Across multiple locations in Japan, Ashinaga brings high school students together at annual Tsudoi (summer camp) every August. Tsudoi is among the pillars of Ashinaga’s emotional support to students in Japan and has been running for over 40 years. For four days, scholars share their stories, talk about past challenges and find the motivation to seek a brighter future. It is the chance for Japanese students to talk to peers for the first time about past obstacles, such as the loss of one or both parents. This year, Tsudoi was located in the following areas:
Three to four university students lead a team of high schoolers, international students, interns, and volunteers to help the younger members step out of their comfort zone. Students get to practice speaking English, and perhaps, develop the desire to travel the world and meet new people. Ashinaga Intern Qian Yi Quek worked in the International Team (IT Team) at Aso Tsudoi. During her time, Qian felt it was “always challenging at first given the language barrier and shyness, but there are things that help people bond universally. Smiling, kind actions, talking about relationships…Highlighting our similarities as well as our differences really brings us closer.”
At Aso Tsudoi (pictured right) the IT Team also encouraged students to step out of their comfort zones, with a dance and yoga session, team-building activities, and a guessing game on trivia about different countries. Ashinaga Africa Initiative scholar Abdulai was also part of the IT Team. “The high school students had a lot to share, which made me realize that there is a lot more to learn about people in Japan…Tsudoi had several different kinds of people with different experiences, so seeing them work in groups and having fun, I will say I like the diversity this Tsudoi had. It was a mind-opening experience. I got to make friends from different cultures and know their goals.”
Whilst each Tsudoi is held in a unique location, each event shares similar activities. One of the repeated activities dedicates time to the “Ashinaga-san letter,” (pictured above) where Ashinaga scholars write letters of thanks to anonymous donors. This moment is also an opportunity to think about Onegaeshi 恩返し(translated to paying forward in English), which is an Ashinaga value that is encouraged to scholars. The concept of Onegashi implies that all Ashinaga students commit to paying back donors’ support and kindness by helping others in the future.
Taisetsu Tsudoi (pictured above) is the smallest Tsudoi that welcomes 40 high school students from across the island of Hokkaido. This year, students had the chance to meet international members from all over the world, including interns and volunteers from Zimbabwe, the U.S.A., and Cameroon. One role that our international participants have is to open the minds of Japanese students who are not exposed to different cultures frequently. Ashinaga Intern Shane Healy participated in Taisetsu Tsudoi and found it was “a great experience to interact with Japanese students. Not only did they kindly explain things that I didn’t know, but I was also able to teach them some things about living in my country and hopefully get them interested in studying abroad. I feel like we were able to accept and celebrate our differences rather than feel put off by them.
The final evening features a campfire, a ceremony of every Tsudoi. Participants speak about their progress during the camp and share their commitments for the future, illuminated by a bonfire or candlelight (pictured at Aso Tsudoi). The following morning, participants say goodbye to their new found friends, who have formed life lasting bonds going through this experience together. While goodbyes are always one the hardest parts of Tsudoi, many students return again and again as students, and eventually, become leaders at Tsudoi.
Make sure to come back to our website later in the month to read about Ashinaga’s University Tsudoi!