namukku chuttum. 12-Oct-2019 (Text and images: Kurian Pampadi)
namukku chuttum. 12-Oct-2019
(Text and images: Kurian Pampadi)
Nihon Kairali symbolises all that is the best for a newly awakened camaraderie between the economic power house of Japan and the tiny God’s Own Country of Kerala in India. Nihon meaning Japan is ten times as big as Kerala and has a population five times as big as Kerala’s.
But then, what is common between the two lands lying some 7000 km apart? Both are lush green enjoying the lullaby of oceans and the hills and valleys of a tropical paradise. While Japan varies from the humid continental in the north (Hokkaido) and humid sub tropical and tropical rainforest in the south (Okinawa) surrounded by the Pacific, Kerala is a tropical green pasture with 580 km coast lulled by the Arabian sea.
Japan also has a Kochi Prefecture in the Shikoku Island, with its idyllic capital city of the same name. Kerala Kochi’s mayor entered into a twinning agreement with his Japanese counterpart and organized reciprocal visits. But both mayors are dead and gone and nobody has heard of the MOU in Kerala Kochi’s mayoral office now.
The Yamashita Park in the Yokohama port, just 37 km south of Tokyo, has a memorial that mourns the death of 22 Indians who died by the Great Kano Earthquake of 1923. I do remember, Suresh Lal, a bank officer from Thrissur, posted in Yokohama, showing me around the Yamashita Park Fountain Memorial in recent past. Lal was among the pioneers who worked for the formation of Nihon Kairali, the first Malayali cultural organization in Japan,
a few decades back. It has over 500 active members now. The 2019 edition ‘Thaliyola,’ their annual publication is just out.
In the current scenario, Kerala has had AHADS, Attappady Hill Area Development Society, being helped by a generous loan of Rs 219 cr by JIBE—Japan International Cooperation Agency. JIBE also extended a loan of 15.19b to lay 4500 km pipe line to bring drinking water to 4.5 m people in five districts of the state.
On the national plane, Japan is introducing its prestigious Bullet train in India between its business hub of Mumbai and Ahmedabad. For the 508 km line to be laid by 2023, it has extended a loan of Rs. Rs. 880b. Land procurement is in progress.
Coming back to Kerala, temples and houses in ancient Kerala have great resemblance to the pagodas in Japan. There are instances of people adopting the pagoda style in modern houses too. Japanese temple festivals and chariots drawn by men have close parallels in Kerala. Kerala’s Kathakali dance and the martial art of Kalalrippayat also closely resemble Japan’s Kabuki and Samurai. Faced with lower birth rate and the burgeoning number of old people, (69, 785 above 100 years and 33m above 65), Japan has relaxed its immigration policy. It has decided to bring in 50,000 qualified people per annum to fill up the shortage of work force. Kerala with abundant educated young people stands to benefit. Kenji Hiramatsu, Japanese Ambassador in New Delhi, recently visited Kerala to initiate new training programmes under the flagship of a Nippon Kerala Centre.
There are a host of organisations like INTACH—Indo Japan Chamber of Commerce, AOTS--Association of Overseas Technical Scholarship, Tokyo, ASA—Alumni of AOTS, and NKC—Nippon Kerala Centre, all functioning in and around Kochi. NKC is the latest entrant and as already launched its Japanese language teaching courses.
Cusat-Cochin University of Science and Technology-has been conducting courses in Japanese language for many years. Ai Muto, a new teacher from Shimane University, recently started with a new batch after her predecessor Miki Shimizu went back. Paul Valsan who is just back after his sixth tour of Japan, also has been teaching Japanese at Cusat. The courses are part of the varied language programmes conducted under the Department of English and
Foreign Languages presided over by Brinda Bala Sreenivasan, specialist in English, a writer and a poet as well. Incidentally, her husband Dr. KK Saju is the director IRRA-International Relations and Academic Admissions—of Cusat looking after collaborations with universities abroad.
Paul took me to Koonaanmmavu, a northern suburb of Kochi city, to meet Takako Thomas, who initiated Japanese teaching in Cusat. She is the wife of Thomas Mulloor a sailor from Kochi whom she met in her homeland Kobe as a local guide. Takako Hashitani (73) hailing from the Samurai nobility, is a BA in Sociology with BEd, a product Kobe College, the first women’s college in Japan. She translated Malayalam storyteller Thakazhi’s novel Chemmeen into Japanese as ‘Abi’. Thomas showed me her pictures along with Thakazhi, Sachithanadan and tv host Renjini Menon.
Paul recalled the days when Takako visited Toshiba Anand lamp factory at Chengamanad near Aluva where she used to interact with workers from Japan. She taught Japanese at Cusat for 16 years.
Of late there is a growing realisation that Kerala has many lessons to learn from the Japanese resilience in facing natural calamities like floods, earth quakes and cyclones. Its love for the environment and the time-tested system of dealing with climate change and managing pollution and waste disposal are models for Kerala to emulate.
Sophia University, a century old institution of higher learning in Japan, has been in the forefront of cooperation with Kerala. A delegation of post graduate researchers led by Prof. Keiko Hirao, a sociologist from its Graduate School of Global Environment Studies and Prof JJ Puthenkalam, an economist of the same school, visited Kottayam’s Mahatma Gandhi University and Kochi’s St Teresa’s College for Women and interacted with research students.
“Sophia’s gesture would go a long way in expanding Japan-Kerala cooperation in research and development”, Prof. Sabu Thomas, vice chancellor of the University, who welcomed the team said. A recently elevated member of the European Academy of Sciences, Prof Sabu said that Kerala having large chunks of rain forest can learn from the experiences of Japan in their upkeep.
