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Hiroshima Jogakuin's Annual Visit to Mount Union Spreads a Message of Peace

April 01, 2024

By Chloe Laszlo '25

ALLIANCE, OH- From March 16-24, 12 girls from Hiroshima Jogakuin’s junior and senior high school visited Mount Union’s campus to spread a message of peace and cultural awareness while also experiencing authentic American culture.

Aside from the pandemic-driven year of 2020, Mount Union has welcomed 10 girls from Hiroshima Jogakuin to campus every year since 2010, but this year for the first time 12 girls were able to visit. Mount Union and Hiroshima Jogakuin have a rich partnership that dates back to 1952 when Yoshino Murakami, a graduate of Hiroshima Jogakuin, studied at Mount Union. Murakami graduated in 1956 and passed away in 1966 from cancer that was believed to be from the effects of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. In 1968, a scholarship was created in her honor that allows one Hiroshima Jogakuin student a full-tuition scholarship to Mount Union every four years. The current scholarship holder is Ayumi Karasuda who will be graduating this May.

Hiroshima Jogakuin, an all-girls school, was established in 1886 by Rev. Teikichi Sunamoto and Nannie B. Gaines with the goal of spreading Christianity and educating girls at a time when women’s education was not yet widespread in Japan. In 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, more than 300 students and faculty lost their lives, and the school was completely destroyed. However, they were able to rebuild their facilities and continue their mission, and this year they celebrated its 138th anniversary. Because of the tragedy that occurred, they teach a peace studies program through junior high and high school, and a part of that program is their spring break trip to Mount Union.

The girls shared a presentation about Hiroshima’s culture, their school, and the effects of the atomic bomb. Through their presentation, they not only highlighted the fun and unique things about their school and culture, but also spread awareness about atomic weapons and their efforts for peace such as a yearly petition they hold in Japan to abolish all atomic weapons across the globe. They also participated in activities such as a conversation about social justice with Chaplain Tim Morrison and an online Zoom session with Dr. Tanya Maus, director of Wilmington College Peace Resource Center, and her class. They were even actively able to spread peace and goodwill through community service at the Alliance Food Pantry.

Aside from teaching and learning about peace, the girls were able to experience authentic mid-western American culture by spending the week living with host families. On campus, they engaged in various fun activities with the Japanese Club and the Association of International students such as a smoothie break in the BnB, a tie dye event, and a game night where they ended their week playing Mario Kart, foosball, air hockey, and pingpong with Mount Union students. During the week, they also visited a high school, junior high, and pre-school where they could share their culture with the students while also learning about ours. Their schedules were packed with many more activities that allowed them to enjoy the US and Mount Union to the fullest. 

When asked about what foods she had been enjoying during her time here, one student said, “pizza, hamburgers, and cereal!”

After their peace presentation in the New Bold room on Thursday, March 21st, the girls were asked what they would take away from their experience to bring back to their families. Various girls shouted out answers such as, “everyone is so nice,” “the food is good,” “it is so cold here,” and to everyone’s amusement, “everything is so big!” 

Because of the rich connection between Mount Union and Hiroshima Jogakuin, 12 Japanese girls were able to share a message of peace abroad and experience an unforgettable time in the US and on Mount Union’s campus.