Lake Sai Adventures and Tokyo Culture Days

From October 2-6, eighth-graders took a trip to Lake Sai, where they experienced nature and faced both individual and team challenges. Students set up camp near the base of Mt. Fuji and participated in challenges that included cooking their own meals over campfires, rock climbing, orienteering, raft building and maneuvering their team over a 15-foot wall.

This year, in addition to the Lake Sai Trip the eighth grade also participated in Tokyo Culture Days—two days of activities coordinated by the Japan Center.

Ravi Jain, Grade 8- The Wall

Even though it was weeks ago, I still have vivid memories of the great time spent at Lake Sai, and of the wondrous activities done there—from cooking over raging amber flames, to pushing one another off rubber rafts, whose planks creaked precariously in the chilly waters of the lake. However, no matter how wonderful each activity was, the wall climb was one I won’t forget!

As we walked up to the wall, we all thought how easy getting over the wall would be. “I could easily scale it,” one person triumphantly exclaimed, to the laughter of everyone else. During breakfast, tales were told of how people would get up the wall; this would be an easy task all of us could do without breaking a sweat. That is, until we saw the wall, that  15-foot piece of wood held in place by scaffolding bolted to the hard ground. It turned out, getting everyone up that “meager” 15 feet was a much harder challenge than we’d expected.

Hoisting the first people up the wall went surprisingly smoothly, though we botched a few attempts. After some time though, getting people up slowly became more difficult and, very soon, there was only one person left to get up the wall. Lifting this final person soon grew into a big dilemma. Previously, we’d used two people to lift a single person; now, that last unfortunate participant was stranded on the bottom, alone.

Time ran fast as we rushed to solve this problem, yet no idea we tried worked; we would all watch in silence as the final person would run, jump, reach and miss our grasping hands by mere millimetres.

Only after many flops, did we manage to make sense of this dilemma; the solution was teamwork. To put it in other words, what we’d been doing was like relying on a single rope to lift a weight it could never carry; no matter how many times you tried, the rope would falter. What we needed now was a way to lift that person up using everyone’s combined strength, connecting and interlocking with one another to form a stronger team. What we’d made now, was a great human chain. It was then when we finally manage to reap the benefits of teamwork and, not much later, we got the final person up. The whole area was lit alight with our loud cheers of  joy. For the rest of the day, we spoke of the great victory we’d accomplished.

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We may not have to climb up a 15-foot wall everyday, but the power of teamwork is one strength we will continue to draw from, no matter what.

mARIKO yoKOSUKA, jAPAN cENTER co-dIRECTOR- Tokyo Culture Days

Eighth-graders shared Lake Sai week this year, traveling in two sessions and rotating with a two-day series of activities called Tokyo Culture Days. The Japan Center organized the first day of Tokyo Culture Days in conjunction with the middle school. The second day saw students heading to Ueno where they visited the National Museum of Science and Technology, toured the Shitamachi Museum and completed a selfie scavenger hunt, where groups had to find different landmarks throughout the park..

This year, Japan Center is exploring the theme of waza (技) and takumi (匠). Waza in Japanese refers to technique, expertise, skills and takumi refers to the master of that technique, an artisan. We explored this theme with the eighth grade students on day one of Tokyo Culture Days through wagashi, tea ceremony, and sumie calligraphy.

On the first day, students started by preparing wagashi, a traditional Japanese confectionary, with Master Kumiko Aoi who has been making wagashi for over 40 years. Under her guidance, students made their own wagashi either resembling an autumn persimmon or one with a mixture of different colors resembling the changes of color in autumn, made of red bean paste and white bean paste.

Wagashi goes hand in hand with tea ceremony as wagashi, with its sweet taste, is usually paired with Japanese green tea to create a balance with its bitter flavor. Flowing into their second activity, students brought their own handmade wagashi into the tea room, where tea ceremony master Nami Komaki (purchasing manager), whose name as tea instructor is Souna, instructed them on how to make their own bowl of matcha. Souna-sensei explained that the way of tea or chadou is based on the philosophy and spirit of the phrase 和敬清寂—harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.

The third culture days activity was sumie, with sumie master and former ASIJ teacher Kazuko Okamoto. Students learned the basics of calligraphy and learned how to express themselves artistically, when given the theme of autumn (秋).

In the afternoon they enjoyed the movie Koto, a contemporary Japanese film about the clash of traditional and modern cultures. All of the different things they had done in the morning made an appearance in the film. You can read more about the film in our post, Koto, the Film, and Preserving Traditional Culture with New Generations.