Reflections from Kenichi Kurashima


Kenichi KurashimaAs you know, the SIIS program was started because of Great East Japan Earthquake. Last Friday marked 5 years since that earthquake happened and we had time to wish something for Tohoku and reflect about these 5 years. I remembered how I felt about the earthquake. When it happened, I was still a freshman in high school and did not have any friends or relatives in Tohoku so I did not think I had to take action for the people there. Honestly, it was just a sorrowful event for me. But now, I have some friends who are from Tohoku and after listening to their experiences, I came to rethink about how the earthquake affected me and I have new perspectives of the event.

Community Development, the field I’m interested in has been focused on because people came to notice the poor communities in the urban area of Japan. The Great East Japan Earthquake made us take notice. “How will we work with people who live in these communities if another big earthquake happens? We don’t even know what kind of people live there.”

After the earthquake, many people who felt like that have taken actions to support those communities. So through conversations with my friends, I noticed that, without the earthquake, I would not have found what kind of issues my hometown Tokyo has and would not have wanted to change the situation.

Of course Great East Japan Earthquake brought sadness to Japanese people at that time and, even today, there are so many people who cannot live in their old homes in Tohoku. But it also brought hope to Japan. The hope is from young people trying to make changes not only in Tohoku but also around the world to make it better. I believe I am one of them and I will find ideas on what I can bring to Japan as a young student who has experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake through this program.

Born and raised in Tokyo, Kenichi is in his third year of Toyo University studying management.

Kenichi participated in a study tour in the Philippines when he was in his second year, and he conducted several interviews with street children. Witnessing severe poverty made him realize that he was not aware of the various social issues that exist around the world and he wanted to take action. After coming back from the Philippines, Kenichi started to explore different opportunities to expose himself to social issues in Japan. Kenichi visited the Philippines for the second time to do an internship at local nonprofit and stayed with a family who lives in one of the low income resident areas. Despite his assumption about what their life was like, people were very welcoming and connected with the community. Kenichi had an opportunity to learn about the importance of relationships, and he began to see more social issues in Japan are caused by the lack of community, so he become more interested in community design in urban areas such as Tokyo. Currently, Kenichi is an intern at a nonprofit in Japan working with children in an afterschool program to build a sense of community for the children.

As an iLEAP TOMODACHI SIIS Scholar, Kenichi is looking forward to learning about community development in Seattle and how people develop a sense of community in urban areas. Kenichi aspires to bring people together in more meaningful ways to connect in Japan.

Kei Eriksen

Kei Eriksen

Kei is originally from Japan. After gaining her B.A. in Humanities, Kei worked at an adult education institute for several years, designing and implementing language study programs with international instructors for a mostly Japanese audience. During this time, Kei advocated for many of the instructors who did not have enough access to resources in Japanese society. This experience has led Kei to the realization that in order to create programs to deepen connections at a personal level, she needed to further her career and experience overseas. In 2009 Kei received her M.A. in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont.