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Nippon Fourteenth International Jamboree

Before and after the Nippon Fourteenth International Jamboree, fellow Japanese scouts took us on a tour around the main island of Japan.  Most of the stops were at cultural areas, such as shrines, certain districts, and exhibits.  Almost everywhere we looked, on the road or on foot, was beautiful and either a vivid neon green or a stone grey.  As traditional, the Shinto shrines were a splash of color and easily spotted in its surroundings, mainly by its normally bright red torii gate and red wood work.  I heard before the trip that red stood for happiness in Japan, explaining the excessive use of the color in the native religious buildings.  One of the most beautiful shrines that my small group visited was one in Nikko and very famous for two things; the sleeping cat of the Chinese Zodiac and the cravings of the Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, and See No Evil monkeys.  The shrine was in fact a royal shrine, with the royal symbol everywhere; on the lamps, gates, walls, and statues, not to mention a few Zodiac signs of an emperor and two of his relatives on an extremely tall tower.  As a joke, my brothers and another Eagle Scout, Danny Whitehead, bought fortunes at every single temple and shrine we went to, and if they couldn't read it, they asked our guides to try to translate the title, which usually read "Good Luck," "Bad Luck," "Slow Luck", "Very Good Luck," etc.  My twin brother's fortune at this shrine made our guide laugh and shake his head, saying it was very bad and that he should tie it to a wooden pole at the shrine to cleanse himself of the bad fortune.  I bought a fortune folded into a slip that was a cartooned version of the See/Speak/Hear No Evil monkeys and my guide only read some of it to me, but said it was a good fortune and that he would translate it later if I scanned it and e-mailed it to him after the trip.

Another great stop was our first one, the stop at Nara.  If you ever go to Nara, you have to see its amazing shrines and castles, plus a slightly dangerous attraction; the Nara Deer Park.  Yes, deer, the fluffy brown forest creatures are dangerous...  If you have anything sticking out of your pockets, packs, or hands.  The deer crowd around the tourists, (I believe the citizens of Nara might avoid these areas if they don't actually work there), and eat whatever they can get a hold of, including paper and clothes.  And if you want to pull a horrible prank, like Danny tried to do but failed, you buy the crackers from someone who works at a stall, and stick one in someone's pocket/bag.  Another way is to simply hand a person the crackers and walk away as fast as you can before the deers surround the poor victim.  It starts to get a bit uncomfortable when a stag with sharp horns corners you...

It's also hard to explain the balance between nature and urban centers.  Tokyo does lack the amount of green as compared to Nara or Kanonji, but only about ten-minutes away from the our hotel on the train was a completely rural area.  Some train stops were at a very small urban cluster and others dense cities, but there was so much more green then I expected.  Most of the places we went to had miles upon miles of forests, mountains, and a leafy neon green between them.  And in the cities, they didn't dramatically fight the environment, (minus perhaps Tokyo), and worked with it unlike how I see the cities in our area are.  Personally, I find the mixture of nature and urbanization extremely rough and opposing; like we're fighting with the environment: areas that aren't being used are normally paved over, not used for a plot of greenery.  It's unbalanced, but the cities in Japan are balanced and work around or weave the two components.

The people of Japan were another matter, however.  At the Jamboree, the Scouts were loud and constantly goofing off, greeting each other with a quick 'Ohayoo' or a 'Konnichiwa' that sounded like 'Jaa.'  Everyone was laughing and mixing, even if they couldn't speak the same language.  However, at the campsite, it was normally silent with the scouts hiding out in the blazing hot tents, waiting to be served food, not getting it themselves.  At other campsites, my friend and I noticed that the patrols were cooking, cleaning, and serving while at ours, the adult advisers did everything and the scouts were even unwilling to get up to receive their food, simply sitting down at the table and waiting.  After two days of bringing the food to the table, our adult advisor apparently was upset that the "American guests" were setting the table with food and drinks!  After that there was an effort to help the cooks with the food.  The other nationalities we meet were also amazing.  When patch/badge trading, we sat next to a Scottish Scout, who was having the hardest time rolling his scarves for display and I helped him out.  He was bent on getting anything pink, often stating that he was waiting for his fellow scouts and advisor before they went out to the beach for a drink!  An Australian whose name sounded like "luncheon" and my friend and I got into a debate with him at a farewell concert over which was better and more threatening; Girl Guides or Girl Scouts.  He laughed the entire time and got his whole host-troop partying.  After meeting the Australian, we meet a nice Russian boy, who approached us awkwardly after confirming we knew English.  Needless to say, my friend and I liked talking with him and wanted to talk to him again later, but that didn't happen, sadly.

One of the best parts was the home-stay that lasted for about four days in Kagawa.  My friend and I actually lived down the street from each other and didn't know it until we were in Tokyo!  My host-family was very welcoming and kind, even in the down time.  Kaori, Mai, and Kotono were the three daughters, (all younger than me), that I stayed with along with Yukari-san and her husband.  We went to the supermarket twice, which is more like a mall with all its different levels and floor themes.  We visited landmarks of Kanonji and went to the beach to collect shells, (which I still have a bag full of that smelt horrible when I got back to California), and made paper at a paper museum.  The very first full night I spent there, they had a barbecue with friends and fireworks to help me get adjusted to their family.  Us teenagers, (Kaori, Mai, and their friends), asked each other questions and when I came my turn to ask, we spent about forty-five minutes trying to translate my second question: "What noise annoys you?"  I wasn't given the chance to ask another question after that.  And, the most uncomfortable part of the home-stay was when all of my group and their host-families got together and when to Hiroshima and the Hypo-Center.  The museum isn't for the weak-hearted, let's just leave it at that.  And, I strongly suggest having lunch sometime before you go in, because it doesn't look appealing after the exhibits.  The uncomfortable part about it was that we were American tourists and we're looking at something our own country did to another country whose citizens are standing right next to you in the same group.  The best part about the museum is it's clock that's in the front, it counts the amount of time it's been since the last necular bomb testing and clearly states that the goal of the museum is to put a stop to the use of the bomb and that inside were the results of using such a bomb.

My trip to Japan was one big goofing off experience with my family and two friends; my father said "Hello, how are you? WELCOME TO JAPAN!" to everyone, Japanese, Russian, British, Scottish, even the prince of Japan himself!  Of course, he also said it to us multiple times and often annoyed or embarrassed us with it.  Danny and Daruma, (one of the Japanese Scouts' nickname), pulled pranks on all of us, like shooting a rubber band at us and missing horridly or marking us with a Sharpie and saying, "Oh, accident."  My brothers joked around with everyone verbally, collecting and trying out all kinds of drinks; their favorite disgusting drink was a strong sour lemon-tasting thing that they had everyone try without telling them anything about it and after they tried it, they laughed at the face we made from the awfulness of it.  My friend and I joked about inside jokes and literally poked fun at people, getting into huge revenge schemes; especially the one Danny and I had going the entire trip since Day One over him poking my head and my attack of a pink Sharpie. From then on, it was war and our mascot, (A mini Captain Jack Sparrow from McDonald's), often being stolen and thrown over small buildings and being hidden.  His precious tako, (octopus), was our difficult revenge.

In the end, Jack never left Japan.  He now lives in Kanonji, Kagawa, Japan; safe from Daniel Whitehead, with my host-family.

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