TWO months ago, six participants from Fiji travelled to Japan for a youth development training program conducted by Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) in partnership with Japan Overseas Cooperative Association (JOCA) at the Okinawa International Centre.
Today, an action plan is being formulated based on submissions from the participants — a plan that would trickle down to the community to help boost youth development efforts.
One of the Fiji delegates, Jemesa Delana, a youth officer at the Western Divisional Youth Office, wrote about his experiences during the trip:
"Ichariba Chode — is a saying that defines the hospitality, accommodation and kindness of the Okinawan people in Japan. It means ‘from the first time we meet, we become brothers and sisters'.
"It was a privilege to be part of the training and (to) see first-hand how a developed society such as Okinawa dealt with youth-related issues. Youths (there) are involved in cultural maintenance in the form of traditional dance performances and retention of traditional ways such as customary salt-making.
"A noticeable trait we observed was the humility of the locals. They were so considerate, humble and full of respect for others.
"To maintain unity and direct youthful energy to constructive results, a lot of community-based activities are organised to keep them occupied in a positive way and build their capacity and skill to benefit them in the future," Mr Delana said.
He said the program included participants from other regional countries who were given certificates at the closing ceremony.
In his report, Mr Delana said they visited the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum which carried heart-wrenching memories of a time when the country was at war during World War II.
"Okinawa was the only place in Japan where land combat took place and the museum displayed the effects of war on its people," Mr Delana said.
"We experienced the importance of the true meaning of peace from a whole new perspective.
"There are monuments that have the names of all that died in Okinawa to remind them of the violence, to help ensure there was no repeat of war and that peace remains.
"One main aspect of the community is civic pride and responsibility. For example, no one litters and they are very conscious of their actions and the impact on the environment and their future generation."
Mr Delana says the challenge for youth advocates is to reinforce civic pride and responsibility, take ownership of the nation's destiny and maintain peace and tolerance among all citizens and visitors as well.