On the 24 July 2015, I along with 35 other scouts and 4 leaders from Northern Ireland traveled half way across the world to Japan to attend the 23rd World Scout Jamboree. It all started back in October 2013 when a selection weekend was held in Crawfordsburn to determine who was going to attend the Jamboree which is held every four years. After 2 long days of activities and challenges I hoped more than anything that I had done enough to be selected. A few days later I received a letter saying that I had in fact been chosen and that the first training weekend would be in March 2014. I couldn’t believe it. Ever since that October, I along with the 35 other scouts now called Unit 62 (62nd unit of the 75 units going from the UK) or also Saffron Kyojin (Kyojin meaning giant in Japanese) have attended 4 training weekends, numerous fundraising events including an abseil down the Europa Hotel, and a trip to Scotland to meet the 6 Scottish units, all to prepare us for our Japanese experience.
At half three in the morning it was time to get up and head down to Dublin to catch our flight to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Haneda, Tokyo. After nearly 24 hours of travelling I was tired but we finally arrived at the Prince Shinagawa Hotel where we would be spending the next 3 nights, giving us the opportunity to explore Tokyo. The first thing I noticed after arriving was the heat. At 38 degrees Celsius plus the added 85% humidity it felt like I was frying alive, which was why my sun cream and water bottle were going to be my best friends for the next 18 days, although it turned out that factor 30 was pretty much useless so I had to resort to my factor 50.
Tokyo was fantastic, it was exactly how I pictured it would be. Minus the bins. There seemed to be hardly any rubbish bins anywhere but vending machines there were plenty of. You could get anything you wanted in them, from cold drinks to coffee in cans to hot meals. On our first day we headed to the Earthquake centre run by the Tokyo fire department. Here we learnt about the disastrous events that happened on Friday 11th March 2011, otherwise known as the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake was the biggest ever recorded to hit Japan (magnitude 8.9) and the fourth most powerful in the world since recording began. The earthquake triggered tsunami waves that reached heights of about 40m. Afterwards we got to experience what an earthquake of magnitude 7 felt like using an earthquake simulator. Although it lasted seconds it felt real enough. We learnt that if an earthquake were to happen when inside your home then it was important to turn off the gas and open any doors all while making sure your head was protected. That was one of the memories I will never forget.
Day two and it was off to the Tokyo Skytree. There were some amazing views and some great photos taken but I guess that’s what you would expect from a 634 metre tall building! Later that day we went to Joypolis, which is pretty much a massive indoor arcade/theme park/ video game centre. As soon as we arrived our leaders gave us our tickets to get in and let us loose for the next 4 hours. I had never seen so many games in one place but with so many games came a lot of queues!
The next night we went to the famous Shibuya crossing which was packed with shops and people, I even managed to hunt down an Abercrombie & Fitch. Out of all the places we went during our time in Tokyo that was definitely my favourite. It looked just as big and bright as it did in the photos. I was sad to leave Tokyo when the time came, but then I thought about where we were headed to next and that sadness soon turned into utter excitement as the journey had just begun!
The jamboree was to take place in Yamaguchi prefecture from the 28th July to the 8th August. 33,000 scouts from 156 countries across the world in one place at one time, how fab is that? It took 4 hours on the bullet train to get there and when we arrived it felt just as hot as Tokyo did if not hotter. First things first we were to get our newly made, UK Contingent tents up and after that we went off and explored. The whole site itself was pretty big as it was 1km by 3km which is big enough to get lost in but luckily enough there were maps up so all was ok. All of the activities we did at the Jamboree were fantastic, from learning about other cultures at the international culture day where we got to try foods and take part in national songs and dances, to doing cool stuff in villages in science and global development to hikes during the hottest part of the day and even going to Hiroshima to visit the memorials and learn about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings during WWII. It was also the 70th anniversary of the bombings while we were there. At the exact date and time the bomb went off 70 years later everyone at the campsite held a one minute silence in memory of those who died, it was a very emotional experience and some of the effects of the bomb can still be seen today. What I loved most about the jamboree was being able to walk down any road and meet people from any country at any time and just saying “Hello!” and hearing them reply back in their own language yet knowing that the chances were that you would probably never see them again.
After a night of travelling, 3 nights in a hotel bed and 11 nights in a tent it was now time to spend 2 nights living with a Japanese family for our home hospitality. We had no idea who we were going to be staying with and whether they even spoke English or not. When the time came to meet our family, I don’t think we could have got a nicer one. We would be staying in Yuki in the Ibaraki Prefecture. There was a father called Hiroo, a mother called Sumi, a 16 year old daughter called Yuko and a dog called Kaname (after a singer in a band). Our family were so kind to us, they took us to traditional Japanese restaurants like ramen and sushi restaurants, washed some of our clothes when we first arrived and took us to their local temple so we could take part in their meditating ceremony in the early hours of the morning. I was disappointed to leave but when the time came I was so tired I power napped in the car on the way back to the train station that would then take us back to the airport for another 24 hours of travelling.
All in all my Japanese experience was one I will never forget from the moment of receiving that letter telling me that I had been chosen back in 2013 to leaving Dublin airport to go home again. I saw some amazing sights that I would have never have seen had I not been a member of 6th Bangor Scout Group. I also met some amazing people throughout the journey whom I am still in contact with from Northern Ireland and Japan and I will always “Be Prepared”.
Caroline Barr 11A