by Adam Clark, Counselor/PSHE/TOKIn April of this year, as the middle school advisor to the Chiku Center Service Learning Human Rights Club, I was invited to join a number of Chiku Center employees and other community volunteers for a trip to Hokuto-shi in Yamanashi Prefecture to help plant vegetables in support of the free lunch program in Kotobuki-cho. I thought the work in Yamanashi would be an opportunity to learn more about the origin of some of the food we serve during our service visits to the Center. Quite honestly, as a non-Japanese, it also felt like a significant honor to join some the core group members including Mimori-san, Kondo-san, and Nori-san.
One Friday each month I accompany a group of middle school students from the Club to the Chiku Center to prepare and serve food at Kotobuki-koen (park) a short walk from Ishikawacho Station. These motivated middle school students also raise money to purchase ingredients so we can regularly make 400 or so onigiri (rice balls) or fresh fruit to go with lunch. We've developed a close relationship with the Center, and that led to me being invited to Yamanashi.
MS Service Learning Club students at Kotobuki-koen
The Club visits the park one Friday per month
The field in Yamanashi that has been donated for use sits alongside the Ojira River in the Hakushu Area of Hokuto City in the middle of a large farming district. Upon arrival, the warmth of the sun, the crisp, oxygen-rich air and sound of crystal clear water flowing alongside the fields fills one's senses. Staring down in the distance, as a reminder of the power of the earth, is the magnificent Mt. Komaga-Take flanked by Mt. Asayo and Mt. Nokogiri behind. From the moment I stepped out of the car into this vast open valley, the feeling that good things grow here was overpowering. The splendor of nature that engulfs you feels simultaneously majestic and nurturing, like being held in the enormous outstretched palm of the earth itself.
With simple hand tools, the work commenced with much the same spirit - that good things will grow with the right approach and effort under the careful guidance of Nori-san. It felt incredibly good to participate in the timeless connections between sunlight, earth, water, seed, and food. Conversations flowed easily along with the seamless cooperative effort needed to complete the spring planting.
Working with Chiku Center staff and volunteers
Yamanashi Prefecture, Hokuto-shi
While on the one hand, this was a special opportunity full of unique experiences, it also occurred to me that really this is just a different manifestation of the lunch program at Kotobuki-koen where we take wholesome ingredients donated by our many supporters, bring them together, with conversations flowing easily throughout allowing good food to grow out of our shared effort.
Looking back on that trip, I was able to learn first-hand about the origin of some of the food we use in the lunch program to share with my students. Perhaps more significantly, however, I could see that there is a common warmth shared by that sun-filled valley in Yamanashi and Kotobuki-koen when volunteers are peeling potatoes, chopping cabbage, and preparing meat on a fresh autumn morning. In Yamanashi maybe we were in the nurturing palm of the earth itself and in Kotobuki-cho perhaps we become the nurturing palm for both ourselves and the patrons who stop by for lunch.
YIS staff at Kotobuki-koen
on a Professional Learning day
Mr. Clark sorting clothes
at the park
Kotobuki-koen, near Yokohama stadium
This article is the second in a series documenting the grade-specific and group activities of our service program.