International Award (Merit)
(submitted by Isabella Yamamoto to meet the requirements of Adventure)

The international award is a program that is based on the “Duke of Edinburgh” program that is run famously in the United Kingdom. YIS offers International award to students from 9-12th grade. The program is run by a teacher that is not part of YIS. In International award, there are three levels. Bronze, Silver and Gold. You have to start at Bronze, and gradually work up to gold. To achieve each medal, students must go on and plan a number of hiking expeditions in a year and learn various skills. When I first joined I didn’t know what to expect because it was not a popular program amongst students. In my first few meetings (that ran once a week), I learned about all the equipment and gear that I needed. There was a very long list. Most of it was gear to keep you warm and cope with the damp and cold. We needed this gear because our expeditions were all taking place in November, December and February. Some of the coldest months of the year. When I found this out I was very nervous because I really can’t stand the cold. I had a problem with my blood circulation, so trying to cope with the cold would be very challenging.

To achieve a bronze medal (which was the level that I was doing), I needed to attend 2 expeditions each 3 days and 2 nights. I would hike for the duration of time with a group of students who were either completing their silver or gold medal. In the preceding weeks, I learned how to read a map and use a compass. I learned how to plan a route and draw a map with indicators. I found the map reading very difficult. I also had to learn about how to set up all the equipment. We received first aid training in CPR and learned about possible health problems we could come across, like Hypothermia or “heat”.

Going into the activity I hoped to undertake new challenges. I found the training we received before hand an area in which I did this. I also wanted to show perseverance and commitment. I knew that I would need this skill if I was to continue on with the award. On the day of the expedition we traveled out to the countryside to a place called Tanzawa. Tanzawa is famous for its mountains and hiking.  It was very cold, and it was obvious when I arrived, that the other students who had been out there for a couple days were also suffering from the cold. When we began walking it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. But once I got to the 5th hour I really started to feel the strain. My bag was very heavy, I had to climb up very steep hills with bag that contained my tent, food for 3 days and a cooker, along with all my clothes. I found it very difficult trying to find a good body temperature. Every time we would start walking I would get very hot, very quickly.  Our group members would all stop hiking and we would take off a layer. However, the cold was very very biting and we would soon get cold within minutes.

After a good 10 hours hiking, we came to meet with the other groups.  However we had encountered a serious problem. There was a minor blizzard occurring and we were unable to pitch our tents. We had to stay in an emergency shelter. The experience was very painful. With over 15 bodies and a 4 squared shelter, we were forced to sleep up close to each other on our sides. After a painful day of hardcore hiking and sore legs, I found it hard to get off to sleep. In the morning we cooked our first meal. All of the pans and pots were frozen. However, I felt like on  the last night I had made progress. I knew how to pitch my tent, and use the stove. By December, I had completed two out of three of my excursions. I drove out in March to complete my final one. I was the only bronze runner who was on this excursion. I hiked with a group of 4 students, 2 boys and 2 girls. There was another 2 other groups. The first night we set up base on a camp site. However, the next morning we found that one of the groups had gotten lost. The police were called and were out searching for them. Luckily, they had two adults with them. They returned after one very frightening night, however, this meant that I was unable to complete my final excursion and was thus, unable to achieve my bronze medal. Coming out of this experience, I feel like I achieved all of my goals going in, but I feel like I also persevered  through the whole experience.
 
 

Climbing Mt. Fuji
(submitted by Young Jin Seo to meet the requirement of Adventure)

At the beginning of summer vacation, I set myself a goal of climbing Mt.Fuji. So, I headed off to a one night two days trip to Mt.Fuji with my mom, brother and another family who was willing to join us on the trip. This trip was actually a personal goal in a sense as my recent knee injury has prevented me from going on hikes. But as I finished the rehabilitation process, I figured that going on this hike could be a good starting point to a new knee.

We met up at 6 AM in Yokohama Station to get to Shin-Juku station where we were scheduled to take the bus to Mt. Fuji. It was tiring but the beautiful scenery and cold crisp air which is so different from the humidity back in Tokyo got me and the rest of the team excited in no time. Each of us were carrying a 20L backpack containing layers of winter clothes to wear at the top of the mountain and numerous snacks to munch on during the hike. After two hours of bus ride, we reached the 5th station (starting point) and ate quick lunch to prepare the hike.

At 11 AM, we joined the rest of the touring group organized by the tour company “Big Holiday”. There were around 30 people in the group and consisted of Japanese, Chinese and of course, Korean people. The beginning of the hike was really not so bad. Everyone was quite energetic and the desire to find out what is hiding behind those misty clouds kept us going. This went on for about 5 more hours until we reached our place for the night (8th station).

View of Mt.Fuji at the 5th station – starting point
Japanese deer that we saw at the beginning of the hike (The guide said that it was our lucky day!)

Some of the people in the tour group had severe altitude sickness (headache, and nauseation) but my family and friends were feeling fine. It was quite an experience to be 3250m above ground level. The view was magnificent; as we were around the same level as the clouds, the cities and villages seemed so small and tiny.

View at the 8th station – the clouds

These moments seemed to be the reward of the difficult hike. After a really short rest, we got ready for a night hike trip up to the top at 11pm.

Beginning of the night hike

The sleeping area at the resting station was very small and so it was impossible to get quality sleep. However, I was excited to start hike at night as I saw the beautiful cityscape at 11PM.

