Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tokyo is Japan's biggest city, home to over 12 million people, and recently claimed the title of most expensive city to live in. The big city is one of the few fashion capitals of the world, which is overly prevalent to locals and tourists alike, as they travel around to its many shops and boutiques.  The pace of the city is underestimated at a million miles a minute and the amount of people crammed into one city is at times overwhelming and unreal. Tokyo is also home to "so much plastic shiny shit" as Betsy's mom eloquently exclaimed as we ventured through the infamous electronics block which houses anything from spare parts for your Easy Bake Oven to arcades with wall to wall claw games.

My first taste of Tokyo was at Shinjuku Station which is the busiest subway station in the world. Everyday over 4 million people pass through the station and Betsy and I quickly became simply another statistic. Navigating the subway labyrinth is a unique skill in which luck, knowledge and insanity go hand in hand. The subway is at Tokyo's core, running miles upon miles beneath the concrete metropolis and became a intellectual game to Bets and I. (Betsy was obviously the brains of our operation.)

Our time in Tokyo seems now to be a blur. We were in the city limits for less than 48 hours yet saw all there is to see (minus the famous fish market which is scheduled for our return visit). We were fortune enough to get to go on a paid bus tour of Tokyo and thus we were able to take in more than the average tourist. Our first stop was Tokyo Tower which is identical to the Eiffel Tower except orange and ten meters taller. Following that fantastic view, the tour took us to a huge Shinto Shrine which was an amazing tribute to creation and mother nature and then to the Imperial Palace where Japan's emperor and empress live by themselves.  I should note that the palace is twice the size of the White House estate and the emperor holds no political power whatsoever. The rest of the tour included; a pearl demonstration, a Buddhist Temple and the electronics block. While in Tokyo, we also got to see Mt. Fuji from the Tokyo Government Building's 45th floor, a national park's beauty of the fall and the famous Ginza shopping district (which closes its streets on the weekend to make it the "shoppers' paradise!")

Tokyo was an experience and a half. Constant movement is the best way to describe its flow and feeling. Upon returning home to the small mountain village of Norikura, I felt oddly at peace in such a remote location yet missed the city's fervor and spirit. I would venture to say that one would go crazy living so close to so many people and moving at the rate at which they move but 12 million people do it everyday... my hat is off to them. See ya, wouldn't want to be ya.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Camp Program

Northstar is an adventure lodge that attracts many different kinds of people and groups and for the past month campers have been mainly high schoolers from around Japan. Schools come to Northstar for a unique experience of studying English in the midst of an "extreme" environment. The environment we create is a unique one to Japan and brings about an "aloha" community as service is blended with outdoor activities and fun.

Campers arrive by bus and after an energetic greeting by our staff, initiative games commence. Games include; four point tag, tank commander, mine field, human knot and lots lots more. These games are aimed at teaching lessons of communication and teamwork while simply having a blast with friends. Following initiative games, Kayo (our resident chef) whips up a delicious meal with international flavor. At night, campers enjoy jumping on the trampoline in the main lobby, playing ping-pong or fuse-ball in our game room or catching the latest snowboarding movie in the lounge. Kids usually play into the night and their voices can be heard long after the call for mandatory lights out at 10:30pm.

The following day the schedule is as follows; breakfast, adventure activity, lunch, adventure activity, free time, dinner and then s'mores and bonfire. It is a full day of fun. Adventure activities are led by the Northstar staff and include mountain biking, river hiking, hiking, rock climbing, tyrollean traversing and rogaining. Kids choose two activities and then are lead on the three hour adventure by us (adventure staff).

Days are long and filled with nonstop movement of serving, playing, cleaning, instructing and hanging out with our newly made friends. Days are 12 hours plus but the reward is great and worth it. The reward is smiling faces as kids leave and exclamations of having had the best couple of days of their lives are heard. God is moving here at Northstar and is at the heart of everything we do. The amazing attitudes and service shown in the face of "lost in translation" type situations and endless service are all testaments to God at work in all the N* Staff's lives.