The last two weeks I have been engaged in lectures about Sweden in various parts of Japan. In Oyama in Tochigi prefecture, at the Chuo College of Social Work, I talked about Swedish welfare and society in general. In Tokyo, at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, I gave a speech on the political and economic situuation in Sweden and our welfare system. A few days later I gave a lecture at the Asiatic Society of Japan, comparing Japanese and Scandinavian literature and mythology. This was followed by a lecture on Sweden and the EU at Meiji University.
Yesterday, I came back from a trip to Kyushu, where I spoke about Swedish society and politics at the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu and on Sweden, its society and culture in general, at the inauguration of a Japan-Sweden Friendship Society in Oita.
Although speaking for an hour, and taking questions after that, can be somewhat of an effort, I find it very stimulating to meet people from various parts of Japan and Japanese society to discuss issues of this kind. It takes a lot of time, but meeting people is also part of today’s communication. Social media are important, but if we all just sit in front of our computers, iPads and smart phones we loose one very important aspect of our societies, namely life itself.
On 15 May I also accompanied a Swedish parliamentary delegation to Fukushima prefecture, where we visited a village called Iitate, where everybody had been evacuated due to radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors. It was an eerie feeling to travel around in an area where 6 000 people had lived. Everything was intact, cars were standing in front of the houses, trucks could be seen in the factory yards, children’s playgrounds still had their swings slightly moving in the wind. But there were no people, except a few sanitory workers in their white protective clothes. Radiation was not at very high levels, but high enough for people having to evacuate. They now live in other parts of the prefecture and Japan and it will take years before they can move back. However, this is a very limited area. Most of Fukushima prefecture is back to normal, waiting for visitors to also return. It is a beautiful part of Japan, well worth visiting.