. Their way of approach stuck with me and it filled my heart with joy. This was a journey of a lifetime, which I will cherish forever” – expressed Steven Domi, one of the participants.
“What I will cherish the most about the MIRAI program is the fact that I could experience the Japanese culture and way of life directly through engaging with Japanese students. By sharing our different values, norms, and perspectives we managed to merge completely different cultures from two opposite sides of the world and create a memory we will cherish forever. I believe that is what intercultural learning is all about” – another participant, Anja Zloporubović reflected.