The Corona pandemic has been going on longer than you might think. It has been a difficult time for those who were planning to go abroad or come from abroad to study, as well as for those whose hometowns are outside of Japan. Although it cannot compare to real events, I am amazed at the advancement of technology, such as video calls, where you can see the other person's face and talk with him or her.
 Using this technology, I have recently been participating in an online philosophy café hosted by a school in London every weekend. There are two facilitators who inform us of the weekly assignments, and we learn from various words of philosophers, both ancient and modern east and west, and do some simple work according to these assignments.
 During this work, breakout sessions are also created and discussed in pairs or groups of three or four. The backgrounds of the participants are varied. On one occasion, I had a discussion with a person who was born and raised in the UK, and on another occasion, I had a discussion with an international student from Asia. In discussions with participants from various backgrounds, I sometimes think, "Oh, that's similar," and other times I think, "This is very different. It's interesting.” It is a series of new discoveries. I also feel that it depends more on the personality of each individual than on their background.
 By the way, I was recently introduced to the term "Bankoku Shinryo(万国津梁)" by an Okinawan. It originally comes from the words on the bell in front of Shuri Castle(首里城). "Ryukyu(琉球) is an island of Horai(蓬莱), located in the southern sea, between China and Japan, where ships serve as Shinryo(津梁), or bridges, for all nations and trade is conducted, and the country is full of treasures."
Seeing this, I felt that it would be very nice if our university became an island of Horai and became a bridge between all countries. It is truly Beyond Borders. It would be great if bridges are built naturally as people come into contact with different cultures and open up to each other.
 In the Student Support Room, we plan English Café, Chinese Café, Korean Café, and so on. You can find information about these events on our website and on manaba+R. Please join us when you have time.


War and Internal Dialogue

Many of you may have been heartbroken by the war in Ukraine over the past month. The daily news reports the tragic situation that makes us want to cover our eyes. To witness such news, in addition to the prolonged Corona pandemic, may be something that makes you feel vaguely overwhelmed and helpless.

One way to get out of this helplessness might be to try to do something that you can in the way of concrete support, such as donating money, or to think a little about what you can do now.

It made me wonder why wars happen, why it is so difficult to have a dialogue, and I was reminded that this is a major challenge for mankind. But when it comes to the difficulty of dialogue, it is not limited to nations, but it may also be true in our immediate relationships, and perhaps because I am a counselor, I sometimes feel that it is really difficult in our own minds as well.
And what I am trying to say is...psychologically, I believe that our inner world is reflected in the outer world, and if each one of us can talk to and connect with the various selves in our minds, there will be no wars in the outer world. It may seem quite obvious when I write it like this.

 For example, we all may have some sort of aggressive part within ourselves. If it is directed at others, it may be "I hate that person," "I will not forgive that person," "I will get even with that person," etc. If it is directed at ourselves, it may be "I cannot accept myself like this," "I am no good," or "The will be better off without me”. And usually, these parts of ourselves are there to protect ourselves from those around us and to protect our vulnerable selves.
You may want to turn away from this part of yourself, but if you do, it may run amok or explode, and your mind may become divided. And this may lead to a fracturing of your relationship with the world around you and with others.

So, what if we try to talk to the part of our mind? First, let's look at the aggressive part of ourselves. Think of it as if it were a person, and ask, "Why do you think that?" What do you really want?" "Why should you feel that way?" How can you be a little more peaceful?" Try to speak to or have a dialogue with the part of you that is angry.

Then you may come up with another feeling, such as "What I really want is this," or "It's hard to be there if I don't feel this way.” You may create a little space in your mind for your vulnerable self that really wants to be protected. Then the balance in your mind will change. And this may lead to changes in your relationship with the people in front of you and the world around you.

I encourage you to connect with and talk to various parts of inner self. This may lead to a better understanding with your close family and friends, and to a better coexistence with others while coming to terms with society. I dream that this may eventually lead to the elimination of war and the realization of peace in the world.

