Building Skills for Life: Scouting in Tokyo

Families - April 16th, 2010
Scouts-2

by Louise George Kittaka

Scouts are well known for their sense of adventure, but participants in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program in Tokyo are also giving back to the community in a big way. The highest rank in the BSA is Eagle Scout, and boys who aspire to this level must carry out a community service project before achieving the honor.

Eagle Scout Jonathan Higa, a senior at the American School (ASIJ) in Chofu, belongs to Troop 51 of the Tokyo American Club. For his recent project Jonathan renovated a bicycle shed at the Wakabaryo Children’s Home in Meguro, after noticing that the dilapidated shed posed a potential safety hazard to the children. Jonathan and his team of volunteers cleaned and repainted the shed, and also installed bicycle racks. “The project ultimately challenged my leadership ability and organization skills, and it was an amazing learning experience,” he explains. Jonathan was responsible for the entire process, from writing up the plans to fundraising for the materials.

Eagle Scout projects

Eagle Scout projects come in a variety of forms. Troop 51’s Tsuyoshi Kittaka, a ninth-grader at Keimei Gakuen in Akishima, wanted to help animals for his project. It was a natural choice to work with ARK, the animal rescue and re-homing charity. In an effort to promote awareness of ARK’s activities among families, Tsuyoshi organized a children’s art contest with several international schools. “The hardest part was planning how to run the contest and getting permission to promote it. But it was certainly worth it,” he says. The 12 winning pictures will feature on ARK’s 2011 desk calendar.

Attaining the distinction of Eagle Scout is a serious business, but scouting is also a whole lot of fun—just ask anyone in the BSA’s Cub Scout program for younger boys. Bonnie Dixon is a mother of two active scouts and the leader of the Pack 5 Cub Scouts affiliated with ASIJ. “Cubbing introduces families to activities they might not otherwise know about, like camping in Japan, zoos and aquariums, fishing, hiking and many other things. We also enjoy Japanese cultural events, such as pounding mochi and sumo day,” she says.

Tokyo has three BSA troops (grades six to twelve) and four Cub Scout packs (grades one to five). Any boy who is comfortable communicating in English is welcome to join. The scouts include bicultural boys attending Japanese schools, as well as Japanese returnees who experienced scouting abroad.

Colin Yarker, the Tokyo zone co-chair for the BSA, was initially interested because his children were attending Japanese school. “I became a leader when my son joined Cub Scouts at the age of six, mainly to give him the opportunity to interact with other boys in English. I have been actively involved ever since—and my son will soon be 26 years old!”

It is no secret that scouting benefits the parents as much as the boys. David Nichols, a father of two and an Eagle Scout himself, is Troop 51’s scoutmaster. “As boys grow older, they become more independent and there are fewer chances for a parent to have significant influence over their lives—and they still need it,” he notes. “Volunteering to be a Boy Scout adult leader is a great opportunity to be involved in your son’s life.”

Two of Troop 51’s Eagle Scouts will soon be spreading their wings, as Jonathan is leaving for college in the US and Tsuyoshi will attend high school in New Zealand, but they have helped to inspire the scouts following them. Although David’s younger son and the other sixth graders are just starting out on the trail, they are already looking forward to making Eagle rank.

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Parenting Tip

BSA Scouting Contacts in Tokyo:

Any boy comfortable communicating in English can join the activities, regardless of his school, nationality or scouting experience.

Boy Scout Troops (grades six to twelve):

• Troop 15, St. Mary’s school: Frank Striegl, bsa15@hotmail.com

• Troop 16, LDS church: Sam Dunn, scmpdunn@yahoo.com

• Troop 51, Tokyo American Club: David Nichols, dnich@j03.itscom.net

Cub Scout Packs (grades 1 to 5):

• Pack 5, ASIJ: Bonnie Dixon, scoutingevents@hotmail.com

• Pack 15, St. Mary’s School: see Troop 15

• Pack 16, LDS church: Jason Killian, ysbrj622@ybb.ne.jp

• Pack 51, Tokyo American Club: Peter Nadler, nadler@tozaisogo.com or Peter Merz, prmerz@jp.ibm.com

External Link:
Boy Scouts of America