For this year’s expedition, I went on a hiking trip along the Nakasendo trail. We started off at the post town called Nakatsugawa and ended at Narai. We walked approximately 25km in total within the five days of the trip.
Nakasendo was one of the five routes that was used for transportation during the Edo period and connected Tokyo to Kyoto. According to our guide, most parts of the trail are conserved since the Edo period and minimal changes were made only if some parts of the trail needed maintenance. Therefore, we were able to walk on the trail the people back in the Edo period actually used. By walking on the actual trail, I understood how the people back then had to be fit as there were no cars and trains that they could use for transportation and most had to travel on foot, and the trail consisted many uphills and rocky roads.
During the trip, I was able to enjoy the nature and learned how we tend to miss out the beauty of it. At the same time, I also learned the risks that come when walking in the nature without any adaptions for safety.
As we were not allowed to use our phones during this trip, I spent a lot of time observing the nature while hiking. On the first three days, we walked inside forests filled which were abundant with tall trees and a variety of plants. The sound of the breeze and the green color that surrounded me made me feel relaxed and forget about all the school works, and I felt that I was revitalized by the invigorating environment. I understood why people say that living in the nature or rural areas makes them feel more healthy and energized. As I do not interact with nature when I am in Yokohama, I realized that I was missing out on something that I should have interacted more with and made me determined to go to parks and enjoy the nature more even when I go back to Yokohama after this trip.
However, I also learned the danger that could rise when living in those environments. One of the dangers that I encountered were insects. There were many unfamiliar bugs along the trail and as I did not have any knowledge about bugs in general, I did not know which of them were poisonous. Since I did not go close to them, I was not hurt by any of them, but as there were possibilities of getting bitten by or getting stung by those bugs, if some of them were poisonous, there are serious consequences could follow. In fact, within the insects that I could distinguish, there were centipedes and wasps so I felt a little scared when I saw them while walking. Another possible risk was the snow. On the fourth and fifth day, we walked on path where there were a lot of snow. Although I had my snow gear on my shoes, as the path were very narrow, there were times where I did not know how to move on, and felt my legs trembling. Some people actually fell and slid off the trail, and that added on to my fear. The sight of them falling also made me think how people back in the Edo period were at greater risk of injury or death as there were no things such as snow gear during that time and they had limited resources to keep them safe.
In terms of skills, I learned how important it is to develop our decision making skills. During this trip, there were times when we had to make a decision based on two different options that were offered. At one time, we were offered two choices – the first one was to go on a difficult route which the guide said that was tough, and the other was to continue the path to descend the mountain. At that time, I was very tired as the mountain we climbed was very steep and I had a lot of muscle pain. However, I also had the feeling of wanting to challenge myself to go up the mountain as it was a rare opportunity. Yet when considering that we were a little late of schedule and that this was a group endeavour, in addition to the fact that we still had two more days left of hiking, I did not want to put myself in too much risk. Therefore, I decided to go with the second option. As a result, I was able to complete the whole tour without any serious injuries. Another important decision making situation that rose in this trip was to decide on the luggages we bring. For this trip, we were only allowed to bring one 45 liter backpack for the entire trip. Therefore, we had to limit the number of clothes and other belongings we were bringing. I personally brought three sets of clothes despite being there for five days as I knew that bringing too much stuff would just bring me hardships during the trip as we had to carry our own luggage throughout the whole hike. However, I heard those who brought more luggage than me saying that there luggages are too heavy, so this also made me notice how decision making is an important skill.
Therefore, through this expedition, I learned the importance of knowing about the nature such as the types of animals and insects which we could encounter, the importance of knowing about the safety procedures, and also the importance of our decision making skills.
At least once a year, I go to Korea with my family as a vacation. Through the multiple trips, I gained interest in the Korean culture, and I began studying Korean on my own since two years ago. During the trip I went this summer, I was able to communicate with people at shops and restaurants as well as with taxi drivers. At shops, I asked the workers whether they sell a certain product when I couldn’t find it. At restaurants, I ordered the food for my family as a representative and also helped my parents when they were paying for the food by translating between Korean and Japanese. Also, when riding on taxis, it is now my job to tell the driver where we want to go. When communicating with the local people, since Korea is a culture that values social hierarchy, I talk to the people in formal words since the people I communicate with are always older than me. Every time I communicate with the people in Korea, they always reply in Korean and some people even praised me with my Korean. From this experience, I learned how it is important to show affection towards another country and value their cultures in order to communicate peacefully and construct a good relationship with people from different countries.
