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Noto Penisula Sailing Camp Teaches Young Yokosuka Members Intercultural Skills and Global Stewardship

Noto Peninsula (Noto Hanto)

August 5 – 9, 2019

By: Kelly Langley, ISPA-J Youth Liaison and YCAPS Youth Advisor

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During the week of August 5 through 9, a group of six Japanese and American students ventured out to the Noto Peninsula, specifically the tiny marina located at Nishigishi, Ishikawaken, for a week spent on the turquoise waters of Nanao Bay. The students stayed in a ryokan, learned to tie sailing knots, studied the various kinds of sailboats, and were coached in sailing technique, building competence each day. In the evenings, they cooked and cleaned together, shared in conversation about their cultures, and participated in a guided conversation about environmental stewardship.

“Knot tying was great way to enjoy friendly competition,” one student noted, “and demonstrate what we learned throughout the week.” It was a really hot week, but thankfully the breezes on the water gave them some wind to work with. In the afternoon, they learned other essential skills. “Capsizing was a great way to bond and cool off from the heat!”

The cross-cultural experiences were particularly enlightening. For many, it was their first time in an onsen. “At first I was uncomfortable,” one participant reflected, “but I learned to enjoy it. It was better than I thought, and a good way to clear the mind at the end of the day.” The fresh seafood in Nanao is well-known throughout Japan, and the participants were treated to gourmet fare for lunch. The participants really enjoyed cooking and BBQing together. They survived life without a dishwasher, and they were able to work together to prepare meals, clean and efficiently accomplish tasks.

The week included reflections on Buckminster Fuller’s philosophy of our responsibility to care for “spaceship earth” as a collaborative effort. The students noted that it was an interesting philosophical discussion, leading to good dialogue, and an open exchange of viewpoints. Ultimately, they decided, there is no single right answer. The answers must be found jointly, dependent on the situation. This requires sensitivity to cultural differences and values while embracing those which are shared.

The highlights are numerous, but include these notable moments:

  • Getting away from the city to the countryside.
  • We got to see different parts of Japan. I thought Japan was all city, so it was a nice surprise.
  • Looking up at night at the stars.
  • Water was beautiful. I was impressed with the scenery.
  • Getting away from noise was very peaceful.
  • Enjoying the sailing lifestyle.
  • Being able to ride different types of boats and learn about them.
  • Being in an English-speaking environment.

Participant testimonials:

I would like to recommend this program to as many people as possible. For those who have never sailed, it is a great opportunity to ride a cruiser and learn about the ocean. On the dinghy and keelboat, you always have a new experience, which will benefit you in future voyages.

Sailing is one of the oldest skills in the world, and seeing the beautiful water connects me to this history.

During this week, I was able to experience and learn about Noto and the surrounding sea for the first time. Although I am on the dinghy all the time, during this trip I was able to learn a bit more about keel boats which was very rewarding. Noto’s sea is very beautiful, but I am aware that the ocean is being polluted around the world, so I would like to do my part in making it cleaner.

I rode on a yacht. It was like a cultural exchange. 4 nights/5 days camp? Living together (– and also cooking, cleaning, learning, and sailing). Riding on a yacht is fun. I think it is good to experience at least once. In a cultural exchange program, the experience will be unique each time. The things I did on my own (e.g. pulling the rope and seeing the boat move as a result was very enjoyable and gave me a sense of accomplishment.

Sailing skills help me in other areas of my life. I would tell a friend considering this program that to get the most out of it, you need to be actively engaged in it.

When asked “What did you think of the sail training and how it benefitted your education/development?” participants had these thoughts to share:

It was a great opportunity to learn how to communicate, and learn to work with people from other cultures.

We were able to learn with everyone else, teach new people, and show those who we had language barriers visually.

You could die if you’re not careful, so it really put things into perspective and made you aware of what’s going on around you.

As youth liaison for this program, I attended both as participant and as active observer and counselor. Thus, my personal experience and takeaway from these discussions include both perspectives. I believe that there are many life lessons to be learned from sailing. This type of experience provides the perfect conditions and environment to expose participants to new cultures, lifestyles, and locations. While learning the fundamentals of sailing, you can really be present and grasp the concepts you learn in real-time while at sea. This is really rewarding and helps you to imagine the risks of voyaging out in the open ocean. The cross-cultural environment encourages socializing and getting out of your comfort zone. These are invaluable skills that participants can benefit from to adapt to the ever-changing cultural context and mounting pressures that arise as they grow older and the world continues to become more globally connected.

For those considering a program like this next summer, here are some specific benefits for Japanese and American/international participants, based on my own experience and observations as a young adult (age 25):

  • For Japanese students, the appeal of attending an “American Camp” experience is very appealing, especially if parents are aware it is in an English-speaking environment and there are many American participants.
  • For American or international kids, appealing to the adventure of exploring different parts of Japan and learning life lessons at sea is an important opportunity offered by ISPA-J. Not to mention, parents will be very enthused with doing chores like washing the dishes and preparing their own meals under Japanese instruction!

The next Young Yokosuka/Yokosuka Mariner Leadership Training Voyage on tall ship MIRAIE is 2 May to 6 May 2020! Stay tuned to for details and early-bird registration!