Signing the "Agreement of Cooperation Concerning the Service-Learning Program" with Tenryu Village, Nagano Prefecture
Update: February 8, 2021
Online signing ceremony
Mr. Seiichi Nagamine, the mayor of Tenryu Village (The bottom left), Professor Mikiko Nishimura, Director of the Service-Learning Center of ICU (At the center), Mr. Koji Goto, Community Promotion Section Manager (From right), Professor Robert Eskildsen, Vice President for Academic Affairs at ICU
On February 3, 2021, Tenryu Village in Nagano Prefecture and Service-Learning Center signed the "Agreement of Cooperation Concerning the Service-Learning Program" with the aim of contributing to the development of sustainable local communities and human resources. Through this comprehensive agreement, ICU students will be able to engage in service activities to contribute to the community by thinking of the issues and needs of Tenryu Village through a 30-day practicum course called "Community Service Learning".
In signing the agreement with the Tenryu Village, the ceremony was held online due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection. Mr. Seiichi Nagamine, the mayor of Tenryu Village, said, "I hope that ICU students will make the village more lively. I want the village to become a place that ICU students will feel as their "hometown" even after the program is over." Professor Robert Eskildsen, Vice President for Academic Affairs at ICU, commented, "Every year, the people of Tenryu Village warmly welcome ICU students and we are very grateful for their hospitality." Professor Mikiko Nishimura, Director of the Service-Learning Center, commented, "This summer, ICU students will visit Tenryu Village to connect international students and Tenryu Village online." This first online signing ceremony was a great opportunity for us to connect with each other and recognize our common goals despite the distance between us.
The relationship between Tenryu Village and ICU began in the summer of 2015 when one of ICU students stayed in Tenryu Village alone for a month as part of a community service-learning program. After discussions between Tenryu Village and Service Learning-Center, the Japan Summer Service-Learning (JSSL) program (*) began in 2016, bringing ICU students and international students to Tenryu Village every summer.
In this program, students stay in Tenryu Village for about a week and experience farming villages, interact with children at Tenryu Elementary School, which has about only twenty students in all, have a lecture on the construction of the Hiraoka Dam that gives you a feel of the history of war, and exchange with residents of the Sakabe area who have preserved the traditional rituals for 600 years as well as staying at homes of villagers. In 2019, under the guidance of Associate Professor Linda White, an anthropologist at Middlebury College, we conducted interviews with villagers about the history of war using oral history techniques and published a booklet. Students said, "By experiencing Japanese culture and society, which is completely different from that of urban areas, I was able to reevaluate my lifestyle and the way I look at things," " I was shocked by the fact that workers were dispatched from China and the Philippines in Tenryu Village during the war. I felt it is important to pass on the story to the next generation." It was a valuable experience for all students.
Please have a look the oral histories and students' log at Tenryu village
JSSL program held in 2019
In the future, we are planning to conduct not only the JSSL program, but also a 30-day practicum course where students will be able to contribute more to Tenryu Village. We hope that students will be able to identify various issues and needs facing Tenryu Village, such as population decline, migration, tourism industry, and creating "personal histories" of the village people, and be able to serve with the village people with an awareness of the issues.
* JSSL is a collaborative program between Middlebury College (US) and ICU. About 20 students from Middlebury College, our partner universities in Asia, and ICU gather for about a month to support farmers, elementary and junior high schools, and elderly people's facilities in Mitaka City, and to experience rural areas together. For details, click here.