When I was in 9th grade, I started going to a Japanese cram school, and this experience taught me how students attending normal Japanese schools communicate differs from how I, who go to an international school, communicate. In my school, even if we talk for the first time, we call each other in our first names. However, at my cram school, I was called by my last name when my classmates referred to me or talked to me. Moreover, since Japanese have different formality levels in the language, students talked to teachers in a formal manner. Some of my classmates even talked to me in a formal manner. In contrast, in an international school, the differences I find between the communication between two students and the communication between a student and a teacher are that students don’t use slangs as much when communicating with teachers and also call the teachers in last names. In other words, while Japanese shows social hierarchy, English doesn’t show any social hierarchy. Moreover, the attitudes are also different. Japanese people are more calm when talking to each other and wait for the other person to finish talking while they begin to talk while my friends at school sometimes convey their opinions midst someone talking. This might be because Japanese schools focus more on intelligence and the actual content they teach while international schools value social skills and expect students to share their opinions and ideas to their classmates. From these observations, I found that students attending Japanese schools communicate in a different manner from students attending international schools.
One of the service groups I joined this year was the GIN Chiku group. This group works towards helping the homeless community in Japan. We regularly visit the Chiku center to provide lunch for the homeless people there and also try to raise awareness for the homelessness in Japan. For example, we set up a booth during food fair and prepared posters, presentations and a small scavenger hunt activity so that our audience can learn about the homeless. It is important to share what we do to help the homeless since the whole problem regarding homeless people is not a major problem in Japan but one of the problems that must be solved in order to create a better living environment.
I think that my participation to this activity helped with rising awareness of the homelessness in Japan. As we explained why there are many homeless in Japan, which is due to the collapse of the bubble economy, and how these people make a living by selling cans at Food Fair, I think our audience gained a better understanding about the homeless people and lost their negative stereotypes towards them. I wanted people to know that there are homeless people become who become homeless not because they are lazy but due to other reasons, which in Japan is the huge decrease in employment because of the collapse of the economy. Also, my participation also helped the homeless people as I helped with the meal provision for the homeless people at the Chiku center. Our contribution allowed the homeless people to have healthy meals. Also, as there were homeless people around us while we were preparing the food, I was able to talk with some of them, and was able to become a person who the homeless people can share their personal stories comfortably. As I am able to speak Japanese, I think this strength of me helped in understanding their stories better which made me understand homeless in Japan better as well. Moreover, as there were other organizations there too, I was able to learn about their stories as well such as how often they come to help and how long they have been helping. One woman I spoke with said that she has been coming to the Chiku center for seven years. I was astonished with her commitment and, by looking at how the homeless people talked to her comfortably and how she knew many people there, I felt that the homeless people there trusted her a lot.
Through this experience, I learned many new things. The most important thing I learned was the background behind the homelessness in Japan. Before I joined this group, I personally had some negative stereotypes towards the homeless people as I thought that many people did not have jobs due to their laziness or that they did not study. However, I learned that that was not the case. By understanding the cause, I also learned how large an impact a collapse of the economy can make, and by seeing the sufferers myself, I felt sympathetic towards them. Also, I did not know how the homeless people made a living before, so from now on, when I see homeless people selling cans, I will help them by purchasing them. In addition, I also learned the differences between the homeless people in Japan and those in other countries. Before learning about this, I did not realize how Japanese homeless people do not beg and are more hygiene than the people in other countries, but when I learned about it, I became “Oh, that’s true”, and became curious about the reasons. As I researched about it, I learnt that Japanese homeless people have their pride and do not want others to look at them with pity. They are also responsible about their own lives. Learning all these things made me respect the homeless people and felt bad for holding bad stereotypes towards them in the past.