This excitement did not last long. As I climbed higher, the temperature got colder and colder and the trauma of not getting enough sleep was slowly coming on to me. The guide kept telling us that we were almost there, but patience was running low in the cold and rain. Also, since we were hiking as a group, we couldn’t stop at one of the stations on the way to the top (ex. 9th station) to just take a rest because there was a certain schedule to follow.

I had exactly 6 layers of clothes to keep myself warm and dry and at one point, could not keep my eyes open because I was too sleepy. This was when my iPod came in handy. I played my motivation songs on repeat to keep going and without it, I honestly think I would have just stopped before getting to the top.

We FINALLY arrived at the top of Mt.Fuji at around 3AM. Everyone was in a happy mood. We started congratulating each other for managing to get to the top of the tallest mountain in Japan and dispersed to have an hour break to drink and eat breakfast.

While I was eating my breakfast (which was instant cup noodles – the best I’ve had in a long time), everybody started to crowd to see the sunrise.

Sunrise at 4:30AM

Unfortunately, the day was too cloudy to have a clear view of the sunrise, but it was still very rewarding to see the glimpse of light coming through the clouds.

Sunrise on the way down
View on the way down

The group regathered to start the journey back to the 5th station at around 6AM. Everyone seemed to be energized and excited to get back to a place where 500ml of water did not cost 600 yen. I was too, but soon faced a challenge while descending.

Road down Mt.Fuji

The steep roads filled with small gravels and sand was so slippery that it was putting a lot of pressure on my knees. This slowed down the process of descending and the lack of water did not help at all. I thought that the way back down would be much easier but it wasn’t. I needed to really focus and get myself motivated to continue the journey downwards. Once again, music was there to help me.

Also, thankfully, the group dispersed and were given three hours to go at individual paces. We all met at the 5th station, ready to head back home at around 11AM.

Me towards the end of the descending process

After a relaxing onsen trip and a delicious lunch, we headed back to Shinjuku station and arrived home at around 6PM. It was a long and definitely a challenging trip, but definitely worth it. This arduous journey will be something I look back into in the future. But I will never. ever. hike it again. (There’s a saying that it is stupid to not climb Mt.Fuji at least once, but is dumber to climb it more than once.)
 
 

Iya – G10 Field Studies
(submitted by Keisuke Ozeki to meet the requirement of Adventure)

During field studies of grade ten, around twenty students went to a place called Iya, which is located in the western side of Japan. The purpose was to experience the nature by hiking, and learning about the Japanese heritage around that area. The hiking was very tiring, as we walked three days in a row, however it was the best trip I have been to. I was able to push myself and push my limits, although my legs were extremely exhausted. It was especially interesting because I have never went to Iya before in my life, and it was interesting to see different things that I had never seen before. Because the hiking trip was so long, I learnt how to cope with the exhaustion from walking, and I learnt several hiking tricks along the way. For example, I learnt why often hikers have sticks. It turns out that it was extremely useful when the pathway was very steep. I was able to learn how to properly and efficiently climb hills using hiking sticks. Prior to the trip, I had doubts about completing the hiking trip, because I heard rumors that it was one of the toughest trails in the west of Japan. However, it turned out to be challenging but extremely fun.

The biggest challenge was the fact that I had there weren’t that many breaks. We often had breaks where the land was relatively flat, or where there were a lot of rocks we could sit on. However at times, we could not find a place to take a rest for more than two hours, and I almost wanted to give up and climb down.

Climbing down the mountain was more difficult compared to climbing up, which was unexpected at first. This was because there were so many large steps I had to take which were often quite large. This hurt my ankles a lot, therefore I decided to climb down as low as I could. I lowered my hips every time there was a large step, so that I wouldn’t sprain my ankles.

The most important thing I learnt from this adventure trip was the importance of resilience. The first day, we climbed up the mountain, and stayed at a cabin at the top. On the next day, I was extremely exhausted, and wanted to stay at the cabin for another day to recover at first. However, I was able to push myself to successfully complete the round trip in two days. Under the tough condition of freezing temperature, as a group, I was able to motivate myself to climb down.

This trip had made me a tougher person, not just physically, but mentally as well. I had experiences of hiking in middle school, however the trips were much shorter and much easier. In terms of difficulty, this experience was no where near my past trips. There were so many more narrower roads, and steeper hills. There were bridges that moved every time I took a step forward. Everything was new, still most of the time, I was able to enjoy this whole experience. Although there were times when I was extremely exhausted, I was still able to talk to my friends and teachers to forget about the pain running through my legs.

The most significant difference between the trips I have been on and this one, was the fact that everybody in the group was supportive of each other. When there were slippery paths along the way, we were able to hold on to a rope and a person’s hand so that they wouldn’t slip. When a student got injured, we were able to pass on the information quickly to the person who was leading the hiking group to slow down.

I learnt about the history of the Taira family which was a family that had great power almost a thousand years ago in Japan. I personally thought that it was interesting. We learnt how to make soba as well. This was new for me, and it was extremely challenging, since the size we cut the noodles was quite specific, and I wasn’t able to properly do it. However, it was still a fantastic experience.

The best thing about this trip was the fact that at the end of the trip, we all felt closer to each other. We were all always supportive, and we all talked to new people who they have not talked to at school during the hike. The sense of closeness and teamwork  was something that we simply could not experience in our normal school life.



 
 

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