Snow camp in the ““Snow country”

From March 26th to the 29th, 2016, ECOPLUS hosted the ““Yuki Zanmai,” or “Snow Indulgence” Camp” in Minami-Uonuma. Seven participants, all from elementary and middle schools in the Metropolitan area and Niigata enjoyed four days and three nights of living on the snow, where they all constructed their campsite entirely on their own.

巻機山のふもとまでハイキング。山に囲まれた絶景の中を歩きます。
Hiking on the snow toward the middle of Mt. Makihata. Gorgeous view!

This winter, we experienced an uncharacteristically small amount of snow. Despite being 600 meters above sea level, the village of Shimizu looked almost as though it was experiencing early spring.

Ordinarily, there would have been between 2 – 3 meters of snowfall by this point during an average year; instead, the area received an approximate 50 centimeters of snow this year. Due to this, we were worried that the “Snow Indulgence Camp” might not succeed, but we were blessed with good weather, and the children faced the challenge of living in the snow with a serious, sincere look in their eyes.

4日間、子どもたち自身で暮らしを組み立てます。初めは薪を割って火を起こすのも一苦労。
Children challenged to live on the snow by themselves. Making fire woods on the snow was one of the first duties.

A total of seven children was assembled of from fourth-year elementary school students to first-year middle school students. Some of the children had participated in ECOPLUS programs once or twice before, but this was their first time as a group in this area, as well as the first time holding an overnight camp on the snow. Everybody had a bit of a nervous look to him or her.

The children decided on their goals for the camp—some said, “It is important to take care of the environment,” while others said, “We hope to make friends here.” Once this was done, the Snow Indulgence Camp could begin.

Throughout the next four days, the children’s everyday necessities and personal lives were self-led. They trampled the snow underfoot in order to harden it, creating a space to raise their tents; they split wood for their fires; they melted snow for drinking water; and they made tables, chairs, cupboards for food, and even makeshift toilets entirely from snow. They even used snow to wipe their bottoms afterward!

They also used cedar leaves like sponges while washing their pots and pans. On the first day of the camp program, the children were confused about this new way of living, but they became as resilient as adults in only four days’ time.

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