Another activity I joined was the Dragon council. This group is basically the athletic council of our school and we are in charge of scoring sport games and also organizing events that are held at our school such as the IB meetings for teachers and sports day for the students. This year I regularly helped out with the games, helping out with both the scoring and the concession stand. This is important as many schools come to our school to play for the games and there must be people to score the game in order for the games to work out. Moreover, the concession stand is important as it shows the visitors how our school are happy to have them and will make our visitors feel happy and create a positive atmosphere. I also helped out in the IB meeting, which I have participated every year since I joined the Dragon Council. The job we do during this meeting is to guide the teachers, who come from all around the world, to the locations they have to be at so that they don’t get lost. This is important as the IB meeting is a very important meeting for the teachers so it is important for them to not be late for it. Also, as I talked to the teachers with a warm attitude, I made them feel welcomed, and I think that this helped in giving a good impression about our school as a whole too and would have contributed in building positive relationships between our school and other schools. I hope that my continuous contribution in helping out with many events helped the whole community!
Some people argue that we have the rights to speak freely. However, expressing our thoughts without restrictions can provoke conflicts like the Charlie Hebdo Attack in 2015.
“Freedom of Expression” has defended remarks that directly offended individuals’ beliefs evoking a sense of discomfort in the Islams. “We believe that freedom of expression should not be misused as means to attack or hurt public sentiments or religious beliefs,” Tasneed Aslam, a former spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commented. As Aslam says, to prevent the recurrence of unpleasant events like this incident, “Freedom of Expression” should be banned, or at the very least have a explicit border in limits, so that one would not agitate another provoking an impulse of attack.
Farhang Jahanpour states “The terrorists and those who wish to limit freedom of expression by violent means should learn that far from forcing others to silence, their acts will backfire and will have the opposite effect”. However, I think that the presence of “Freedom of Expression” has allowed Charlie Hebdo to cross the line by insulting and making fun of a religion which attacks human dignity. Therefore, if “Freedom of Expression” did not exist, the whole incident would not have occurred.
For this year’s expedition, I went to Niigata. We went on a 2 nights 3 day hike. The hike was really hard and tiring, but at the same time, it was very fun and refreshing. Since we didn’t have our electronic devices with us, we were able to enjoy the nature by looking at the plants, the sky, and some bugs. We also learned to build a tent and how to cook.
An image of me and my friends building a tent
Before going to Niigata, I was really nervous since I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep up with the other people. Also, since it was my first time going on an overnight hike, I was a little scared if I was going to be able to handle everything that will occur during the hike. However, during the hike, even though it was a bit hard, I also had fun experiencing something new and the wind felt comfortable since I was sweating.
The boys looking at the view from the top of the mountain
This trip might have been a metaphor of the first day of university when I’m alone without my family and having to know about the other students who go to the same university. This is because university is a completely new part of my life and in order to get along with the people there, I have to try to get closer to them without relying on anyone else.
The wilderness that existed in Niigata such as the forests and mountains tells how the people there value the nature since I heard that the local people take a lot of time to maintain the hiking trails as well as the areas around the hiking trails. Also, since it snows a lot in Niigata, the mountains are important to invite tourists to their area so that they can enjoy winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. This leads to their benefit in economy and will help the local people’s lives by using the money they earned to make the place better.
In PSHE class this year, there were many things I learned. I also learned many things both at school and outside of school. I believe some of these things will have positive impacts on the way I live my life in the future.
First of all, some of the things I learned that are connected with the habits of my mind are that I think realistic most of the time through the MBTI test and that I’m not a humorous person through the VIA strengths test. Learning that I’m a realistic person helped me notice why I was bad at writing fiction stories and other things which required creativity. From now, I won’t be too sad if I get a lower grade for assessments which require fictional thinking and can find ways to improve my creativity skills. Identifying myself as a humorous person made myself act the way I actually am in front of my friends since before I learned about this, I tried hard to make my friends have a fun time by trying to be funny which sometimes caused myself being stressed. However, after learning about this, I didn’t try to become funny deliberately which made me feel more comfortable at all times.
The things I learned which are related to the healthy habits are that I learned that I feel more close to my friends by telling them my honest opinions as well as that loving yourself and being confident in yourself is a really important idea to live a happy life.
Juliet, the only daughter of the Capulets, has turned into a teenager just a few days ago. How will she spend her teenaged times being the child of an aristocratic family? The girl who is in the border of immaturity and maturity spoke to us about what is in her mind right now.
It has been a few days since you became a teenager. What are the things you want to do as a teenager?
