Saturday, September 13, 2014



AUGUST 14-17

Thanks to the great support from our sponsors from Japan and abroad, and thanks to more than ten enthusiastic youth leaders who joined the camp to volunteer their skills, SWTJ was again able to organize a summer camp for kids who come from the disaster region or who have a strong interest in meeting kids from that area. In 2014, three years after the disaster, there are still more than 200'000  displaced people from the disaster area who live in cramped quarters in temporary housing. 
The kids who joined our camp, some of them away from their family for the first time, learnt lots of things and made lots of friends- but most of all, had a blast! While last year it was extremely hot during the camp, this year there was rain...but this didn't discourage anybody in the SWTJ team or among the kids. Happy times and laughter were shared by all!

DAY 1:8/14

In the morning of August 14, we all gathered at Kesennuma Station in Miyagi Prefecture. Some of the kids joined the camp for the first time, while others had taken part already once or twice which made for happy reunions. From Kesennuma we took the train and car to arrive at our camp lodge in Senmaya, Iwate Prefecture, after about an hour. Our camp home used to be an elementary school in its former life!

Senmaya Minami Koryu Center

Some ice-breaking games to get to know each other!

This night, the community of Senmaya celebrated its local summer festival. The camp leaders had well in advance coordinated things together with the Senmaya community, so that the kids in the camp could not only participate in but also contribute to the festival. Our kids had their own street stands selling sugar candy, caramelized fruit and other specialties. Everybody had a great time decorating the stands, making the food, and socializing with the local community.

Kids preparing caramelized sweet potato and fruit

Making takoyaki dumplings and fruit candy- this time the kids were the makers, not the buyers!

Finally, it got dark, and the best time of the festival started! Each child got some SWTJ-made 'festival bills' to buy some of their favorite foods at the stands, and then the Bon-Odori dancing began! The locals were great teachers of the dance and everybody joined in. 

Left: Learning to dance the local Bon-Odori dance. Right: Original bills made by SWTJ for the festival.
We love summer festivals!!
Two special shows were the highlight of the festival: A concert sponsored and performed by the musicians of Fanfare Roman Guilde, and a show of Edo-period artistic skills sponsored and performed by the fantastic Takeshi of the group 'Nijumaru.

DAY 2:8/15

In the morning, we do some stretching!

To make the stretching more fun, SWTJ staff chose a radio music tape in which you could hear each stretching coach teach the movements in a different dialect of Japan!

Today, we made traditional water pistols using bamboo, and played with them outside. Most of all the staff got all wet!

Making water pistols

I'll get you wet!!

Tonight we prepared dinner with the cooperation of all! Tacos with lots of sauces, and for dessert a water melon fruit salad!

At night, finally the long-expected 'who is afraid of the ghosts' event. Ghosts and other scary creatures appeared in all corners of the old school. The kids were super brave!

DAY 3:8/16

Today, riverside play had been on the program- but since it was raining hard, we changed plans, and went to the nearby 'Gold Mountain' Camp Site. 

In the morning, we all made hand-made o-nigiri rice balls, and wrapped them in bamboo skin for our picnic- the old way!
A local lady then came and produced a short picture-book performance about the local 'Gold Mountain.'
The 'Gold Mountain'  is actually a place where you can still find gold if you are lucky!!! We climbed the mountain, and then found shelter under a roof  when it started to rain- which did not distract us of our main occupation: play!

At night, we organized a BBQ party and prepared for the big finale: fireworks!

Everybody loved the chocolate baked bananas for dessert.
Is this really already our last night?

DAY 4:8/17

Yes, it's our last day, but there are plenty of things to do today!!
Making photo stands with the help of balloons and plaster

Everybody makes their own creation using a balloon and covering it with plaster and then quickly shaping it before it dries. Lots of fun was had by all! 
Next our very own show!!! A show by all  those of us who practiced Takeshi's Japanese umbrella skills!

The four days of our camp had gone by in no time. In the evening, we traveled back to Kesennuma Station, where family members and friends were already waiting for the kids. Í'll come again next year!', Í don't want to go home yet!', could be heard here and there, while some expressions also showed delight to be with family again. Even after just 4 days, saying bye was hard! We had become such good friends!

SWTJ would like to say big thanks to all who sponsored the 2014 Summer Camp with financial means or material goods!
Without YOU we would not have been able to organize yet another event that empowers children of the disaster area, creates great memories for them, and helps them to make a whole network of new friends!

SWTJ would also like to thank the musicians, performers, and youth leaders who donated so much of their time and skills to make this year's camp another unforgettable experience for all. 
You have been great!