23rd World Scout Jamboree in Japan

  |  Published: Sep 17th 2015
UK Scouts in Japan
UK Scouts in Japan

For the past two years 36 Scouts and Guides from Buckinghamshire and Anglia (4 from Wendover and Aston Clinton, Alex Wall, Adam Kellet, Nathan Gray and myself) have been meeting up once a month in preparation for a once in a lifetime trip to Japan. Activities included first aid training, walking, pioneering and learning to work as a team.

On 24  July 2015, Stokenchurch Scout hut was full of tearful parents and very excitable teenagers as they anticipated the following day. After a sleepless night we all boarded the plane after taking over the whole of terminal 4 at Heathrow airport. The next 16 hours consisted of many films being watched, some slightly edible plane food and a brief flight change at Doha, Qatar.

Our first few days in Japan were spent staying with a Japanese family in the Gifu prefecture (like a county only bigger) who were so caring and hospitable. We took part in some pottery workshops, had a go at Zen meditation, took part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and visited one of the oldest castles in Japan. This was all very fascinating as their culture is so different to ours. For example, you can’t wear shoes in the house and have to put on special shoes just to go into the bathroom.

After saying farewell to our host families and a 4 hour journey on the Shinkansen (bullet train) we arrived at the Jamboree site. A Jamboree is a large assembly, often international, especially boy scouts or girl scouts. They are held every four years and have been since 1912. Our campsite was situated in the Northern hub which was on the other side of the 4-mile-long Jamboree site which meant a very long walk to get anywhere!

Whilst on the site we took part in organised activity modules such as the global development village, science day, culture day, water activity day and environment day which were all very interesting and enjoyable. My favourite parts of the camp were visiting the World Scout Centre where I took part in many activities given by people from around the world, trying different foods at the food village and walking up Mount Fujio and seeing one of the most amazing views. In the evenings we went to different parts of the campsite and took part in different cultures' traditional dances and went to parties in other countries' camps.

My favourite two days were community day and a day visit to Hiroshima. On the community day we met the mayor of the city Mine (pronounced Minay), watched a culture performance which included a karate demonstration, taiko drumming and a marching band which was all performed by elementary pupils (primary school), went to an elementary school and learnt a dance with the children and then visited one of Japan's biggest caves. On the day trip to Hiroshima we looked around the memorial peace gardens, laid our wreath of peace cranes and had poems read to us by people related to victims of the atomic bomb. We also visited the museum which was very moving and shocking.

An origami peace crane is tradition in Japan which were popularized through the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was 24 months old when she was exposed to radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Sasaki soon developed leukaemia and, at age 12 after spending a significant amount of time in a nursing home, began making origami cranes with the goal of making one thousand, inspired by a senbazuru legend. In a popular version of the story of Sasaki, she folded only 644 before she became too weak to fold any more, and died on 25 October 1955; in her honour, her classmates felt sorry and agreed to complete the rest for her. In an alternate version of the story, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum states that she did complete the 1,000 cranes and continued past that when her wish did not come true. There is a statue of Sadako holding a crane in Hiroshima Peace Park, and every year on Obon day, people leave cranes at the statue in memory of the departed spirits of their ancestors.

To finish off the trip we spent the last four days in the city of Tokyo, staying in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. We went up the Tokyo Sky Tree which is the second tallest building in the world, went to an earthquake centre and experienced the typical earthquakes they have in Japan and some of the worst they have had which, although it was fun, made us realise how terrifying it must be. We also went to Shibuya, which is the world’s busiest crossing, Akihabara (the famous Electric City), Japan’s largest simulator park, Joyopolis, watched the Tokyo fireworks over the bay, went to a Tokyo experience which was organised by the UK contingent and visited the Imperial Palace.

The whole trip was amazing and has made me realise how diverse our world actually is. I have made many friends which I will keep for life and have learnt many valuable skills which I will carry with me throughout my life. I feel very privileged to have been able to go on this trip and would like to thank Buckinghamshire County Scouts for the support and funding, Aylesbury Vale District for their support with the fundraising and any members of the community who came along to one of my fundraising events.

I would thoroughly recommend applying to go on any Jamboree, especially the world ones, either as a participant or a volunteer, as it will be an experience you will never forget.

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