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Participation Report: International Youth Development Program


The International Youth Development Exchange Program of the Cabinet Office was launched in 1994 to commemorate the marriage of the Crown Prince (now the Emperor), and this was evolved into the International Youth Development Program in 2019 to mark the start of the new Reiwa era. The theme is challenges facing regions in Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania, and in line with the theme participants visit facilities and take part in discussions. They also deepen their interaction with young people and locals overseas through various activities, homestays, and the International Youth Conference (IYC) held after their return to Japan.

I visited Mexico and Peru from September 18 to October 5 as a 2019 Japan youth representative. Our theme was disaster management, so in Mexico we visited the National Center for Disaster Prevention, the training program for search and rescue dogs at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and the National Meteorological Service, and in Peru, the National Institute of Civil Defense (INDECI) along with the Japan-Peru Center for Earthquake Engineering Research and Disaster Mitigation at the National University of Engineering, etc. While we had studied both countries’ disaster management beforehand and shared our findings with each other, local research activity was much more vigorous than I had imagined. At the same time, it was also a bit frustrating that because issues in terms of disaster management methods and measures differ according to the social and geographical backgrounds, research results are not always well-utilized. Clearly, however, there is a strong commitment to improving the current situation, and I came away convinced of a bright future for disaster management.


In Mexico and Peru, I was able to enjoy a whole range of experiences in addition to disaster management.
At our first stop, the Mexican Institute of Youth (IMJUVE), we were warmly welcomed with typical cheerful Latin hospitality, including gifts of sombreros and an ethnic dance performance, halfway through which we all joined in and danced with the performers. For our young team, the whole welcome was very encouraging and motivating.
Mexicans seem incredibly cheerful, laidback, and unconcerned about minor things. While that’s probably completely the opposite of most Japanese, conversely, it made a good match. Young Mexicans weren’t at all shy about striking up a conversation with us, launching straight into a series of questions—what were we studying, and what had made us want to take part in the program, etc.—so they provided lots of opportunities to talk. I was also delighted at the amount of communication we got to engage in at the other facilities we visited, as well as at parties and visits to archaeological sites. That experience became a real source of energy for engaging proactively with other young people later when we were in Peru as well as at the IYC.

At the APJ

In Peru, thanks to the Asociación Peruano Japonesa (APJ) we had a lot of exposure to a people who seemed very much like we Japanese. There are around 100,000 Japanese Peruvians, among them my homestay family. The grandmother particularly had worked in Japan and spoke almost fluent Japanese, and it was a strange feeling to be talking to her constantly in Japanese. While very few Japanese Peruvians can speak Japanese these days, the two boys in my homestay family were learning Japanese on their own accord even though their father was Japanese Peruvian and spoke no Japanese. I learned that the APJ continues to work hard on connecting Japanese Peruvians regardless of whether they have Japanese language skills, and as a Japanese, it made me very happy that they take their Japanese roots so seriously even today.

Because English has much the same level of priority in Mexico and Peru as it does in Japan, the locals were never concerned about my very average English language skills, and they were immediately so friendly and open that it was easy to make friends without feeling any barriers of culture and ethnicity. During the IYC back in Japan as well, when there was free time I went out with Mexican and Peruvian young people in the area around Narita, and it was great to be able to interact at a deep level with various young people rather than only hanging out with other Japanese.

Reporting on results at the IYC

Before the program, I set myself the goal of becoming able to speak up even if what I had to say wasn’t necessarily brilliant. In the pre-program training, I was awed by members of my group who would put their hands up as soon as questions were called for and who could present in English without any preparation. I wasn’t very confident about that kind of thing, so I knew that it would be a challenge, but I was also concerned that if I didn’t push myself, I would just go passively through the program, watching time pass without making the experience my own. It was that fear that made me take on the challenge of speaking up, which is something I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t taken part in the program.
The IYC was the perfect opportunity to tackle that goal. The young people from overseas are all amazing and I felt quite inferior, so it took a lot of courage to present in front of the whole crowd. However, when I did my best to put across my opinion, everyone worked hard to understand what I wanted to say. Some thanked me afterward for saying what they had also thought, and some young people from other countries who understood what I wanted to say even when I didn’t manage to communicate it properly stepped in and explained for me. A whole raft of friends helped me with my challenge.
After the conference, some young people from overseas said they respected how much I had spoken up, and the teacher who was the facilitator expressed surprise that I had been able to put my opinion forward so often though I had said at the pre-program training that I was bad at discussion. For me, when faced with the choice between speaking up or staying silent, becoming able to choose to speak represents huge personal growth.

Looking back on the program, while it was hard to keep up with such talented people, it was the effort to do so that opened the way for enjoying such an amazing experience along with personal growth. With so few people in my group, each of us was given a lot to do for the pre-trip preparation and during the trip, and I was very happy to be able to experience various jobs such as handling introductions of Japan and finding sponsors. I am immensely grateful to everyone involved in the program for giving me the confidence that I can do more than I thought. I am now really keen to link my program experiences to further personal growth and to give back to those around me.

(Yumi Morishima, Advanced Sciences M1,
Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences)

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