I am sure that there are people who, even if they are not as aggressive as those mentioned above, still feel that there is a part of them that does not move or move forward as they would like, that there is a part of them that feels out of place or that they have trouble dealing with.

At the Student Support Room, we help you have an internal dialogue without hating or fighting with yourself. Please visit us.


How about a hot cup of tea?

The rainy season started early this year, which surprised me.
Some days are damp, some days are chilly, which may make you feel a bit under the weather.

How about having a cup of tea inside?

When I was a student, I heard an FM program on how to make a nice cup of black (English) tea. It sounded delicious, so I tried it.

The brewing process is as follows: 
1. Boil freshly drawn water just before preparing.
2. Pour hot water into a cup or pot to warm it up.
3. Add about a teaspoon of tea leaves to the pot.
(For one person, about 2.5 to 3 grams per cup is recommended.)
4. Pour the boiling water from a high position.
(It is safer to pour the water starting from a lower position and raising to a higher position.)
The tea leaves will circulate throughout the pot.
This is called "jumping," and it allows the flavor and aroma of the tea leaves to be extracted.
5. Cover teapot with a thick cloth to keep the temperature from dropping, 
and steep for 2-3 minutes.
6. Strain the tea through a tea strainer and pour it into a cup.
The last drop is said to be the best drop, because it contains all the flavor of the tea leaves.
Pour the tea thoroughly.

If you don’t want to use loose tea leaves, pour hot water into the cup and then put a tea bag into the cup and let it steep. Shake the tea bag just a little before removing it.
Enjoy the process of brewing and steeping the tea and have a cup of tea in between online classes.

You can enjoy green tea, Chinese tea, herbal tea, or if you are an international student, perhaps tea from your home country. 
Hot tea is surprisingly refreshing in this hot and humid season!

In the Student Support Room, we have posted stress checks and stress management tips in “Mental Health Tips.”

  Click here for stress check & tips for stress management.
We hope that you will take care of your mind and body while reflecting on your condition and finding your own best ways to cope.


One Walk One Poem ~ Sanpo Senryu

After wrapping up self-isolation periods and so on,
How are you getting along with your “With Corona” lifestyle?

Personally, the time I spend walking around my neighborhood has gone up.
Walking along a river nearby my attention turns to the seasonal flora,
I appreciate the varying rays of light in morning, at noon and dusk,
And I gaze on as an old lady walks her dog.
Suffice to say, I’m enjoying a laid-back lifestyle.

That being said, my walking route has become fixed,
And has started to become a touch too routine.

It was as I began to feel this way that I happened to read some poetry of the Haiku and Senryu variety and thought to myself,
Oh, these are pretty amusing!
It was then that I began to take the sights from my walks, the seasons, the city, and the people, and turning them into verse.

Haiku take some concentration to write and are a bit too rigid and formal though, requiring the inclusion of a seasonal word and so on. So instead, I’ve taken to writing Senryu, like the one below, which are much more free-form.

“With Corona”, nature’s stinging cold air, my walking route.
“Online Classes”, blinking weary eyes, time for a nap.

If you find your eyes frequently blinking and dry,
Take it as a sign and please take frequent breaks.

*Check out our homepage if the online lifestyle starts to tire you out.
Among other information we have a variety of relaxation techniques you can try from home.


On the relationship between learning foreign languages and counseling

 One of my hobbies is learning foreign languages. I learn Mandarin Chinese from my Taiwanese friend while I teach him Japanese on Skype once a week. On the session, we chat up on each other’s lives for a while then read loud books of our choice. He, being fond of history, recommended me “Big river, big sea in 1949” written by Rong Yingtai. Let me introduce this book to you on this column.

