In case I’ve been too subtle about this: I LOVE JAPAN! And not only did I get the chance to meet Mr. Masato Mizuno at the National Jamboree, I also tracked down the Japanese contingent that came! I had no idea there were any Japanese Scouts at the National Jamboree until we heard about Camp Foxtrot. Over and over, I heard it hailed as ‘the camp where all the action is at.’ Why? Because all the smaller foreign contingents were matched up with U.S. contingents allowing for a camp full of unique cultural, lingual and gastro excitement. (P.S. the Thai camp had the reputation for best food at Camp Foxtrot. Can’t say I’m surprised. Thai food is bomb.)
As our little crew made our way to Camp Foxtrot, we happened upon a kilted Scottish quartermaster that was able to give us an idea of camps within Foxtrot where we could find different nationalities. As he read through his list, I did not expect to hear “Japan”, but as you may have been able to predict based on my other posts, when I heard “Japan”, I immediately fixed on my target and hunted down their camp.
We were pointed in the general direction and wandered a bit until we saw the Japanese flag. When we first approached, there was a local leader working on menu planning with a couple of the Japanese Scouts. That leader’s dedication to help these Scouts despite a clear language barrier is exactly the type of kind and courteous patience I have come to appreciate in the Scouting culture.
I was impressed, but also thought maybe I could be of use. I didn’t want to be pushy but when I tried to offer help, I wasn’t acknowledged until my camp escort said, “Well, they don’t know you speak Japanese yet.” The Scout leader immediately looked up, eager for assistance. He was doing just fine without me, but I helped by clarifying a few things, and once we got through that, I was able to round up most of the Japanese contingent for a quick chat. The Scouts I talked to represented various areas in Japan including Saitama, Oita, Shizuoka, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nara.
It was a little different interviewing them as a group since they all had a tendency to defer to the more outgoing, English-speaking Scout among them, but it was fun to draw them out and learn a little about each of them. When I asked why they decided to come to this Jamboree, the answer for most was that this would be their last chance before they aged out of eligibility and became too busy studying for college entrance exams. The youngest of the group, however, said his main motivation was a chance to improve his English. When I asked how that was going, he just shyly laughed.
My next question was regarding their favorite part of Jamboree so far. The spokesman sarcastically exclaimed in English, “HIKING! Hiking is best! I love hiking! And breaking my legs!” to which he received a chorus of laughing groans from his fellow Scouts. To be fair, the amount of walking/hiking required to get around Summit Bechtel is pretty intense. They say to expect an average of ten miles per day! When I asked for a less sarcastic answer, trading (i.e. patch trading) was a favorite for a few of them.
I asked them what they were still looking forward to during the remainder of the Jamboree and the group spokesman identified interaction with others and the water program as highlights they were looking forward to. When I asked them their greatest challenge at the Jamboree, communication was the top answer, but they said they enjoyed the challenge as well.
In closing, I asked about the aspirations for these young Japanese Scouts were impressive. Half were interested in law-related jobs such as policeman, lawyers, and coast guard, and the remaining two expressed interest in car design and geography.
With a captive audience of six Japanese Scouts, I couldn’t miss the rare opportunity to hear the Scout Oath in a different language. True to Scout form, they raised their hands and recited it for me. Such a cool reminder that Boy Scouts of America has reached beyond borders, beliefs, cultures and languages. Looking forward to more of this at the 2019 World Jamboree!