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My MIRAI Experience - Ciarán Micheál Maher

November 2023

Ciarán reflects on his journey to Japan as the Irish representative on the 2023/24 Japanese Government MIRAI Program. 

I am a BSc student (Environmental Biology /Microbiology/Plant Biology/Zoology) in UCD, and I had the privilege of visiting Japan as part of the MIRAI (Mutual understanding, Intellectual Relations and Academic exchange Initiative) program, an initiative designed to achieve three primary goals:

  1. Promoting Mutual Understanding
  2. Enhancing Intellectual Discussions
  3. To build strong networks among future leaders of Japan and the world

Among five groups for this year’s scholarship program, I was nominated to join my first-choice area (Group 5: Environment & Green). I was travelling between 14 and 21 November 2023.

Cultural Immersion and Mutual Understanding

During my time in Japan, I immersed myself in the vibrant culture, experiencing the serenity of Zōjōji Temple and Mount Fuji juxtaposed with the bustling energy of Shibuya and Shinjuku. This exposure offered profound insights into Japanese society– the quiet politeness of the people, remarkable cleanliness, and the deep reverence for the environment were all virtues which particularly stood out to me. Witnessing these aspects firsthand left an indelible impression, enriching my understanding of and respect for Japanese culture.

Enhancing Intellectual Discussion

A pivotal highlight of the program was the opportunity to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds—ranging from the icy landscapes of Iceland and Norway to the warmth of Spain and Malta. This diverse mix of perspectives sparked intellectually stimulating discussions and fostered lasting friendships. Exchanging ideas and experiences further underscored the universality of the energy crisis and the innovative solutions emerging globally. The discussions were not confined to fellow Europeans of course but extended to understanding Japan’s pioneering efforts in addressing the energy puzzle. Gaining valuable insight into revolutionary initiatives such as Euglena's algae-based energy creation and Japan’s shift towards hydrogen power post-Fukushima was enlightening. These resonated deeply with me as Just as Ireland, Japan is an island with limited resources, and yet they continue to find new ways to head towards a greener tomorrow.

Strong Networks for Future Collaboration

Interacting with ambitious students from Waseda University and professionals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened doors to potential future collaborations. These connections are invaluable resources that will prove invaluable to me as I continue to aspire toward a greener tomorrow, drawing upon Japan’s expertise and innovation.

A Life-Changing Experience

In conclusion, my participation in the MIRAI program was nothing short of transformative. The program not only broadened my cultural horizons but also equipped me with diverse perspectives and invaluable connections and friendships. The Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) does an incredible job in choosing participants as the people I met were some of the smartest, most enthusiastic, and all-around lovely people I have come across. I wholeheartedly recommend this program to anyone passionate about Japan and seeking a profound, life-enriching experience. I really felt the honour and privilege to be nominated by UCD (its Centre for Japanese Studies) and then selected by the Embassy of Japan in Ireland to represent my country, Ireland. 

My time with the MIRAI program has left an indelible mark on my journey, and I am eager to apply the learnings and connections garnered to contribute meaningfully towards a shared global future. I would like to thank the UCD Centre for Japanese Studies (particularly, the Centre Director Kodate-sensei, Nobuko-sensei, Neary-sensei and Deputy Director Sokell-sensei), JICE, the Embassy of Japan in Ireland, and my mentors in UCD for facilitating this incredible experience.