 After the end of the Japanese rule at the end of World War Ⅱ, Taiwan was transferred to the Republic of China. Vast number of people from Mainland China rushed into Taiwan due to the Chinese Civil war. As native Taiwanese who had experienced Japanese rule had different languages, ways of thinking and customs from those of Mainland Chinese: they couldn’t communicate with each other. This conflict led to genocide against native Taiwanese called “February 28 Incident”, and then to “White terror”. In the flow of history, the Mainland Chinese, especially the Chinese Nationalist Party and its army has been described as having “ruled Taiwan with forth and arms”. This book, however, not only describes them as the weak who lost their homeland, but also mentions pain of native Taiwanese who were forced to accept Mainland Chinese.

 This story begins with the history of the author’s family in China. Her mother was a bright and courageous woman. One day, she left home in China, saying “I’ll be back soon”. At that time, she dreamed neither of being unable to return home for decades, nor of the beautiful historical town being submerged under water due to the construction of a dam. She left for a long journey to see her husband who worked as a military policeman. The train was packed with people, so it could be harmful for small children. Thus, she decided to leave her son, who is the author’s older brother, with her husband’s parents. A half year later, when she met her son again, he forgot about her and attached to grandmother. He clung to his grandmother, screamed, and resisted his mother who tried to take him away. Finally, she gave up and left her son knowing that her son wouldn’t go with her. Afterwards, she went to Taiwan with military troops. After the end of the Chinese civil war, not only traffic, but also correspondences were strictly banned between Taiwan and China for about 40 years. After the ban was lifted, the author went to see her older brother in China from Taiwan. The brother said to her crying, “I was bullied by teachers and classmates that I was a son of civil war’s enemy. When I felt sad, I realized my mother who would sooth me wasn’t there for me. Even though I hardly remembered my mother, when I ran into a woman who looked like her, I couldn’t help wondering if she was my mother.” The author`s father, whose life was in danger during the war, escaped, fled to Taiwan, and finally reunite with his family there. When she was young, the father had been trying to tell his children, including the author, the experience of war, the sadness of being apart from his mother. But no one, who was born in a peaceful era, was listening to him seriously. Rather, they teased him. In order to write this book, she read various materials with enthusiasm, listening to people who had survived that era, and she herself visited the place in China where her father fought and escaped desperately. Having made this effort, she finally realized what her father’s trauma was. This was five years after her father passed away.

 There are many people in the book with different nationalities and backgrounds. Next, I’ll introduce the stories about approximately 5000 students and their teachers who originally stayed at student dormitories sharing life had got on long distance trains in order to flee to avoid the Civil war in China. As the train was packed with people, some students couldn’t get into the train compartments, they had no choice but to hold the door or climb onto the roof. When the train passed the tunnel, there were always some students who fell and died. Some bodies got stuck in the couplings, and those survived stepped on the bodies and clambered up. They moved from place to place. When they found a safer place, they had classes. The more the battle lines expanded, the more the students died while escaping. Those somehow survived were able to flee to Taiwan, but some of them were compelled to join the army. They were prohibited to write to their family in China.

 Taiwan is known by making a large donation after The Great East Japan Earthquake, sending good quality masks after the spread of COVID-19, and also by Tapioca tea which has become popular since last year especially among young people. But Taiwan has a very complicated history. When I read this book, I realized the “winner” or the “strong” as well as the “loser” had psychological pain or sorrow. 

 The author said that she had to oppress the passion and try to write it calmly. The Civil war and its confusion cost a huge number of lives. As a counselor, I often encounter cases who had lost and grieved for their family members or intimate one. When I read passages like “several young soldiers were dead in the battle”, or “the students who fell off the roof and died were stepped on by their classmates”, I couldn’t imagine how much pain their family went through, or the pain of not knowing if their loved ones were even still alive.

 There are some differences between language acquisition of children and learning foreign languages as adults. However, when I speak in a foreign language, it occasionally reminds me of my childhood days. When I couldn’t follow a conversation with several foreigners, even though I could communicate one on one, I felt as if I were a child listening to a conversation of adults. When I was frustrated with being unable to put my feelings into words, my teacher or friends gave me suitable words to express them. Then I felt like they were “named” properly. I thought I naturally acquired Japanese when I was a toddler. But I probably learned it from my family and at schools, and then I gradually became to be able to express my feelings or thoughts in it. This process also occurs in the counseling process. When a client talks to a counselor about the worries or problems which they never tell anyone, the thoughts or feelings will be named, becoming his or her own words. Then the client will be able to think of it on their own. 

