Social Care in Japan – Kate’s blog No.1
Find out about Kate’s trip to learning about social care in Japan
When Stay Up Late were approached by the NCVO to take part in a Young Core Leaders program all we really knew was that it involved doing a presentation on Gig Buddies to 10 Japanese delegates whilst hosting a home stay with us in Brighton, as well as having the chance to apply to attend an international development forum in Tokyo. We of course said yes to both! (We didn’t know a lot about social care in Japan so this seemed a great opportunity to find out more).Madeline and I had a fantastic time showing the delegates our British way of life back in October, but I didn’t think at the time it would mean I would now be sat in a hotel room on the 20th floor of a hotel in Tokyo about to take part in a 15 day intensive forum alongside 12 other UK delegates from Non-Profit organisations (NPO’s) as well as 13 delegates from both Austria and Germany. Stay Up late does some crazy things but this is hard to get my head round.
I had arranged to meet the group I’d be travelling with at Heathrow airport, outside Hamleys. Naturally I suggested Wetherspoons but it wasn’t as popular as a few of the group needed to pick up some last minute gifts for our Japanese hosts. I immediately suggested we all go to the pub for a quick pint anyway and a chance to get to know the people I would be spending the next 2 weeks with. They were it seemed a much more sensible lot and suggested we go straight to the gate. An alien concept to me, and a realization it may be time for me to at least act a little more sensible. Perhaps they were just being professional. No matter, this was a chance to learn new things. As one of them pointed out there was a free bar on the plane. Phew.
12 hours later and after 22 hours of no sleep we arrived in Japan. A country I have never been to or even had on my list of places to visit. I’m a bit paranoid of earthquakes. But this was an opportunity I couldn’t have missed.
I’m attending a development program for ‘Young Core Leaders of Civil Society’ for managers in Youth Work, Elderly and People with Disabilities. I’m here as a delegate for the disability program. It is part conference style, part forum with workshops, institutional visits and presentations. It seemed like a good time to go and it coincides with us launching the franchise of ‘gig buddies in a box’ so you never know who you might meet.
The nature of such a trip has attracted many interesting and passionate people so I know we will have a lot to talk about. Straight away over our first noodle soup lunch (which was served cold!) we started to discuss the power of crowd funding and one of them told the story of how a group of teenagers raised enough money for the Foo fighters to play in their village in Cornwall and how it great it would be for a charity such as Stay Up Late. By dinner, despite the trauma of the girl sat next to me having a live fish served on her plate, we shared some great case studies of overcoming access issues and barriers for people with disabilities and found out in April this year Japanese law will only just start enforcing the disability discrimination act and recommendations to the government will be coming out of our 15 days of discussions. I suddenly felt like I was part of something very important and under immense pressure to not just do a good job of representing my charity and my country but also making sure we do a good job of advocating for the local people.
But today was our one evening off to get over the jetlag and explore the city, plus bond with the people I would be working with for the next 15 days so we did what the British do best and went in search of a bar.
I had been warned about the madness of Tokyo but we are staying in the business district so it is not as busy as I’m sure other parts are. Within 5 minutes though we can hear music up above our heads and see a sign with a drink on it so head on up. Shall I open the door? One of the delegates asks me.
The sign says ‘Primose Princess Bar’. ‘Yes yes’ I tell him, just do it! He walks in and the bar manager smiles but then her face drops when she sees the group of 10 of us behind him, a mix of men and women and she makes a big x with her arms when she sees me and says No! and ushers the rest of us out. What was in there? I ask. It seems we had walked into a ‘gentlemens club’. How foolish we were. We giggled the whole way back down the stairs at our stupid mistake and hoped we would find one a bit more suitable for a group of charity sector workers who had just met.
Walking back down through the district we could hear Madonna from another bar high up above street level. This had to be more friendly. I went first and burst open the door to one of the smallest but funkiest disco clubs I’ve ever seen. We were welcomed in and straight ontot the dancefloor. We were the only tourists in there and the music meant no-one could sit down. The group got hysterical and I was in disco heaven and it wasn’t long before I’d accidently introduced the group to my gay alter ego Fernando. We only stayed half an hour because the jetlag got the better of us but by the end of the night I felt ready to take on this project with some new friends.
Read the next instalment here