To me travelling is one of the most amazing experiences. Getting to visit new places, be introduced to new cultures and meeting new people is something you really need to do every now and then. And so is listening to someone’s story about it, so let’s get into it!
How I had the opportunity to travel with the Scouts?
My name is Mohamed Hussein. I’m from Alexandria, Egypt. My city is a perfect destination for travelers. Travel to Alexandria once and you will fall in love with it. Being from Alexandria and coming from a simple family, it is really not easy to pay for an overseas trip. My first trip was to Zambia in 2011. My family and I were invited by my aunt’s home to spend two weeks there.
The adventure that I am going to write about is a Scouts event in Japan. I joined the Scouts when I was just 11 years old and I feel like I fit in right away. Over time, we traveled to many interesting places in Egypt.
In 2015, our National Scout Association announced interviews for an opportunity to attend an international Scout event. For those who don’t know, we have an international gathering every four years called The World Scout Jamboree. It’s like the World Cup in football except that it’s a year after and most importantly, all countries get to attend!
I was lucky enough to get selected, and I was not planning on passing on such an opportunity as the expenses were fully covered. I couldn’t miss the chance! I went with my friends and unfortunately they only chose 5 from all over the country. 5 out of so many, “What are the odds??”, Mom said. Amazingly I was selected and my dream to travel with the Scouts had finally come true!
I was visiting the far east of the planet where people eat sushi and noodles and bow to everyone else out of respect. Yes, it’s the planet of Japan.
Kicking off an Unforgettable Japanese Journey
Our journey started shortly after I was selected to attend. I was so excited! As you know, I only had the chance to visit Zambia before that. Getting on the plane, as cool as it is, led us to Frankfurt, Germany. It was on a German airline obviously. From Frankfurt we flew to Tokyo and finally to Fukuoka where we were hosted in the Hakata Miyako Hotel.
Exploring the streets of Fukuoka for the first time was really cool and something I will never forget. All of the streets had a special area to walk for the blind and a special part of the street reserved for bicycles. We made our first mistake by trying to cross the street with a yellow signal. Well, it’s ok in my country but it turned out to be a crime there. Everyone seemed to follow all of the traffic rules here…. No wonder why they have such few traffic accidents.
The next day we had time to wander before heading to the campsite. We went to a restaurant with an amazing open buffet. It was special due to the abundance of unique types of seafood I was not accustomed to back home. We had the opportunity to visit the Nissan factory. I was so impressed with the huge number of cars they produce each day and they were happy to show us every detail of the manufacturing process. We ending the day by reaching the campsite in Kiraraham, Yamaguchi which is a huge natural park. We spent the night in our preferred room, AKA “the tent”. This was the start to another 10 days of fun, visits and cultural experiences.
The Greatest Scouting Adventure
On day one, we got to see a traditional Japanese ceremony which was very colourful. A small Japanese rock and roll band which included a solo guitar player, a traditional Japanese dance show and an awesome female singer with a lovely voice. The atmosphere was very cool and spiritual.
On day two, we had an amazing outdoor experience within a Japanese community. We got the chance to visit a Japanese school where we met young men and women. I was surprised at how respectful and modest the Japanese people were. They are taught to bow out of respect to everyone. They love their school so much that it would be a punishment denying them from a single school day. They also spend most of their time doing activities that help them express themselves such as sporting, art and dancing. I really wished I had a school like that back home.
On day three, we were invited to a Japanese culture day. It was a full blown exhibit of their culture and pop culture. The Japanese tradition with robes and Japanese fans was so stunning. We were introduced to chopsticks and another cool traditional Japanese band played on that day as well. I obviously didn’t understand the language of the music, but it didn’t matter, it was breathtaking and we all were having a good time dancing and laughing.
I also recall a science day where we got introduced to technology that was way beyond anything I have ever imagined. There were experimental model hydrogen smart cars. We also got to see other inventions from the famous Japanese car industry giants such as Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and others.
Two other days were themed around Nature and Water were also some of the best. Nature day was outdoors, so we took the bus and headed directly to the park. The park was wonderful! There were people running, people doing Yoga and also many families having picnics. All around one of the most amazing mountainous landscapes. The volcanic-shaped mountain is something I will never forget. I was really impressed by how quiet and so clean everything was. Water day, on the other hand, was an indoor activity at a pool and Japanese spa and was so relaxing.
The Unforgettable Memorial of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
We went to the place where it all happened, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Memorial. We had the opportunity to see documentaries about the event and aftermath. They even had anime movies and panorama shows for us. In the museum we saw the photos and the belongings of the kids in schools. The whole experience was very emotional and we were all touched so deeply by what we saw. It was motivating seeing how the Japanese people overcame the crisis and became the great nation of Japan as we see it today. It really made me love this place more and more.
The People of Japan
The rest of our days were more related to scouting more than the travel experience. What impressed me most was the way the Japanese participants acted. They were just respectful and polite. Every morning they would salute their flag with pride and then come visit other tents, including mine, give us presents and always greet us with a smile.
Communication with the people there in general was not very smooth on a language basis. Their English was quite poor, but it was nice to see them making an effort and it was absolutely not a problem. They made such a great effort trying to help and communicating with you in whatever way they could. People on the street, the hotel, the staff and even in the supermarket and the shops, were all very helpful and tried as much as possible to leave you with a smile on your face.
The only problem I had in Japan was at the Tokyo International Airport when I forgot my Swiss knife in my backpack. When they found out about it, they told me I can’t have it. Usually I would think they would just confiscate it or simply throw it away, but they were very cooperative and they allowed one of our group to go to the luggage on the plane with an officer so that we could pack it. Although they didn’t have to and there was a tight period before the flight. This shows us just how professional and good Japanese people are.
As for the money, as stated earlier, luckily this program was pretty much fully-funded. The prices for souvenirs in Japan are quite high compared to back home, but I would recommend you shop at the local markets if you want to find a deal. The local markets are much less expensive then your typical souvenir shop.
What would I recommend from my experience?
Well, I would definitely recommend you to visit cities like Fukouka and travel internally by trains, they are really so fast, modern and cool. You should try the subway asa well. The subways can get really crowded, but It’s very unique experience. Like I said earlier, if you are on a budget, get your stuff from local markets. At the markets they were also very kind to us and gave us handouts and small gifts. Deal as much as you can with the locals to get the best price. They are such friendly and polite people. We also had a great time at the temples, which I didn’t elaborate on, but are worth a visit.
Japan is a place I would surely recommend everyone visit at some point. From my experience the people, streets, unique technology, weather, culture, nature and the history are things you wouldn’t want to miss. You guys need to see Japan to feel Japan. For me, there is no other place like this is the world. Now it’s your time to tell your story.