The JTYAF recently supported three local Scouts in attending the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in Japan. Rebecca, George and Robert all had a great time.
We were thrilled to receive a report of Rebecca's adventures at the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in Japan. It sounds like an incredible experience.
My name is Rebecca Elfes and this year I was lucky enough to visit Japan to take part in the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in Yamaguchi City, Kirara Hama. I am one of 9 South West girl guides who joined a group of 27 Devon scouts to form Unit 22, also known as "2 little ducks". We formed part of a total 4000 scouts and 300 guides from the UK, who joined 32,000 other scouts from 156 different countries and regions to share an experience of a lifetime.
For the first 2 days of the trip, my unit was split up into pairs, and we were all given a host family to stay with in Nagano city. Myself and my partner Millie had an absolutely amazing time! Our family had three children, one of which was a scout also attending the jamboree, and two younger daughters. When we arrived we drove to the local scout hut for a lovely welcoming party, for which we wore traditional Japanese kimonos, and after the meal we were shown how to fold origami peace cranes. The next day we visited a beautiful local temple, were taught how to write our names in Japanese calligraphy, and then visited a local museum where we tried on Samurai warrior armour! For lunch the family took us out to a sushi restaurant where we got to order all our food using a touch screen computer. It was absolutely delicious although we had no idea what we were ordering! That evening, we spent time showing the family pictures of our friends and relatives, as well as showing them our English money and sharing some food and snacks we had with us, and also giving the family many thank you gifts. In turn, they showed us lots of their favourite foods, and with the children we made delicious sushi sweets. The next day we had to say goodbye early in the morning, as we would be travelling all day to get to the jamboree site before dark! It was very emotional and we took lots of photos with them, and before catching our first train, we sang our unit song to all the families and thanked them for their kindness and hospitality.
The campsite itself was like nothing I'd ever seen before! It was like a miniature version of the world; walking down the Main Street in my sub camp, I'd say hello to people from at least 20 different countries every day. Everyone was so friendly and just as excited to be there as I was. The theme for the jamboree was "Wa" meaning "A spirit of unity" and I really can't think of anything that could sum up the camp any better.
[quote] Life on site was absolutely amazing! [/quote]
On the first night we went to the main arena for the opening ceremony and my unit were lucky enough to be seated in the second row! It was an incredible atmosphere, with scouts from all over the world proudly waving their country's flag. Throughout the jamboree there were a number of ceremonies and concerts in the arena. We were lucky enough to have speeches from the Japanese prime minister as well as the prince of Japan and a representative from the UN. The famous Japanese blue arrows also did an amazing performance right above the campsite!
Additionally, there were many activities organised for us to take part in, so there was never a dull moment! We visited Hiroshima as part of this, which I believe was a really important part of the experience. The museum itself was incredibly eye opening and very emotional but I think it is something that everyone should see. We visited a memorial near the museum where people from all over the world have brought origami cranes to form part of an amazing display that demonstrates the need for peace and unity. Our unit contributed to this by donating the cranes we had made at home. Another of the activities was water-sports, one of my favourite days! We were split into groups containing many nationalities which was brilliant to get to know new people. We played beach volley ball and frisbee, as well as having a much needed swim in the sea to cope with the 52 degree heat. (It was also 98% humidity meaning we were feeling absolutely disgusting!!) We also had a community day where we visited a local school to do activities with the children. I made a kite with some of the younger children and we had great fun playing with them outside (even in the scorching heat!). We also played volley ball, and did other craft activities before the school orchestra performed an amazing piece of thought provoking music that demonstrated the destruction of a tsunami. Culture day was another favourite activity of mine. Each unit on the site had to prepare traditional food and games from their country and then in small groups we were allowed to visit other countries and try their activities and food. I had delicious noodles and tea from Taiwan, as well as maple syrup donuts from Canada amongst many other yummy (and some not so yummy) delicacies! Other interesting activities included a science themed day, visiting the global development village and a culture fair in the hub tent.
However, as I briefly mentioned, the heat made it incredibly difficult to cope with the non stop activities throughout the day. We were advised to drink 10 litres of water a day, as well as having to constantly apply sun cream! It was very difficult to stay cool as the tents were too hot to stand in by about 6am and they stayed that way until late at night! Luckily our unit leaders were prepared for this and we had a paddling pool in our camp which felt like luxury. Despite the pool, however, I don't think I ever quite got used to the heat!
