It’s generally acknowledged that today children spend less time outdoors immersed in nature compared with previous generations. That’s disheartening to say the least as the benefits are well documented. Parents, teachers, and society as a whole should be doing as much as possible to address this problem and encouraging more outdoor-focused activities, not just in local parks but further afield, too. If we don’t instil the importance of nature in younger generations now it will lead to disaster further down the road.
In normal times I take children on an adventure homestay program to southern Queensland in Australia, usually twice a year – we surf, camp, hike, cycle, and more – but it has been bugging me that I haven’t been doing something more locally here in Japan. To address that I recently started an outdoor club for children and parents in the neighbourhood where we plan to hike local trails every couple of months. All seasons, all weather (except for typhoons), no exceptions. Nothing crazy or dangerous of course (I don’t want to scare parents off just yet), just easily accessible half-day trips that build confidence and leave behind that warm fuzzy glow after a good dose of shinrinyoku and moderate exercise. If the weather is bad so be it.
The first trip – there’s only been one so far – was to the highest peak in Kasugai, Mt. Miroku (弥勒山). Usually it’s not a difficult climb at all and a breeze for most kids and averagely fit parent, and is a hike I’ve done countless times (four times already this year). There are posts about previous hikes here, here, and here. However, very occasionally Kasugai gets a respectable showering of snow, usually once a year, and it turned out that the day we had planned for the inaugural hike was the day the sky decided to empty on us. There were approximately 20 children and parents taking part initially but as the weather forecast became more ominous families began to cancel. I explained as best I could that as this much snow in Kasugai was rare it made hiking that morning all the more worthwhile. Unfortunately my words fell mostly on deaf ears. I, however, was determined to go regardless and promised myself that if I had to I’d hike alone just to make a point. Yes, I can be that stubborn. My wife pointed out that I was the weird one amongst the group for wanting to continue and she had a point but in the end came along too.
The numbers whittled down to three families in the end, including my own and I’m glad it snowed. The children had a good time, were genuinely thrilled with the experience and hopefully learnt that adverse weather conditions lead to unique experiences. An experience I hope they’ll remember for a long time to come.