First of all, I want to do the things I couldn’t do in the past such as shopping alone or cooking food for myself. Also, I want to have time to spend on my own. Since I was a baby, my nurse was around me at all times. Therefore, I want to have some freedom and want to challenge myself so that I can be a more responsible person.
If you could be reborn, do you still want to be born as the child of an aristocratic family or not?
I would prefer not being the child of an aristocratic family. This is because by spending my life as the daughter of an aristocratic family, I know that I don’t have much freedom and have to always act so carefully that I don’t bring disgrace on my family’s name.
What do you think about the relationship between your family and the Montague?
Well, I think that the relationship isn’t anywhere in the area where we can say it is good. It is true that my parents and the heads of the Montague are not happy to see each other. However, I think there is a possibility that the relationship will get better in the future, and I am hoping that a day when the two families greet each other with a smile will come.
Head of Capulet and Head of Montague
I’ve heard that you’re in love with Romeo from the Montague family. What is so special about him?
First of all, the most special thing about him is that he shows his love towards me clearly. This makes me feel relieved, and I can feel his sincere love. Since my parents prioritised work and their relationships with the world over me, the point that he prioritises me over everything else made me feel special for the first time in my life. To summarise, I think every action he takes makes me feel loved and special.
How has your impression towards a Montague change by dating Romeo?
Before dating Romeo, I thought of a Montague as a group of people who are very scary, and shouldn’t be close to. I also thought that I will never have an opportunity of having a good relationship with someone from the Montague. Now I think of Montague as a group who has some grudge to us, the Capulets, but as individuals, they all have a good personality.
Do your family members know about the relationship between you two? If so, how did they react? If they don’t know yet, how do you think they will react?
I think they don’t know about it because we haven’t told them personally, and they haven’t seen us being together as well. They will definitely scold me to the point that they’ll make me have an arranged marriage with another man. Even though that happens, I will fight back and definitely won’t accept it. I will go to my nurse to ask for help as well since I believe that she will be on my side.
How would you describe the presence of your nurse?
She is the only person who I can speak to honestly. Since she is the person who spends most of the time with me, I feel that she is like a big sister to me. I am always thankful towards her, but I sometimes feel sorry because she doesn’t have time to spend for herself.
What are your future plans with Romeo?
What I can say right now is that I won’t meet anyone who I will love more than Romeo in the future. Therefore, as a final goal, I want to marry Romeo and have children between us. However, I want to know more about him before getting married by spending a lot of time with him.
What advice would you give someone who is also in a forbidden love?
I will tell them to be strong! Don’t give up on your love just because someone tells you to stop or because you’re scared that someone who is important to you will end the relationship between you. Also, I will tell them that a time will come when everyone will acknowledge your relationship because that is what I currently believe in.
The areas I focused when practicing were playing the piece in a consistent tempo without rushing, and also being able to listen to the other part while playing the piece so that I can notice if my part isn’t matching with the other part. Two months before the concert, I gradually rushed throughout each part of the piece most of the time. However, at the concert, I was able to play the piece in a steady speed and when I looked at the video of the actual performance, I thought that our group was nearly perfect in terms of the consistence of the tempo and not getting faster nor slower. Also, when we started to play the piece without the music, listening to the other members who were in the same part as me was the best I could do so that I wouldn’t be off the rhythm. But before three weeks before the concert, I gradually was able to listen to the sound of the other part as well as the sound of the others in my part, which made it way more easier for me to play in sync with the other members. To prepare, I used the metronome and the recording a lot. Listening to the metronome was the most effective way on working on the two goals because it helped me to remember the tempo, and also building up the skill to listen to something else while playing an instrument.
Next time, I think I will prepare better by memorising the piece in an earlier stage. For this performance, I memorised the piece two or three weeks before the concert and this made me a little anxious because I didn’t have much practice without looking at the piece. Therefore, I will try to memorise the piece at least a month before the concert which will help me become more confident and relaxed in mind.
