Nara JETNet 13th Event
Hiking the Yamanobe-no-michi Trail
On April 23rd 2005, Nara JETNet held its thirteenth international event on Japan’s oldest road, the Yamanobe-no-michi trail, which runs for 11 kilometers from Sakurai to Tenri. The event involved a total of 56 Japanese participants and 42 JETs of various ages and backgrounds. It received especially high praise from Japanese and JET participants, as it allowed them to have more meaningful exchanges in a relaxed atmosphere.
At 9.00am, participants started to arrive at JR Miwa station, just outside of Omiwa Shrine in Sakurai, and received name tags. JETs and Japanese participants were divided in six groups of approximately 7 JETs and 10 Japanese participants.
At 9.30am the hike officially got underway, with the JETNet Chair giving welcoming greetings and a brief explanation of the day’s event; the hike would include a 1 hour break for lunch at the Tenri Trail Center, and the participants were scheduled to arrive at their destination - the Isonokami Jingu Shrine in Tenri - at 3.30pm. While hiking, and as an ice-breaker, groups were encouraged to complete a quiz that not only featured questions about the Yamanobe no Michi Trail, but also contained interesting information about JET participants’ home countries.
In order to help avoid congestion, groups departed at five-minute intervals. As it was the first time for many Japanese and JET participants to hike this historic route, the first hiking group placed ribbons on the path to mark the trail for the other groups to follow. (In order to keep the path clean, the last group took them down.) Some of the Japanese participants were experienced hikers and were able to offer everyone interesting information about the trail. The two-and-a-half hours before lunch were filled with all sorts of different conversations – humor around the world, deforestation, and elementary school education were among the numerous topics that were batted around amongst the participants.
At noon, everyone arrived at the Tenri Trail Center for lunch and a chance to rest their weary legs. A cardboard cutout of Teku-chan, a Japanese cartoon character, greeted participants, and many had a good laugh taking pictures with it, while a few JETs and Japanese participants enjoyed the break playing Frisbee on the center grounds. After an hour long break, it was time to depart on the second and final leg of the 10 kilometer journey. The nice weather and relaxed atmosphere throughout the day helped participants get to know each other on a personal level; an unexpected break at the Tenri Agricultural Center for ice cream was also a very enjoyable experience.
Of the 40 participants who filled out questionnaires, 31 said that it was their first time participating in a JETNet event. All participants commented that they had a wonderful time and enjoyed the hike, and more than half gave the event the highest possible score. Some commented that even though the quiz was a good way of starting up conversations, it was difficult to complete while hiking. Many mentioned that the day was a success and that they would like to participate in future JETNet events.