Prof. J G Ray of the School of Biosciences which hosted the visiting team gave a bird’s eye view of Kerala situation detailing its problems of environment and prospects. He himself had visited Sophia for a tour. The visitors among whom were students from China, the Caribbean and Ethiopia presented their findings on environment, pollution and drinking water treatment. “To clean the air in Beijing, vehicle ownership has been restricted and public transport promoted,” said the Chinese researchers Wu Feng and Zhao Ruiwen. Their session was moderated by Astrophysicist Prof. K. Indulekha of MGU’s School of Pure and Applied Physics.
In Kochi, under the initiative of the Teresian International, an offshoot of St Teresa’s College, the Japanese visitors were taken on a field trip to Ezhikkara Panchayath in the suburb of the city where prawns, sea pearl, shell fish, etc are being grown in Pokkali rice fields. At the Palliyakkal Co-operative Society, the visitors were shown a documentary on integrated Pokkali rice, fish, duck and goat farming. Dr. Mary Liya from the Economics Department of St Teresa’s gave them an account of the state’s decentralised planning and rural development. The team visited the Society’s milk collection centre, vegetable nursery and organic vegetable market. They were also apprised of the resultant impact on environment.
This was followed by a presentation of research papers from both Sophia and St Tereare being grown in Pokkali rice fields. At the Palliyakkal Co-operative Society, the visitors were shown a documentary on integrated Pokkali rice, fish, duck and goat farming. Dr. Mary Liya from the Economics Department of St Teresa’s gave them an account of the state’s decentralised planning and rural development. The team visited the Society’s milk collection centre, vegetable nursery and organic vegetable market. They were also apprised of the resultant impact on environment.
This was followed by a presentation of research papers from both Sophia and St Teresas next day. He visitors also attended a symposium focussing on Kerala floods and their aftermath. Prof. Nirmala Padmanabhan made a presentation on the Kerala model of relief centres and gender sensitive disaster management. S. Suhas, the district collector, who was in charge of Alappuzha during floods detailed his first hand experience in dealing with relief operation. Dr. Vineetha CSST, director of the College, presided. Prof. Huang Guangwei and Prof. Keiko Hirao both representing Sophia, moderated the plenary sessions.
Teresa’s has physics professor Sajimmol as principal, the first lay person to hold the office in a span of its 92 years, and Sona Thomas, J.Poornendu and Jisha John to coordinate Teresian International’s liaison with institutions in Japan, US, UK, France and Sweden.
The credit for the growing ties between academic researchers in Japan and Kerala should go a long way to Prof. John Joseph Puthenkalam SJ who has a 33-year old association with Sophia. A native of Pulinkunnu in the rice bowl of Kuttanadu, he feels that the Kuttanadu region has much in common with rural Japan dotted with rice fields sandwiched by mountains, lakes and rivers. They cultivate rice, vegetables and make a hearty living by fishing.
Arriving in Chiyoda in Tokyo where Sophia has its main campus in 1986 JJ Puthenkalam was overwhelmed by the pre-eminence to which the Jesuit academy extended its wings to have three more campuses and many more faculties to accommodate the needs of the times. Total enrolment in 2016 was 14,026. Sophia is very choosy in its admission and their tuition fee is high—Rs. 5,73 518 for undergraduate courses in 2015-06. Puthenkalam had his PhD in development economics from the University of Glasgow. Currently he is dean of its graduate school of environment and trustee for its global academic affairs. Above all, he holds his homeland to his heart. To cap it all, an erudite Keralite, Dr. KPP Nambiar, has produced a Japanese Malayalam dictionary with 53, 000 words after a toil of 13 years. The author earned his PhD in ocean science from Tokyo University and spent almost a decade there representing India and the UNFAO. Nambiar has also been s honoured with Dr. Herman Gundert Award by the Dravidian Linguistic Association at the Central Universsity, Gulberga.
As an end piece, Tokyo’s Nihon Kairali has just awarded its first Nihon Kairali Keraleyam Award for promotion Kerala culture in Japan to Maruhashi Hiromi who is practising the dance forms of Kerala’s Mohiniyattam, Kathakali and Chakkiyarkoothu in Japan. She studied in the arts school of Kalamandalam in Kerala and has performed in Kerala premier Soorya Festival. Born in Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture, Maruhashi has been running a school of performing arts in Japan.
Professors Keiko Hirao of Sophia and K. Indulekha of MGU
India-Japan bonhomie: K.Jayachandran, JJ Puthenkalam, Sabu Thomas, JG Ray.
Sayona Anna John, Rozitta Varghese, School of Biosciences, MGU
Tony Varghese of Cusat flanked by Paul Valsan and Ai Muto, both teaching Japanese at the University.
Ai Muto and Brinda Bala Sreenivasan at a Japanese class at EFL department of Cusat
Thomas Mulloor and wife Takako from Kobe who taught Japanese for 16 years in Kochi.
On a field trip in Kochi--Mary Liya, Keiko Hirao, Huang Guangwei and JJ Puthenkalam with students.
Teresa conclave: Nirmala Padmanabhan, Megna Murali, Shaeen Nasser, Jisha John; inset Intn’l coordinators with Principal and Director
Oumer Abdulahi Kassim from Ethiopia flanked by Keiko Hirao and Ai Muto at Teresa’s.
Dr. KPP Nambiar with his Jap-Mal dictionary; award-winning danseuse Maruhashi Hiromi
A selection of Nihon Kairali members in Tokyo
Onam feast for the visiting Jap students by Mahatma Gandhi University.