While preparing for the concert, I think we shared more ideas to each other regarding to the piece compared to the previous concert. This helped us gain more affection to the piece and also learn more about the piece since some people noticed what the others didn’t notice. In terms of practice, we all had the same thoughts on the parts we had to practice the most, so this helped us practice more efficiently since no one had to waste time practicing the part they felt confident about. As a conclusion, in the concert, no one made a huge mistake and all parts ended perfectly without any problems such as one part ending before another. We were also able to adjust the timing if one of us were a bit off tempo and helped each other if one of us forgot the count. If I had to give one improvement, that would be to practice so that we don’t play the strings which we shouldn’t even if the tempo is fast. This is because in part 4, whenever we play the continuous 八 & 斗, one of us played the wrong string at least once. Therefore, I think we should improve on that if we’re going to play this piece again.
Individually, I think I did the best I could and had the least amount of mistakes ever. I did meet my expectations and was proud of both myself and the group after the performance. I think the performance went well then I thought it would since each part ended as the way we wanted it to end and I was able to play the piece in a steady tempo. If I was going to point out one thing I will work on next time, it will be that I won’t have any mistakes since I mistook two or three times in this concert.
For the first part, my goal was to remember the pattern and then being able to play the part in the correct rhythm and tempo. I have achieved this goal since I memorised the pattern for this part which includes the tempo, rhythm, and the notes used. I have achieved this goal by using the metronome while practicing, and also listening to the recording. Also when I had times when I could practice for a long time, I first practiced playing the part slowly so that I could get the rhythm and the notes right, and gradually I started playing faster to match the tempo we played during class. One thing I could have done better to improve on this part was to play the whole part 3 from the start to the end so that the transition between the section before and the section after would have improved during the break as well.
For the second part, my goal was to play the 八 and the 斗 in a consistent speed. I think I was close to achieving this goal but didn’t achieve it completely because when the right hand comes in, sometimes the tempo is inconsistent and it gets faster and then back to the normal tempo again. While working on this part, I used the metronome so that I can know if I’m a little off of the tempo or not. I also listened to the metronome when I wasn’t playing the koto too so that my mind can remember the tempo. To have practiced more effectively, I also could have practiced the right hand and the left hand separately and then playing both hands together so that the tempo for each hand would have been more clear in my mind and wouldn’t mixed up while playing.
Finally, for the third part, my goal was to play the part without misplaying the strings. I did achieve this goal since now I can play the part without looking at the music, and playing it smoothly in the correct tempo without making mistakes. My practice strategy for this part was to play the piece many times which was the only way I could think of to make my hands remember the distance between the strings. By my hands the remembering the distance of the strings, I can know how much I have to move my hands so that I play the correct strings. During the break, the longest time I played this part was for 20 minutes continuously, which made me able to remember the length of the gap between the strings. One improvement for the practice of this part was that I could have practiced with my eyes closed so that I could play the part without making sure if I’m playing the right string with my eyes, which makes me get confused sometimes since I sometimes miscount the strings I play.
Overall, I think I have practiced effectively during the break and currently satisfied of my achievement of the goals. If we have a similar assessment to this in the future, I will consider of making myself setting a higher and a more detailed goal so that I would get more motivation to practice.
For the first part, my goal is to remember the pattern and then being able to play the part in the correct rhythm and tempo. Right now, since I’m looking at the music, and also don’t know which string to play, I sometimes get the rhythm mixed up. I will use a metronome when practicing, which makes me play the music in the correct tempo. Also, I will try to practice many times during the break so that I can play the part without looking at the strings.
For the second part, my goal is to play the 八 and the 斗 in a consistent speed. I tend to rush when playing the part which makes the transition between the 八 and the 斗 being more faster at the end of the part compared to at the start of the part. If I continue doing this, I won’t be able to finish playing the part as the same time as my classmates. To improve this part, I think the only way is to practice by using the metronome so that I can listen to the beat I play the string for each time.
Finally, for the last part, my goal is to play the part without misplaying the strings. Currently, I mistake a lot by playing the wrong strings. As an example, from the transition between 五為 and 八十, instead of playing the 八, I sometimes play the 七 since there is one string between 十 and 為, and I forget that there are two strings to skip for my right hand. To improve this part, preferentially, I will practice many times to make my body remember the hand movements. Then, I will practice from the start of page 4, which starts off with a similar pattern. By playing it from the start of the page, I think it would make the flow while playing the piece better, and it will also help me practice the transition between the two patterns, and also memorise the amount of times each pattern will be repeated.
For all parts, I will listen to the recording many times to remember the tempo, and how it should sound like, which will help me play the piece even more better.