• Monokuro Yun

Building Bridges

My pen name is just a small fragment that conects me to Japan. Lithuania and Japan has strong relationship since WWII. The main reason behind it was a man called Chiune Sugihara, sometimes also reffered as Sempo Sugihara (杉原 千畝 Sugihara Chiune, 1 January 1900 – 31 July 1986). Mr. Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat and served as a Vice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania (1939 -1940). He issued transit visas to more than 6,000 Jews so that they could leave Lithuania during the Holocaust.

Chiune Sugihara Park in Vilnius. Personal photo.

During WWII the Japanese Consulate was in Kaunas and Mr. Sugihara lived there with his wife and their two sons. The building still stands at the same place in Vaižgantas street; inside of it the museum of Chiune Sugihara is established.

I lived in Kaunas for about 8 years before moving to Vilnius and studied medicine there. In the begining I knew nothing about Chiune Sugihara. There was only a small paragraph on the subject in history texbooks and teachers usually had a tendency to skip works of Mr Sugihara and not say a word about him at all. I might end up never hearing about him at all if not HASHI.

Me and three more HASHI members in front of Sugihara House. The writing on the entrance says: "Visas for life; Gates of Hope"

VDU (Vytautas Magnus University) Japanese culture club HASHI (jp.: "the bridge") is active since 1998. I found out about it in my second year of my studies 8 years ago after being introduced to it in Anime Nights. The host of this event was Kaunas University of Technology and since 2006 it was the main Japanese POP culture event in Kaunas.

A photo made by the organizers of Anime Night. Me is a girl in sky blue in the first row. (2011)

Me, dressed as a character from "Arslan Senki". I was giving a lecture on Light Novels (Anime Nights 2018)

After a week or so I went to Sugihara House for the first time. At that time it was not only a museum but a place for HASHI club activities, mainly lectures about Japanese culture. The first lesson I had a chance to listen was "How Japanese people view Lithuania?" I liked the lecture and how it was presented so much that some time later I became a lector for Japanese fans' audience myself and continue this activity even now. At this moment I am probably a person with the highest count of lectures among non-profesional speakers.

HASHI club is a community that has many ties with different people residing in Japan and in Lithuania (and also elswhere) who have something to do either with Chiune Sugihara or either with promotion of Japanese culture in Lithuania. HASHI club is an official Vytautas Magnus University club but even before acquiring its official status Japanese exchange students were always welcomed and lots of them participated in many cultural events not only as spectators but as volunteers as well.

Members from "Chiune Bridging Project" club (Waseda, Tokyo)

Bunkyou Gakkuin University's visit (March, 2015)

In 2011 there were two more events that I had a chance to participate in - Bonsai festival, and NowJapan, which was called the biggest Japanese culture event in Baltic states back then. Today there are many more events that might be considered as big as this one: WinterCon in Latvia, AniMatsuri in Estonia... To add more, there are mass events like ComicCon Baltics that include the Geek culture from East and West alike.

Organizer's photo: me (first person on the right) the main organizer Kęstutis Ptakauskas and all the volunteers in Bonsai festival

Photo from HASHI archives: Maid/Host cafe (NowJapan 2011)

There are also much smaller Japanese cultural events where HASHI club mostly does some workshops (might be caligraphy, origami, Japanese paper doll making and so on). Many visitors, tired of lectures, often try their hand on some simple but cute handicraft. Sometimes some schools ask for lecture or workshop for their students; sometimes come personal requests as well.

Photos from HASHI archive.

HASHI club has moved from Sugihara House by now but HASHI club members always welcomed there. My first book event for THE SIGN had a very nostalgic feeling because I could came back to the old lecture-room and maybe for the last time talk as a lector from that certain stand.

Introducing to my book in Sugihara House (1st December 2018)

You can find more information here: https://www.facebook.com/vduhashi/

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