Land of the rising sun

Sophomore visits Japan for scouting convention


submitted photo

Story by Dewitt Fortenberry, staff writer

World Scout Jamboree. One and a half weeks of camping with scouts from around the world in the humid, mosquito-free air of southern Japan. On July 26, six scouts from two troops in Texarkana, including myself, embarked on this journey of a lifetime.

I had never been so far away from home, or so far from real American food, in my life. I had been to Cancun and Toronto, which were basically extensions of the US, but never to a place where people would actually come up and ask me for a picture. This was an experience that most of us went through, since it wasn’t every day that Japanese people would see a group of American Boy Scouts treading through the streets of Tokyo. People had also heard about our arrival on the news. Our tour guide said that we were “famous” among the Japanese people.

It started with the 40 minute flight to Dallas, where we met with others in our contingent. Each contingent was made of scouts from a particular region. Our contingent was made of scouts from the southern region (Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.) We had all met each other a few months before at a “Shakedown” organized by our scoutmaster.

The flight was long and cold, but refreshed with sketchy Japanese airline food that I was scared to eat. The jet lag after landing in Japan was ridiculous. When we got to Japan, it was 5 p.m. there, and 3 a.m. back home. After we got off the plane, we met Harumi, our tour guide.

After sleeping in a clean, air conditioned hotel we were off to Jamboree in Yamaguchi, located in humid southern Japan. One of the highlights of the trip was when we rode down to Jamboree on a bullet train.

The ride was surprisingly smooth, and we saw the entire country of Japan pass by our windows. Flying through the mountainous Japanese landscape at over 300 mph, I got to see the beautiful landscape of Japan, from the rural cities to the rice fields.

The actual Jamboree was definitely a lively and fantastic experience. There were scouts there from 161 countries. I got to learn about the cultures and ways of scouts from around the world, and it was really interesting to find out how different some other cultures really are.

Throughout the nine days we were there, I made friends from all over the world that I still keep in touch with via Snapchat and Instagram.

The organizers of Jamboree had many activity days planned for us, which helped us learn about the host country, and about some of the other countries represented.

My favorite day was when we went to a beach close to the Jamboree site in Yamaguchi, where we got to swim for 30 minutes. Then, we did a few activities afterwards. I also enjoyed playing frisbee-dodgeball with some Polish scouts.

The volunteer who organized the games told us to make up our team of people from other countries. I organized a team of people that just so happened to not speak English, so it was challenging to develop a strategy.

After the last day of Jamboree and some sad goodbyes, our troop went back to Tokyo for our three days of touring. This gave us more of an idea of what it was like to live in Japan.

Everything in the hotel was shorter, smaller and more space efficient. This made sense because the island is compact and mountainous, with millions of people living there. Even the cars were about the size of a golf cart.

I enjoyed my trip, and never had a dull moment. I made friends there I will never forget. Japan is definitely a country I would consider revisiting when I have the opportunity.