Nearing the end of the camp, I was lucky enough to be able to help out with a flag ceremony. Each night the flags for every country are lowered and carefully put away until the next morning. My friend Chloe and I lowered the flag for Togo. It is a very formal ceremony, and you are forbidden to let the flag touch the ground as that is disrespectful. It then has to be carefully folded and handed to an official who looks after it until the next morning. I felt privileged to have been part of this ceremony.
During the evenings at camp, we were given free time to wander round the site. I particularly enjoyed this time as I could go out with my friends and swap badges and uniform with scouts from other countries. Along the road, many scouts would sit with a display of their items like street sellers, allowing you to browse and see which badges, neckers, hats, jewellery or shirts you would like to trade. By the end of camp, I had collected around 25 bracelets, 60 badges and 2 shirts form as many countries and had also traded 100 business cards so I don't lose contact with the people I met! On one of the evenings, our leaders had organised a campfire with some other groups from the site. We had a great time learning traditional songs from the other counties that joined us (Indonesia, Taiwan, Switzerland, Brazil and Germany) and made many new friends.
Meeting new people was an incredibly important part of the jamboree experience. Everyone was so friendly and enthusiastic that this was incredibly easy! I have made so many amazing friends and memories I will never forget and I am trying to stay in contact with as many as possible. Of course, meeting so many amazing people made it even harder to leave camp!
The last night at the closing ceremony was incredibly emotional and it really made me realise how privileged I was to be part of the experience. Leaving camp the next morning was incredibly sad, seeing all the camps being packed away, because we knew we would never experience something like it ever again and so many of the amazing people we have met, we will probably never see again. On the other hand, we knew we'd made the most of the experience by taking up every opportunity we were offered and I truly had the time of my life!!!
Getting to Tokyo took a full day of travelling, however the excitement of getting on a bullet train that was completely filled with other UK units made up for it!! We eventually arrived at the National Youth Centre (NYC) at 11pm, before heading out into the city to find some dinner. Unfortunately, by the time we got back into Tokyo centre, it was already midnight and we ended up eating McDonalds as it was the only place that could fit all 40 of us inside!!!! After dinner we headed to Shibuya people crossing on our way back. It is said to be the world's busiest crossing, and it lived up to our expectations! I particularly loved seeing the city lit up by hundreds of neon signs and flashing bill boards. It was amazing!
The next day, we went to the Tokyo sky tree. At 634 metres tall it is the highest building in Tokyo, giving us an incredible view of the entire city. We could even see Mount Fuji in the distance! After this we split up into patrols of 10. My group headed to the incredible Electric city, to spend the last of our Yen. For lunch we went to a traditional Japanese restaurant, where we could order our meals by selecting something (the Japanese writing meant it was impossible to tell what we had chosen!) from a vending machine which sent a ticket to the chef who cooked our food in less than a minute! I ended up with fried chicken, rice and soba noodles, and it was delicious. After this, we headed to Joypolis to meet the rest of our unit. It is an amazing indoor game centre, with a massive arcade and indoor roller coasters. The only down side was that there were around 15 other UK units inside as well as regular visitors so it was incredibly busy and the queues were massive!
On our last full day in Tokyo, we visited the imperial palace. The gardens were incredible, and I loved how there were some traditional old Japanese buildings right next to skyscrapers. We spent a few hours wandering around the incredible grounds before we headed to Senso-ji temple, the oldest one in Tokyo which attracts over 30 million visitors per year. It was beautiful, however we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. Outside, there was a long row of amazing market stalls, which were full of people. Here we also saw some American and German jamboree participants which was awesome. Around the temple we also saw some slightly stranger sights, such as someone taking a pig for a walk (on a lead) and a monkey on stilts! We were then allowed off in groups of 4 to explore the shops around the temple for an hour and a half, before we met back at the NYC. That evening, the UKC (UK Contingent) organised "Tokyo Live". This was an entertainment evening for all UK units (staying both at the Youth Hostel and the Prince Hotel.) It was a great idea because it meant we could say a proper goodbye to a lot of the friends we had made from the UK, however it did not last very long. Because of this our leaders allowed us to go out into Tokyo in small groups to enjoy our last night! This was great fun as we could see all the street signs lit up and we also had some delicious Japanese food for dinner!
Overall, I would describe my time in Japan as the best three weeks of my life so far! It was a truly incredible experience and definitely the definition of "the trip of a lifetime" as I made so many friends and memories that I will always cherish, as well as becoming much more confident! It's something I will never forget and I would like to say a massive thank you for helping me to get there!