Values of Every Member of an Ensemble: GCD Community Engagement

Since 7th grade, I have been participating in the YIS Koto Ensemble, and this is my 5th year being a part of the community. During the years, the ensemble has performed in various concerts in YIS, as well as outside of school. From the amount of dedication and commitment I have put into this ensemble, I have learned the importance of perseverance, and why it is necessary for me in life.

I believe that one of the most distinctive features of a musical ensemble that distinguish from other communities is the equal value of every member of the ensemble. Every member of the group is equally as important and significant as all the other members; whether one may be the leader of the group, or one has a solo during the piece, if we take out any of the members out from the ensemble, the piece won’t sound the same. Some piece we performed had only one person in every part, so if one of the members is gone, everything will start to fall apart. Every member has both the chance to participate in the ensemble equally, as well as having the responsibility to be able to memorize and play the piece correctly. If one is not committed as the other, it is very hard for the whole ensemble to create harmony when playing a piece. Throughout my years of performing as a member of the Koto ensemble, I learned that it is important to be engaged in the community not only for yourself but for the other members’ sake as well. By showing high commitment towards the community, it can also help motivate others to become engaged as well.

During the long years of being the member of the koto ensemble, I had times where I completely lost my motivation to practice the piece, as I was being pressured with catching up with academics outside the community, and other personal issues. I lost the motivation to come to the practice, and there were times where I completely lost interest in playing koto. Despite the lack of motivation I had, I was able to challenge myself to stay persevere and continue practicing. One of the ways I was able to overcome the lack of motivation was, to think about my community and the reminding myself to fulfill the responsibility I had as a part of the ensemble member. I kept reminding myself that if I neglect in engaging in the community, it will also cause unnecessary trouble to the other members of the group, and could potentially disappoint them. Although some might consider this method to be a negative way of motivating yourself, it definitely did help me as the fact that people were dependant on me and that I was important to the community, helped motivate my self to practice koto again. With hard work and perseverance, we were able to play the piece in one of the concerts in YIS. The accomplishment I felt after performing definitely helped me understand the importance of perseverance, and the benefit it can bring. I hope that starting my 5th year this year, I can continue to be a significant part of the koto ensemble as all the others in the community.


Seeking ‘Silence’ in Modern Society: GCD Wilderness Engagement

Out of all the Expeditions I have experienced over the past years, one of my most memorable trips was the 10th-grade snow expedition in Niigata. My family was never the type to go outdoor for skiing or hiking during the winter holidays, so it was such a rare experience for me to spend a week in a snowy environment. It definitely helped expand my comfort zone as I challenged myself to indulge and gain experience in the unfamiliar environment, despite the slight anxiety and worry I had since it everything was so new and foreign to me.

We visited an English camp lodge in Tsunan, Niigata for 5 days and experienced various activities such as the 2-day snowshoe hiking. Contrasting to the restless and busy Yokohama, Niigata was much quieter and peaceful—it almost felt that the place was secluded from the rest of the world. The camp lodge was located deep in the mountains and was isolated from the local town in Tsunan as well.

Additionally, we were also required to stay ‘unplugged’ during the expedition, meaning that we had to detach ourselves from the internet and various social media. Although this was not a difficult challenge for me, it did feel uncomfortable as I felt so detached from my social community and friends outside of the trip. However, at the same time, I realized that this uncomfortableness comes from how much my life has been dependent on internet and social media. It made me rethink my balance in life, and how I should be more aware of how dependent I am on the internet. We were completely isolated from our friends, family, and school; it was quite refreshing to just forget about my schoolwork and my social relationships, and immerse myself in nature.

Over the 2-day snowshoe hiking, I had the privilege to experience ‘true silence’ during the hike. We had times where we separated ourselves from others to sit alone in the snow and quietly meditate for some time. The snow around us absorbed all the sounds we made, and during the meditation, it was a complete ‘silence’. Now reflecting back on this expedition, the silence and the peace nature offered to me was something that I should have truly appreciated; complete silence is something we cannot experience quite easily in Yokohama, or in any of the urban cities. There will always be loud noises of various vehicles during day and night, and within the school, it is almost quite impossible to seek silence when there is every other student is talking all the time and minding their own business. Although these noises sometimes do help me stigmatize my brain and help stay critical and aware of my surroundings, however, when I am constantly exposed to these noises it can always become very overwhelming. The silence I have experienced in Niigata truly helped me disconnect with the rest of the society and reorganize my mind without being overloaded with information. It brought me to a realization on how great the impact of noise pollution is, and how isolating yourself into these peaceful environments can help reduce the stress. 

This experience also enlightened me with how ‘silence’ is a very important factor to help reduce stress and become relaxed, and how it can help sustain my wellness in school. Even though I might not be able to experience the same ‘silence’ I was able to experience in Niigata, I learned that detaching myself from everything, and enjoying the isolation for few minutes can really help clear out my mind and reduce the stress I’m experiencing from information overload.

Image of my hiking team eating lunch (I am the 4th person from the right)

Students lying on snow alone, meditating

Being a Student Ambassador in YIS: GCD Inter-cultural Communications

As a bilingual student in an international community, I feel it is necessary to put by the best of my language abilities to help communicate with other individuals all across the world. With my ability to fluently speak both Japanese and English, I spent my 9th-grade year actively participating in a group called the ‘Student Ambassadors’. The main purpose of this group was to tour with families and students that are visiting YIS from all across the world. Although many were fluent in English, I have met families from many different cultures and ethnicity. Some families would only be able to speak Japanese, and I had to navigate multiple families around the school using multiple languages simultaneously. It was also our job to make the families feel comfortable, and create a safe environment for them to be able to address any questions they had in mind. In order to do so, we tried to make out tour as interactive as possible by asking them questions as well and trying to get to know them better.

The tours have definitely provided me with opportunities to interact and share cultures with other international students from a completely different culture. I was fascinated by all the questions and concerns that the families had, or the connections students have made about Yokohama International School with their previous school. Despite the students coming from a similar international school as YIS with an international baccalaureate program implemented, students show different concerns and fascination about this school and their culture. Whenever I ask about their previous school, they would share a piece of their culture, and I would always feel intrigued by how students similar to my age and even ethnicity, has a completely different story to tell. Student Ambassador is one of the great communities that I can interact with many students from different cultural background and ethnicity.

Student ambassador has not only provided me to interact with international students but also with teachers as well. In 2017 April, I was fortunate enough to participate in helping out the IB Conference held in Pacifico Yokohama. During the time at the conference, I interacted with IB teacher all across the world and was also able to learn new perspectives about how teachers believe in similar/different ways of teaching their own students. With some of the participants, I had trouble communicating them as some were not quite fluent in English, or could not speak at all. However they were all very cooperative, and I was able to guide them through the conference using hand-gestures and only using simple English words when explaining things. Many of the teachers were also intrigued by our experiences as a Japanese international student, and we were able to share our cultural experiences with others. The conference was an amazing and open-minded place for everyone to interact and share their cultural beliefs regardless of age or ethnicity. Throughout these experiences, I have learned that language and ethnic barriers can easily be broken, if one is willing to be open, and stay open-minded about others.

Photo took at the Yokohama IB Conference Held in April 2017.