Moving from fifth grade to sixth grade is an important transition in the life of a child. The middle school experience can seem overwhelming! But for the sixth grade students at ASIJ, an important step in that transition is joining a three-day trip to the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) center in the mountains of Kiyosato, east of Tokyo. KEEP is a recreational complex set in dairy farming land among the Japanese Alps, with sweeping views of Mt Fuji on cloudless days.
As one of our strategic objectives, we strive to develop students who take risks, explore passions, develop their strengths and learn resilience. Students spend their time hiking, going on night explorations and engaging in forest challenges led by KEEP rangers and ASIJ teachers. Students try new experiences and work together with their peers to persevere through challenges. Each child finds deeper bonds with the other students in their advisory, their advisor and the Middle School. Illustrating those activities and connections, sixth-graders write to share their favorite memories of KEEP.
One of the various highlights of the KEEP trip was the night hike. When we laid under the thousands of stars, the atmosphere was really tranquil and peaceful. You could hear every sound and rustle in the woods, and I felt like I was an animal, lurking in the nighttime forest. It was really amazing for me to hear the different noises that nature makes. Living in Tokyo, I’d never heard silence this still and this quiet. Buses, motorcycles, cars and planes drown out all of the sounds occurring at night. At night, there was a whole different world living around us, unnoticed and concealed.
My favorite part of KEEP was the free time because it gave us time to take pictures and talk with friends who weren’t in our cabins. We ate amazing ice cream, too. There was also a dance that was fun as well.
In my experience, KEEP was an incredibly amazing, extremely cold, adventurous memory. What do I mean by cold? Well, I mean that the usual temperature was around 5ºC, but it’s amazing that animals seem to be adapted to its low temperature. Kiyosato is covered in huge, monstrous mountains such as Mt Fuji and other incredible, lovely and rocky steep trails. When the sky is clear, the views are extremely entertaining. Not only are there are no factories or residential buildings, but the farms are also full of active, special animals.
The food we ate in the cold weather was hot, such as hot soup and other roasted, hot meats. The extremely good bacon was special because of the extremely well cared for pigs.
My favorite part of KEEP was playing a game called “Jackpot” in the massive field. It was a really fun ball game that we all played together. It was nice that I got to run around and get fresh air.
On the waterfall hike, Mr. Gibson (middle school teacher) guided us up the road after we got into our groups. We arrived to a place where there was barbed wire and a fence. We all jumped over it and kept walking. When we entered the woods and started to walk I saw a beautiful waterfall. When we came back I was super happy about the hike and I was already enjoying KEEP. If you are going to Kiyosato, don’t forget to see the waterfall because it’s much more beautiful than you may think.
Hiking was challenging when the teacher led us to places that felt dangerous, so it was super fun and scary. I also loved the ice cream.
On the first day of KEEP, I went on the vista hike. It was so beautiful! I went with my friend, and the walk was very long, but I think it was an amazing experience. I don’t really get to go on hikes because I live in the city. I think KEEP was so much fun, and I would love to do it again.