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!
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.
A view of the mountains seen from the trail
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.