※Japanese followed by English Translation

青 晴海
独立行政法人 国際協力機構(JICA)


" 自分の眼で見る経験"の大切さ







My thoughts in the City of Aizu-Wakamatsu,Fukushima

Harumi AO JOCV Secretariat Executive Director
Japan International Cooperating Agency(JICA)

This year, I took a long-term vacation for the very first time in the 26 years of my working in the company, in order to participate in a volunteer work. I am now in the city of Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima. Although I was the type of person who did not even use up my paid vacation, I was determined to take off from my job to work as a volunteer after the 3.11 earthquake, through a JICA-supported volunteer group called "Genki-dama Project", which has been helping out 3.11 refugees in Aizu-Wakamatsu. There are varieties of people coming from all over the country to participate in this project.

Are the Japanese youth really introverted?
College students are playing the important role in this project, and they are working really hard to take care of children who evacuated from smaller towns such as Naraha and Okuma: they are also trying to get the mud out from the mountain areas which were affected by the heavy rain that occurred in Fukushima and Niigata in early August. Looking at how hard they work, I began to question myself if the ambiguous idea toward the Japanese youth was even true.

The importance of "seeing things with our own eyes"
Many volunteer workers began to get together in Tohoku area after the earthquake in March. The worker's willingness to serve others and their strong attitude to face the reality shines brightly. This earthquake gave me the chance to realize once again that we need to see things with our own eyes, and to have our own opinion based on what we have observed, rather than just trusting what we have been informed from others.

My thoughts toward the Gap Year System
"Study sessions of Gap Year System in Japan" were held in November last year by those who were interested. The meeting was started based on a thought that there needed more opportunities to listen to the opinion of young people who were interested in taking actions. There were three study sessions total, and although it was spread only by word of mouth, each time we had more students and adults than we expected in attendance. In order to introduce the opinion shared in these sessions, we had a Gap Year Symposium, and we had more than 300 people participate in that.

Getting greatly encouraged by listening to the young people
There are no specific patterns in the Gap Year. There are some who traveled using a year after high school graduation to meet other Japanese who are active in all over the world, and there are some who, after working in the JOCV, established organizations which exchange personnel with NPO overseas and so forth. Through their experiences, there comes a new ideas of causing innovation in their business. Whenever I listen to what the young people have to say, I remember the time when I would go to farms almost ever school vacation and get training. Having that kind of experience myself in the past, I always get greatly just by listening to younger generations, and energy starts flowing in my body.

The voice to promote the Gap Year, coming from all over the world
Interestingly, from the end of last year, government and economic organizations began to include in their suggestions that they should promote the Gap Year. It has been said that human resources are all we have in Japan, because the country is poor in other resources. Getting more human resources is one of the essential tasks to work on as a country, and in that sense, I think the government proposal was quite a proper response.

Young people with global perspectives also exert their abilities in solving domestic problems
With the increasing internationalization of companies, they are in need of people with global perspectives. Those with global point of view are needed not only to establish fine relationships with other countries, but also to solve problems within the country. "Human resources with global perspectives" are those with problem-solving skills, communication skills, and with cross-cultural application. These abilities cannot be earned just from books.

Learning just from textbooks has limitation- "Experience-oriented" Gap Year system should be shared as a social system
Problem-solving skills, for example, can be earned only by facing and overcoming problems, and no matter how well you analyze that kind of skill on paper, it does not do you any good. To realize the variety of dreams that young people have in their minds, such as to cause innovation in a company, or, to activate the local cities, their "experience" becomes the key factor. Having that in mind, I consider the Gap Year system as something which all should share as a social system.

Aug. 12, 2011
After participating in the "Genki-dama Project" in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima.

(Translated by Osamu NAKAZAWA)