Hokkaido summer camp, week three
August 15, 2011 Leave a comment
So, the summer camp has ended, it was a sad moment when the kids left and the school was eerily quiet. The staff who have come from all over the world, Taiwan, Korea, different areas of Japan, Holland are all leaving one or two at a time.
There is a lot to say about this camp and the third week, so I will be writing several posts, this one is just to sum up the third and final week of the summer camp.
The third week was very different from the previous weeks. Many of the children had left, however we got 18 new kids in. The camp was then split into two, we had a ‘basic camp’ and a ‘challenge camp’, for the most part those who were at the camp for the full three weeks were in the challenge group.
The aim of this camp was to allow the children to plan something for themselves. It had to cover two nights and three days and more importantly it had to be a ‘challenge’, thus the name. I will write about the camp I was on in another post since there is far too much to include here.
The week started like any other week though, another day at the sea, there are beaches in Hokkaido, and however we visited a small harbour with rock pools and some very sheltered areas for the kids to play in. Again the day was immensely hot and I continue to be amazed at how much clothing the Japanese staff tell the kids to wear. Swimsuit, tracksuit, raincoat and water proof trousers, socks and finally wet boots/shoes, all far too much for me, I am used to much colder waters, so the sea of Japan was almost tropical.
The day was great, lots of jumping off of the breakwater, front slips, back flips, landing on my face (in the water of course), good times. This was also, sadly, our last trip to the sea, there wasn’t been enough trips to the sea or river on this camp for me, although I do love water sports.
After this the camp then split up and the children who were part of the ‘challenge’ group had to now decide firstly whom they wanted to group with, and secondly what kind of challenge they should do. There were some restrictions due to the number of staff and the expertise that were available, also of course they couldn’t do anything too dangerous for what I think are pretty obvious reasons.
For me and half the kids the next two days were entirely taken up by preparations for the camp. Everything was left up to the kids, and while the staff were there to help at times, so perhaps make a suggestion or comment on whether a plan sounds like it would work, it was all decided by the children. They had to decide what kit they needed to take, what they would eat, where they would go and how to get there, it was fascinating to watch, and took ages.
This was fascinating to watch, but unfortunately I was not much help, while I can speak some Japanese, it is not enough to help in planning a full camp, so for me it was a little boring at times, but when your not doing anything and simply watching it will be boring.
The amount of stuff that the Japanese take when camping is extraordinary and I think unnecessary, especially when, like my camp, we had to carry it for 10km to a train station on the last day. We were given pans that were big enough to cook for 10 or more people, so much food and the tent was needlessly big.
This is one of the things that I find annoying at times about Japan, it is like there is over preparation. It is also something I find fascinating, to me, camping is something that, if say you are walking somewhere or planning on climbing a mountain, you pack quite lightly. For the Japanese they seem to pack heavily, I don’t think I will ever get used to it.
My group had chosen to climb Yotei-Yama, and active volcano, and at 1898m high might be the biggest mountain in the area that I was staying. The staff had decided to do some ‘mountain climbing training’, a very curious idea since it meant that the kids had 2 litre bottles of water in their bags and we climbed a smaller mountain for only 10 minutes. Another example of something about the Japanese which I will likely never understand.
After the planning and preparation was done we finally set off to the mountain. I will write another post about this camp since there is so much to say.
All in all this was a strange and mixed week, it was both one of the most amazing, but also the most boring. It was also quite lonely, all the kids and staff had been split up, so in many ways there was no one to really talk to until the very last day.
Overall, my stay in Japan has been fascinating, amazing and great fun, and I don’t think I would have had the same experience if I had simply been another tourist visiting famous landmarks and areas in Tokyo or Kyoto.