 In the process of the counseling, we often encounter a weakness of a person who is seen as “strong”, or the vulnerability of a person who sometimes expresses their rage or other strong feelings. As the counseling process goes on, the client suddenly recalls forgotten memories which makes both of us surprised. In another case, a client is burdened with the pain or sorrow of a parents’ or grandparents’ generation without being aware of. As the father of the author mentioned earlier, when trying to convey his pain or sorrow to his children, the trauma itself was seeking someone to listen.

 When you are distressed, even though it seems too complicated to understand, it could be a sign of a repressed story submerged in your mind and seeking someone to hear it. Please come to visit us at the SSR. We are here to listen to your story.


Living in the New World

 The year 2020 coincided with the emergence of a new and unknown threat to mankind. It started out as a local problem, specific to a certain area when COVID-19 was first found in China, but it instantly became a global problem. It showed us all so clearly how much people interact across borders day to day and how inevitably undivided our world is.

How are you coping with this new situation?

You can find an article on how to maintain your mental health in such an abnormal situation in the following thread, so here in this article, I would like to share with you what I really feel is essential to keep in mind when facing this new situation.

Identify the threat – getting reliable information.

In order to cope with life-threatening danger, it is critical to understand exactly what the threat is. If the threat remains mysterious, you never know how much or in what way you should be careful. Anxiety and fear can grow uncontrollably. The more you know about the true nature of the threat, the more you know how to protect yourself and therefore you can avoid unreasonable fear.

Assess the risk rationally.

When the threat is ambiguous, you may fear everything associated with the threat, and attack it with confusion and hostility. At the beginning, many people might have feared and wanted to avoid people from China, as if every one of them were infected. You may get angry at media reports of discriminatory treatments against infected patients, but anyone could fall prey to such prejudice. On the contrary, some of you may hold an optimistic view that you are infection-proof, or may not adequately distance from others, fearing that it might be taken as a sign that you regard them as infected. However, both of these risky behaviors underestimate the danger. Since the threat will remain “invisible,”  it is very difficult to assess the degree of danger calmly and rationally. As such, it becomes all the more important to make a conscious effort to do so.

Do what we can.

In view of the grave situation around the world, we must acknowledge that enormous, irreversible damages beyond our control are being incurred. In the face of such a situation, it is natural to feel indignant and helpless. The greater your sacrifice in this pandemic, the more severe your feeling of depression may be, losing hope and volition. At those times, it is necessary that you put everything aside and rest.

Then, do we have to put our life on the shelf until we “conquer” this threat? Unfortunately, we are likely to be haunted by the anxiety of having this virus around for some time to come, but there are many different ways to deal with anxiety. For example, in Morita therapy, a traditional Japanese psychotherapy, anxiety and desire are regarded as two sides of the same coin. Because you have the desire to live, you have anxiety of dying. You fear failure because you want to succeed. From this perspective, anxiety is not something you can ever be free from but is an integral part of living. If you think that you must wait to take action until after getting rid of anxiety, that time may never come. It is therefore desirable that you take this opportunity to sit down and reflect on what is really important, and start doing the things that you can while avoiding the risks.

Having said that, our mind is not something that is completely under our conscious control.

Even if we want to feel and think that way, we are surviving in this restricted and uncertain world, feeling irritated and anxious, which is very tiring. So, let us be realistic and try to endure this situation, sharing concerns with one another when feeling vulnerable, with the hope of minimizing personal damage.

When you feel unsettled and are not sure what to do, please consider using the Student Support Room as an option. During this period when access to campus is prohibited, you can send us an email to make an appointment for telephone counseling. We hope to be of help in your effort to endure this temporary but difficult situation, and prepare yourself for your life from here on.



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